On December 20, 2011, Cristobal's FIU team was favored to beat Marshall at Tropicana Field. When the ball goes off the tee at FIU Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday, the home team has exactly the same chance to defeat the Herd as does Barry University, St. Thomas University and Miami Dade College.
Take extra credit if you know the latter three schools do not sponsor football.
Athletic director Pete Garcia had the good sense to hire Cristobal after the 2006 season, and the brilliantly stupid idea to fire him after a 3-9 season in 2012. Garcia said "We've gone backwards," but he seemed to forget what the bottom of the barrel really looks like - FIU was coming off an 0-12 season and that embarrassing fight against Miami (Fla.) when he took the AD job.
Garcia and new coach Ron Turner, who has as much in common with south Florida as I do, have gotten reacquainted to that bottom of the barrel. The Panthers will have to look to basketball and Rakeem Buckles to lift their spirits.
Wait a sec ... the Panthers are ineligible for postseason play, running into academic index shortcomings. A legacy of another great Garcia personnel decision, the hiring of Isiah Thomas.
What a circus. And this school got into C-USA before Florida Atlantic?
Saturday's game won't do much for Marshall's strength of schedule, but what the heck. It's better to beat weak opposition than be weak opposition, I say.
Besides, this is a good warmup for MU's upcoming Conference USA semifinal game against East Carolina on Nov. 29. And a good chance for the Herd's Miami kids to perform in their home city.
Maybe someday the Panthers will be competitive again.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.