March 07, 2016

E-mail Questions

Stray thoughts about the e-mail FIU media relations sent out Thursday night regarding The Herald's stories detailing women's basketball captain Destini Feagin's claims that head coach Marlin Chinn was trying to have a sexual relationship with her.

What the e-mail did say that was new?

It placed Feagin's suspension at Feb. 23. Feagin said Thursday night when I contacted her that Chinn told her Feb. 24 she was suspended in the conversation she recorded. 

It stated FIU cops had an investigation open regarding Feagin and the teammate's Athletic Panther Bucks card since Feb. 15. The Herald already reported Feagin used the card to the tune of $350; that she admitted it; that she felt she deserved some consequences for her actions; and that her mother, Joi Nicholson, put that money back on the teammate's account (yes, I saw the receipt). Some readers missed all that amidst the salacious details Chinn's alleged sexual harassment.

But why bring up the police investigation? The misuse/theft/team violation already had been reported, acknowledged and addressed.

(One former FIU director of football operations -- there's about as many of those as former Yankees managers from George Steinbrenner's temperamental peak -- found the revelation of a police connection and putting it at back at Feb. 15 pretty convenient. He told me such card issues never make it to FIU cops.)

What didn't the e-mail say that was new? 

Why was Chinn allowed to coach in a game two days after FIU heard the allegations, THEN suspended two or three days after the game? And who made that call?

Did President Rosenberg hear Feagin's allegations that she was being harassed in a chance campus encounter or not? The Herald asked last Wedensday. Must have gone in the Pay No Mind folder along with some other e-mails we could name...

What really was the reason track coach Eric Campbell departed two years ago? (Whoops, wrong situation...)

What has FIU's investigation into Feagin's allegations found?

Because without those questions, you have to ask...

What was the e-mail's purpose?



March 06, 2016

Basketball Jones

I'm not gone yet and neither are the basketballs, both of which head for the Conference USA tournaments in Birmingham this week. The first two rounds will be on American Sports Network, which means they might as well be on Bulgarian television for South Florida televisions.

The 13-18 (7-11 in conference) men, seeded No. 11, face No. 6 seed UTEP Wednesday in a game that past performance calls a push -- FIU won by 10 at UTEP, lost by 10 to UTEP at home. But the books put UTEP as the favorite both as the higher seed and that the Panthers lost nine of their last 11. Someone close to the program told me Wednesday there's a "let's get this over with" attitude among the players. Hard to argue when the only two wins in the last 11 games were against CUSA's two worst teams, UTSA and Florida Atlantic (and, the Panthers didn't beat the Owls so much as were less maladroit).

The No. 14 seeded FIU women open Tuesday against UTSA, an opponent with which the Panthers reverse split -- losing by 11 at home, winning by five in Texas. The win at UTSA was one of the two games missed by now-suspended captain Destini Feagin, the team's leading rebounding starter. Brianna Wright pulled down a ridiculous 20 rebounds in that win.

No word from either the University or Athletics as to whether or not suspended coach Marlin Chinn will be back for that game. 


March 03, 2016

The University Speaks on Feagin & Chinn...Sort Of

From FIU's Office of External Relations

Dear University Community:

We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and address them. While the University is bound by federal student privacy laws and is respectful of ongoing law enforcement investigations, the University believes that our students and our community should be aware of the key facts regarding recent news stories about alleged misconduct involving a student-athlete and an employee.  

The University has a responsibility to ensure that our classrooms, athletic fields and all of our campuses are free from any form of harassment and that all of our students, as well as faculty and staff, feel safe so that our learning community can thrive. We also have a responsibility to investigate any and all claims reported to the University while we ensure fairness and due process to all involved.

FIU Police opened a criminal theft investigation involving this student-athlete on or about February 15. Based on information provided to the Athletic Department on February 22, the student-athlete was suspended from the women’s basketball team the following day. Subsequently, the student-athlete reported serious allegations against an FIU employee. Investigations have already started under Title IX guidelines and NCAA by-laws. Based on the information gathered so far, head women’s basketball coach Marlin Chinn has been suspended, pending the outcome of the investigation.

We want to reiterate that at FIU there is no tolerance for misconduct by an employee or a student.  We will pursue the truth to the best of our abilities while supporting the victims and ensuring due process for all involved.

