By: Chris Gates

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — It appears that Florida International coach Mario Cristobal and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst are the two front-runners to be named Pitt’s next head football coach.

Cristobal is 24-37 at FIU since 2007 and interviewed for the Pitt job last week. While that record may not seem terribly impressive, it’s important to note that he took over a program that was 0-12 before he arrived and had lost 18 players to suspensions because of a brawl against the University of Miami.

Still in its FBS infancy, Cristobal has recently engineered two winning seasons and bowl appearances at FIU. He is viewed as one of the top young coaches in the country and seems to be in the mix for most high-profile head coaching vacancies.

Many recent reports state Pitt plans to offer the head coaching job to Cristobal, even after the university issued a statement saying no job has been offered and no job offer has yet been considered. If nothing else, he has been labeled as the top target.

He coaches FIU tonight in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl against Marshall.

Given that Pitt was abandoned by Todd Graham after just one season, it wouldn’t be smart for Pitt to offer the job to Cristobal until after FIU’s bowl game if he is indeed the top choice. Offering a coach and having him leave his team just before its bowl game would be bad press for Pitt, considering that is the situation Pitt is mired in.

Wednesday should be an interesting day. Some expect that if Cristobal is to receive an offer it will be Wednesday.

Chryst interviewed for the Pitt job over the weekend and in the last 24 hours his stock seems to have risen. While Cristobal appeared the overall favorite to land the job early on, recent reports of alumni support have backed Chryst.

There seem to be overwhelming positives and negatives with Chryst. The positives come in the form of his track record, which is sparkling. His offensive numbers speak volumes.

Chryst has been at Wisconsin since 2005 and his offenses have averaged over 30 points and 400 yards a game in that time span. Wisconsin won the Big Ten championship game and is headed to the Rose Bowl this year.

Maybe most important, Chryst has proven he can tailor his offense to the personnel he possesses, which is something Graham refused to do this year at Pitt. Chryst has always had a strong running game and has adapted his passing game to his quarterback’s strengths.

The negatives come in the form of Chryst’s personality. Many label him a dull individual and that has apparently played a part in him missing out on some big time jobs — like Illinois and Kansas, which he has recently interviewed for.

He doesn’t have a very engaging personality, which is an issue for a head coach. Along with winning games, a head coach needs to be able to go into homes and sell high school athletes on the university. A head coach also has to act as a university representative.

Apparently Chryst’s demeanor has raised some doubts at other schools to his ability to fill multiple roles as a head coach.

Nevertheless, he’s highly regarded for his work and has been referred to Pitt as a guy that’s ready to be a head coach.

Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell interviewed last week and still appears to be in the mix, but over the last few days his stock appears to have dipped.

There have been several other coaches named as potential candidates for the Pitt job. I have documented them here.

New to the conversation is San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. reports that he’s either already had an interview with Pitt or is scheduled to some time in the near future.

Tomsula is regarded as a great coach with an electric personality. If you watched any of last night’s game between the Steelers and 49ers you saw his work in action. San Francisco’s front seven is as good as it gets in the NFL.

I’ll be sure to update the blog with any developing news, but as of right now it looks like it’s down to Cristobal and Chryst. But if the last two coaching searches have told us anything, it’s best to take “reports” and “rumors” with a grain of salt.

This could all completely change by tomorrow.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog

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