MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The coaching job Mario Cristobal has done at Florida International University is nothing short of amazing. After winning its first bowl game in 2010, the Panthers finished the 2011 regular season with its best record in history.
FIU closed out the season Saturday with a victory against Middle Tennessee State University. The win sent FIU’s record to 8-4 and has them in position to play in a second-straight bowl game.
The 8-4 record also tied FIU with Florida State for the best record in the Sunshine State.
Now comes the fun part for Cristobal and his team, waiting to see which bowl game will invite the Panthers to play there.
According to bowl projections from CBSSports.com and NBCSports.com, the Panthers are going to play in the Hawaii Bowl on December 24.
But, according to ESPN.com, FIU could be heading to either the Beef O’Brady Bowl in Tampa or the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.
Needless to say, wherever the team ends up, it’s quite a coaching job by Cristobal. When he took over the program in 2007, it was coming off a season in which the Panthers didn’t win a game.
Cristobal only managed to win one game in his first season.
But by his second season, signs were starting to point towards better days for the Panthers. The team finished 5-7 in 2008, went 3-9 in 2009, 7-6 in 2010, and 8-4 in 2011.
The Panthers are playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
The 2011 campaign saw FIU beat a BCS team, lose a heart breaker to Louisiana-Lafayette, and finish the season winning four out of the final five games.
For FIU, Cristobal may not be long for the school. His success at what was once a perennial doormat will begin to push his name to the top of head coaching searches around the country.
For now, he has FIU in a position it’s never enjoyed before, two straight seasons of success.