We ask the University community for patience as law enforcement, as well as other trained professionals, complete their work. 

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.



Another Omnibus Blog Post



The issue of the new practice field placement possibly eliminating the Nature Preserve apparently will be dealt with at a special Tuesday meeting of the FIU Faculty Senate. Sources at FIU say the location got changed from the original site, Lot 7 between The Fieldhouse and the art building, over cost.


This year's FIU Athletics golf outing will be at Turnberry Isle Resort instead of Trump National Doral.


Florida Atlantic football players yelling crude, foul language insults at FIU men's basketball players (and team manager) going to the bus last Saturday at FAU Arena...not sure why some of The Not-So-Fabulous Boca Boys would talk foul mess to a hoops team that just beat the Owls; would talk foul mess to the team manager; would talk foul mess about FIU's football team when they themselves went 3-9 (with a win against FIU); or would talk foul mess if they were actually raised by someone.


As part of an overall redistribution of personnel resources at The Herald, I'll be moving off this beat, out of Sports and over to being a general assignment reporter on the News Desk.




March 01, 2016

Feagin: The First to Talk

I'll forgo my usual blog levity to just link to this. Check out the link or the next two paragraphs will make about much sense as Klingon Sanskrit.

Destini Feagin isn't the first over the five academic years I've been on the FIU sports beat to allege sexual harassment in the athletic department from coaches or managers. But Feagin is the first one willing to make such allegations publicly.

A new statement issued by the University Tuesday afternoon: "FIU is conducting an investigation into allegations made against Coach Marlin Chinn. Based on the allegations, the university has suspended Coach Chinn, pending the outcome of the investigation. Because this is an ongoing investigation, the university will not provide additional comments at this time."


Softball Turns Two Co-Players of the Week

While I was busy working on another FIU story you'll see here this morning, the 11-5 softball team got some Conference USA notice.

Freshman pitcher Megan Kugelmann threw two innings of perfection against Siena Friday and a no-hitter (one hit by pitch, one error originally scored a hit) Saturday against Central Connecticut State in a six-inning run rule game. For that, she shared Conference USA Pitcher of the Week with UTEP's Kaitlin Fifeld.

Also sharing a weekly award were co-Players of the Week junior Stephanie Texeira and Charlotte's Lizzy Birch. Texeira drew four walks, hit three home runs, five other hits and piled up 12 RBI. Texeira's seven home runs, 23 RBI and preposterous 1.205 slugging percentage lead CUSA.

Good night...



February 29, 2016

Fields Crushing Nature?

The original plan approved by the Board of Trustees in December accounted for two practice fields, one natural grass, one phony grass, to be built south of FIU Baseball Stadium and the Nature Preserve. But a boldface slip-out clause comes on Page 8 of the Jan. 6 facility program document in PDF form: "The Project will include consideration of lower cost, alternative sites, such as at or adjacent to the soccer stadium, Tamiami Park, etc."

Word on the information superhighway is the new site is over the Nature Preserve. That prompted this petition and a flurry of Tweets and Facebook posts saying, "NOOOOO!"

Continuing to check on this.


February 27, 2016

FIU's Queens Reign Over Conference USA Waters -- Again

Reasons FIU should embrace its Swimming & Diving team as the school's best athletic program. Some previously stated, all worth repeating:

1. They're annually among the best teams academically, if not the best.

2. No latecomers exist in this sport. You don't just go into the pool as a teenage lark, like taking up electric guitar. Everybody swimming at a Division I level avoided or fought through burnout. Or may still fall victim to it.

3. They show up at everybody else's sporting events more often than any other team.

4. They make the best coladas when they work the baseball concession stand.

5. A year after becoming the first FIU team to win a Conference USA title, Saturday they became the first to win consecutive Conference USA titles and the first FIU team to win consecutive conference tournament titles since women's tennis won three straight Sun Belt Conference titles in 2005-07.


The Panthers didn't float through Saturday's coronation. They could have with an obese 233-point lead on second place Rice after Friday, which meant they'd win the title unless the CUSA required them to swim with anvils on their backs.

