Oregon names Mario Cristobal new head coach

Mario Cristobal will replace Willie Taggart

The Associated Press - PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon promoted offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach, Rob Mullens, University of Oregon director of athletics, announced Friday.

Cristobal was co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Oregon this past season and was named interim coach on Tuesday when Willie Taggart left to become head coach at Florida State.

"This swift action will ensure we don't lose any of the terrific momentum (we gained) over the last year," said University of Oregon President Michael Schill.

After Taggart left Oregon, there was a huge push on social media by players to promote Cristobal to head coach. They used #cristoBALLIN to support him. But Oregon Athletic Director said that would've been an easy excuse to hire him. Mullens said they interviewed candidates that could've led Oregon.

"Yet something separated Mario from the group," Mullens said.

Cristobal said the team built a lot of momentum in the past year. He called the direction under Taggart in his only year in Eugene a "gift" that players should be thankful for. Now, heading into next year, Cristobal said it's about building on that momentum.

"The foot is on the gas the whole way," he said.

Cristobal said that the team will do everything it can to retain defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who is guaranteed to stay with the team through the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.

Cristobal, who was the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach this year, said he still plans to coach the line, but he's giving full play-calling duties to assistant Marcus Arroyo.

Before coming to Eugene, Oregon, with Taggart, Cristobal had spent four seasons as offensive line coach at Alabama. He has six seasons of head coaching experience at Florida International, where he went 27-47, including 20-26 in conference, with two bowl appearances from 2007-12.

He was also an assistant at Miami, his alma mater.

When Oregon hired Taggart to replace Mark Helfrich, he was the first Oregon coach to come from outside the staff in more than four decades. Losing Taggart, the Florida native, after less than a year meant another coaching search, but this time the Ducks stayed in-house. Oregon went 7-5 this season, including 1-4 in games without starting quarterback Justin Herbert, who missed time with a broken collarbone.

The Ducks had also been doing well on the recruiting trail under Taggart and the hope is promoting Cristobal can help Oregon keep a promising class of high school commitments together.

As he made the announcement, Mullens said, "Mario's leadership skills, work ethic, and experience makes him a perfect fit to lead the Oregon football program," said Mullens. "He has a passion for Oregon and a vision for our future success, and has made a significant impact on our student-athletes during his time here. We look forward to a great future on the horizon for Ducks under Mario's leadership."

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a former teammate of Cristobal's at Miami, approved of the hiring.

KOIN 6 News contributed to this report

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