Oregon is once again in the market for a head football coach.
Mario Cristobal is leaving Oregon after four seasons to become head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. Oregon announced Cristobal's departure Monday morning.
"We appreciate all of Mario's accomplishments and hard work here at Oregon, and we wish him and his family all the best in their next chapter," Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said in the university's statement. "The University of Oregon is a prestigious academic institution with a football program that is well-positioned for continued success in the future, and the search is underway to find another excellent football coach to lead and support our student-athletes moving forward."
Late Monday Mullens named Bryan McClendon as the Ducks interim head coach for the Alamo Bowl. McClendon came to Oregon in 2020 as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to arriving at Oregon, McClendon was an assistant coach at South Carolina for four years after nine seasons at Georgia. He was South Carolina's offensive coordinator for two seasons and is considered an elite recruiter.
Given the resources Oregon has and the dollars Phil Knight and Oregon were reportedly prepared to give Cristobal, there might be no shortage of top-flight candidates for the job now that Mario Cristobal has flown home to Miami.
Still, the sudden departure of Cristobal near the end of a key recruiting cycle is a blow to a program that has invested heavily in football but has been a stepping stone for Chip Kelly, Willie Taggart and now Cristobal.
Cristobal went 35-13 in four seasons, leading the Ducks to two Pac-12 titles and two bowl victories including the 2020 Rose Bowl.
He is hailed as one of the best recruiters in the country and landed the top recruiting class in the Pac-12 during each of his cycles, classes that ranked among the top-10 nationally.
Oregon was expected to sign another highly-ranked class, beginning with the early signing date of Wednesday, Dec. 15. Recruits are now in a position to reconsider, and several —Â including five-star offensive tackle Kelvin Banks Jr. — announced Monday they are decommitting from Oregon.
Cristobal grew up in Miami, played for the Hurricanes during their glory days from 1989 to 1992, and has strong ties to the area. So, as was the case when Taggart left after one season at Oregon, the pull of going home is understandable.
The Cristobal departure comes after high-profile moves by Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to LSU and by Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC. The coaching landscape is always chaotic, but with the early signing period in mid-December, programs are anxious to get their coaching search done quickly.
After being blasted by Utah 38-10 in the Pac-12 Championship game on Dec. 4, Oregon is headed to the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 to face Oklahoma in a game that now features two programs in the midst of coaching changes.
In the postgame press conference on Dec. 4 following the loss to Utah, Cristobal said he hadn't received an offer other than a new contract from Oregon.
However, reports over the weekend emerged that Miami, which still had coach Manny Diaz in place, reached out to Cristobal in mid-November.
While Cristobal's departure wasn't official until Monday (after a weekend full of buzz and speculation on social media), Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead took the head coaching job at Akron just hours after the loss to Utah.
The coaching turmoil might explain why the Ducks seemed less enthusiastic than Utah during the Pac-12 championship game, played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. That's not to discredit the Utes, who dominated the line of scrimmage just as they did two weeks earlier and had control of the game almost from the opening drive.
The Oregon offense was particularly flat and ineffective. The Ducks running game was non-existent and quarterback Anthony Brown Jr., who appeared to injure his ankle on Oregon's first possession, ineffective.
The result was historic for Utah, which won the Pac-12 for the first time and is heading to its first Rose Bowl in program history, against Ohio State. Utah is a feel-good story, given coach Kyle Whittingham's 17 seasons at the helm (in stark contrast to Oregon's situation) and the tragic shooting deaths of Utes' players Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan.
Utah fans turned Allegiant Stadium into a home-field advantage for the Pac-12 title game and helped push their Utes into the Rose Bowl.
For Oregon and its fans, the emotions are much different as the Ducks' aspirational program undergoes another unexpected change in leadership.
As for Oregon State, the Beavers are heading to Los Angeles to play Mountain West champions Utah State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
The Aggies (10-3) throttled San Diego State 46-13 in the Mountain West title game while the Beavers (7-5) last time out was a rivalry loss to Oregon 38-29. Kickoff is schedule for 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 18. from SoFi Stadium in LA.
Tanner Russ and Austin White contributed to this report.
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