Instead, FIU kept putting the hammer down. More individual wins by the Swimmer of the Year, redshirt freshman Naomi Ruele; sophomore Kyna Periera; and senior Valeri Inghels; another diving win by sophomore Rebecca Quesnel, giving her two of the three diving titles after a concussion kept her out of the 2015 meet; and a climactic crushing relay win, this one in the 400 freestyle relay that FIU won by 4.5 seconds.

That's right, 4.5 seconds. That's a rout and a wrap -- by 311.5 points over Marshall and 318 over Rice, which came in as the favorite if you went by national ranking.

You bully like that, you take home all the hardware. Ruele, at the meet last year recording video via iPod after a shoulder injury caused her to be redshirted, won Swimmer of the Year. Quesnel won her first Diver of the Year award. Diving Coach of the Year went to Rio Ramirez. Randy Horner got his second consecutive Coach of the Year honor.

Horner said when he did the pre-meet handicapping, comparing times, "It looked like a dead heat between Rice and us. They looked stronger in the swimming and, with the diving (Rice doesn't dive), it equaled out. I've never seen a team light it up the way they did for three and a half days without one slip up along the line."

FIU did swim a near perfect meet. Saturday, Periera took 4.27 seconds off Sonia Perez Arau's FIU record set at the 2014 CUSA meet in winning the 1650 freestyle in 16:24.36. Freshmen Oceane Peretti (17:04.41) and Ilari Manzella chipped in another 20 points from eighth and ninth, respectively. Sophomore Skye Carey (1:58.95) and senior Becky Wilde (2:00.23) contributed a fifth and sixth in the 200 backstroke.

There have been three sub-50 second 100 freestyle races in FIU history -- Ruele in the Saturday prelims (49.30) and Ruele and sophomore Letizia Bertelli (49.89) in the final as they came in first and second. Both knocked Johanna Gustafsdottir's 50.01 from the 2014 CUSA meet down to third. Jenny Alfani came in eighth in 51.79.

When Horner mentioned "a lot of stepping up from swimmers who hadn't done it before or in previous seasons," one swimmer he had in mind was sophomore Chase Harris. A hand injury sidelined Jessica Chadwick for much of the season, necessitating Harris fill Chadwick's role as in the breaststroke and individual medley races. Saturday, Harris' 2:16.01 got her on the podium for the 200 breast in third. Also scoring for FIU were freshman Nicole Hunnewell (eighth, 2:21.19) and Peretti (16th, 2:23.02).  

FIU's butterfly queen, Inghels, crushed the field in the 200 fly, winning by 2.78 seconds in 1:58.49. Junior Jenny Deist's 2:02.34 was good enough for seventh. Sophomore Maria Lopez's 2:05.47 put her in 11th. Quesnel won the platform diving the same way FIU seemed to be winning everything -- by ridiculous blowout -- when her 299.80 in the platform diving left Marshall's Megan Wolons 57.45 points to the rear. Laura Coronado (221.95, third) and Natalia Coronado (216.90, fourth) and Lily Kaufmann (203.55, seventh) gave FIU half the top eight.

All that remained was the final relay, the 400 free relay. Last year's acted as metaphor for the upward sweep of FIU's program when Johanna Gustafsdottir, FIU's most college-decorated swimmer, motored through an anchor leg that deserved those overused words "amazing" and "awesome" to bring the Panthers from significantly back to winning comfortably.

This year's relay acted as metaphor for the way FIU bestrode its competition this meet. Bertelli gave a 15 hundredths of a second lead to freshman Mauri Lauridsen. Lauridsen's 49.95, the second fastest leg swam in the entire race, presented Periera with a 1.33 second lead. Periera turned a 2.31 second lead to Ruele. Ruele slammed down the fastest leg in the race, a 49.14 to finish the whole thing in 3:20.10, a whopping 4.5 seconds up on Old Dominion.

"This was actually more rewarding," Horner said. "To repeat, it's a validation of last year. We had no room for error and we dominated from Day 1."

Oh, and this year, instead of walking or biking to practice at Tamiami's pool, they had to schlep to Gulliver Prep or wherever they could to practice. Tamiami's renovation took a Miami longer than the two months originally stated. FIU didn't get back into Tamiami until five days before leaving for the conference meet. Similarly, the divers turned nomads when the University of Miami pool they usually use for practice went under repairs.

