- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2012

Rutgers was in contract discussions Monday with Florida International’s Mario Cristobal to become the Scarlet Knights’ football coach, a person familiar with the negotiations said.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal, first reported by The Star-Ledger, was not complete.

Rutgers is replacing Greg Schiano, who left the school last week to become coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 41-year-old Cristobal, a former Rutgers assistant under Schiano, just completed his fifth season at FIU. He is 24-38 with the Panthers but has led a program still in its major college football infancy to bowl games the past two seasons and a Sun Belt Conference title in 2010.

FIU began playing football in 1999 and started competing at the highest level of Division I in 2005.

Before taking over at the Miami-based school in 2007, Cristobal was tight ends and offensive line coach for three seasons at the University of Miami. He also played tackle for the Hurricanes from 1989-92.

Schiano was also a former Miami assistant. The two crossed paths in Coral Gables in 1999, when Schiano was defensive coordinator and Cristobal was a graduate assistant.

Being able to recruit south Florida helped Schiano rebuild Rutgers from one of the worst programs in major college football to a consistent winner in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights have had winning seasons in six of the last seven years, gone 5-1 in bowl games and finished 9-4 last year. Most of the key players from that team will be back in 2012.

Cristobal is from Miami and the first Cuban-American to be a head coach in FBS.

His first priority will be trying to hold together a recruiting class that had a chance to be among the best ever to come to Rutgers.

National signing day is Wednesday, and the timing of Schiano’s departure left Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti and the coaching staff scrambling.

Now FIU could be facing an even trickier situation, with recruits less than 48 hours away from being able to sign national letters of intent.


AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in Indianapolis contributed to this report.



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