The presumed top candidate for the opening at Auburn, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, spent part of his PAC-12 Championship preliminary press conference Monday night seeking to dispel his candidacy on the Plains.
It was believed by many that Cristobal was a top-tier choice for the Tigers, who fired veteran head coach Gus Malzahn Sunday.
On Monday night, hours after his Oregon team was awarded in a spot in this week's PAC-12 title game opposite Southern Cal because Washington has COVID-19 roster issues, Cristobal addressed the Auburn situation.
“This is what I can say: I can say that I haven't been contacted,” Cristobal said in a press conference. “I don't know if my agent has been contacted, and I talk to him every single day. And I trust (Nike co-founder and Oregon alum) Phil Knight, I trust (Oregon athletics director) Rob Mullens, I trust our administration and I trust people here in Oregon.
“As you guys know, we had been working on something when the pandemic first hit and things kind of stalled and things have picked back up. I've always been transparent with every single one of you. I will continue to do that, so hopefully in the next couple of days there's more stuff to talk about as it relates to that. But that in itself hopefully explains to you exactly where things are with me.”
As FootballScoop.com noted earlier Monday in an update on the Auburn position, Cristobal has for several months been engaged in discussions with Oregon officials on a revamped contract and, per sources, additional financial resources for his assistant coaches' salary pool.
Cristobal took over the Ducks' program after less than a year as an assistant at the school, when Willie Taggart left to become Florida State's head coach. Cristobal, who had previous head coaching experience at Florida International and is a Miami native, garnered PAC-12 Coach of the Year honors in 2019. He has generated a 24-8 mark in his three seasons atop the Ducks' program and already has recorded three wins against top-10 teams.
Auburn defensive coordinator and interim head coach Kevin Steele has emerged as a viable candidate to replace Malzahn. Per sources, Steele is said to have multiple key Auburn benefactors in his corner and has a contingent within the administration that believes he is the right man for the job.
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