FIU lost significant swimmers that helped build the program, such as Gustafsdottir, Klara Andersson and Jean Madison, as well as last year's freshman ace, Silvia Scalia. Still, while they didn't defeat all in the dual meets as they did in 2015, they left everyone in the CUSA meet on the bad side of the wake.

That says FIU's good. This reign could last a long time.






February 26, 2016

FIU Wins Conference USA Swimming & Diving Title Friday; Will Be Crowned Saturday


FIU should walk into Saturday's final day of the Conference USA Swimming & Diving Championships one behind another, all doing the all-wrist, no-fingers royal wave to the crowd.

Because Saturday's now Coronation Day after defending champion FIU did to its 117-point lead what an Afro Sheen Blowout Kit did for Afro's in the 1970s --- blew it out to stupid big. A 233-point gap leaves second place Rice and everybody else swimming for personal gain.

Which, also, is what's left for FIU.

"Obviously, one of our goals is to win it," FIU coach Randy Horner said. "We told them at dinner tonight, 'You've done what you had to do to secure a title. Now, go out and achieve individual goals and and personal bests.' It kind of takes the pressure off and they can swim more freely."

FIU's water women took three individual swimming events, the 100 backstroke (freshman Naomi Ruele), 100 butterfly (senior Valeri Inghels leading a podium sweep plus fifth) and 200 freestyle (sophmore Kyna Pereira leading a 1-2); the lone diving event, the 1-meter (sophomore Rebecca Quesnel); and, again, the relay of the day, the 400 Medley (Ruele, sophomore Chase Harris, Inghels, Periera).

There's no special teams in swimming. That's (Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) "Total domination."

Rice's best chance to close the gap on FIU came in Friday night's first event, the 400 individual medley. And while Rice picked up 50 points and took second, fourth and sixth, FIU freshman Ilari Manzella (4:18.90), senior Becky Wilde (4:22.60) and sophomore Chase Harris (4:25.73) neutralized the Rice effort with a third, fifth and 10th for 37 points.

After that glancing blow, FIU landed the Sonny Liston left in the 100 fly. Inghels reset her FIU record from Friday morning a little lower with a 53.47. The rest of the podium spots went to FIU freshman Mari Lauridsen (53.72) and sophomore Letizia Bertelli (54.13). Junior Jenny Deist's fifth (54.69), sophomore Ally Mayhew's ninth (55.58) and sophomore Maria Lopez's 12th (56.54) completed an 83-point event for FIU.

The 200 free follow up shot saw Periera break Johanna Gustafsdottir's FIU record of 1:46.90, set at this meet two years ago with a 1:46.46. Skye Carey's 1:47.83 brought her home in second. Senior Jessica Piper's seventh in 1:50.96 gave FIU 51 points to Rice's 31 and expanded the lead to 191 over Marshall and 195 over Rice.

Rice could cut the gap only to 176 points in the 100 breast. FIU's only swimmer in the top flight, sophomore Chase Harris, got home fifth in 1:02.97, but a 10th and 15th freshman Nicole Hunnewell (1:04.31) and junior Jessica Chadwick (1:05.32) kept the blowout rolling.

Rice doesn't dive. FIU does. Well. Quesnel's been the Stirling Moss of Conference USA diving over the last two years, the best diver without a conference title. Until Friday, when she took the 1-meter with junior Lily Kaufmann third, Natalia Coronado 11th and Laura Coronado 12th.

Ruele continued her bid for CUSA Swimmer of the Year in the 100 back, winning in 53.09. Junior Jenny Alfani, fourth in 54.04, and sophomore Ally Mayhew, eighth in 56.21.

Horner felt the 400 Medley Relay would be the toughest for FIU and the Panthers did trail Rice by 1.62 seconds after two legs. Inghels chopped that down to 36 hundredths of a second with a 52.75 breaststroke leg, then left it to Pereira's free. FIU's ace sophomore smoked Rice's ace sophomore, Jaecey Parham, by 1.05 seconds in 49.80 and FIU won by 69 hundredths of a second in 3:39.66.

Saturday starts with the 200 back prelims at 10:30. Let the coronation begin.

A little ditty I've sung in many a press box with many a peer when the sporting event being covered is over before it's officially over.







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