September 29, 2014

Leonard Gets C-USA and CFPA Weekly Attaboys

Richard Leonard picked off two passes in Saturday's 34-20 win against Alabama-Birmingham, taking one to the house and running the other back 46 yards to set up a field goal. Between those plays, he led the fourth and 2 stop in the third quarter, not the play you usually see a cornerback make in short yardage.

That's why Leonard, along with Air Force's Weston Steelhammer (what an awsome name), is the College Football Performance Award's National Defensive Back of the Week and the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week.

 

September 28, 2014

A few thoughts on FIU 34, UAB 20

I'll get to how FIU did to UAB what the Blazers thought they would do to FIU in a moment. But here's my favorite defensive sequence of the game, the moment FIU's defense truly delivered crushed out UAB:

UAB was at the FIU 43. The Panthers' 24-13 lead seemed certain to be shrunk a little. The Blazers moved the ball on their previous possession for the first time in the second half. That drive should've ended with Jeremiah McKinnon's incredible one-armed interception, but he got called for pass interference, an amazing feat when it was a one-armed pick because McKinnon's other arm was held. The drive did end with a fourth and 2 stoning of Jordan Howard led by cornerback Richard Leonard. 

Anyway, with UAB a first down from field goal range, defensive end Michael Wakefield drew a holding call. First and 20 at the UAB 47 and a posse chased quarterback Cody Clements from the pocket into a 3-yard gain. Second and 17, Imarjaye Albury with a sack. Third and 19, Wakefield with a sack for a loss of 11 as Giovanni Francois gets flagged for offside. Wakefield, in particular, that series devastated his man on each play. I thought, "UAB should decline this, punt, figure out some scheme for blocking Wakefield." Seriously, I thought a punt would be better for UAB than whatever might happen on third and 14. I wondered if Clements might be thinking "Decline the penalty, I'm getting beat up here."

UAB took the penalty, as positive thinking and all good sense indicated the Blazers should. And on third down, Clements threw a ball that three FIU defenders had a better shot at than his intended receiver and Leonard intercepted. He ran it back 46 yards to the UAB 14. FIU got a field goal out of that.

Two UAB plays later, 27-13, FIU morphed into 34-13, FIU on Perkins' 31-yard pick six. Ballgame.

"We just wanted to eliminate the big plays. Coach told us we'd have a bunch of chances to get interceptions this week and we took advantage," Leonard said. "There was nothing different about it -- in their face, disrupt the timing."

UAB kept throwing long and hit two, a 40-yarder to JJ Nelson and a 34-yarder to tight end Gerald Everette, plus got that pass interference call on McKinnon. They also failed to connect on a couple they had open. Nelson got behind Leonard in the second quarter, but dropped what would've been a pretty sliding bomb catch. UAB scored the next play anyway when Everett did his monster truck act through the FIU secondary.

Still, three completions over 20 yards and one pass interference to four interceptions is a hit-to-pick ratio any defense will take and walk out laughing.

Something else that should be noticed is FIU's defensive discipline. All those times Cody Clements left the pocket usually skedaddling from danger, rarely did FIU lose track of receivers downfield. Meanwhile, FIU's line kept good lines of pursuit. Clements broke free for one 19-yard scramble and the 15-yard touchdown in garbage time. You get pressure like FIU got all game, you'll take two plays of lost containment against the many where Clements took a sack, threw it away or ran for picayune gain. On the two fourth downs UAB tried to draw FIU off, the Blazers wound up jumping early.

Of the 380 offensive yards FIU allowed, most came on UAB's first drive of the game and last two drives in garbage time. That pressure on Clements and Jeremi Briscoe helped with those interceptions. FIU coach Ron Turner agreed those weren't throws a comfortable quarterback makes. Five defensive turnovers, two that went for touchdowns. In the competitive phase of the game, the FIU defense outscored the UAB offense 14-13.

The Panthers didn't move the ball with consistency. They turned three short fields off turnovers into two field goals. Their 297 yards of offense won't raise any eyebrows, especially when 160 of those yards (53.8 percent) came on two plays. But they showed capability for the big strike again with the 75-yard and 85-yard touchdown passes to Jonnu Smith and Glenn Coleman, respectively. That's what UAB had done earlier this season. 

By the way, big ups to Coleman, who had 106 yards on four catches and the block that sprung Smith on up the sideline on his touchdown. Wonderful speed shown by Smith on that play, outrunning a fast secondary.

Leonard, Coleman, soccer player Chelsea Leiva...those that missed their 2013 seasons keep showing what their teams lacked in their absence. Coleman's averaging 20.83 yards per catch on his 12 receptions. Leonard had two interceptions, made the aforementioned fourth down stop and did a cameo on offense running a jet sweep for 5 yards.

(Leiva had another two-goal game Friday night in the FIU women's win. Guess we should mention here the FIU men footballers lost their conference opener to UAB 3-2 on a goal with 20 seconds left.)

Both freshmen Alexes went the distance. Alex Gardner handled 19 of the 27 carries between he and Anthon Samuel. Gardner's roommate, quarterback Alex McGough, never got swapped out for EJ Hilliard this game, although early on, he couldn't hit the broad side of Big Momma.

"I was trying to throw the ball too hard. That's a big problem I have," McGough said. "They were playing pretty good defense throughout the game. I was trying to force it in the beginning. Coach Turner pulled me aside and told me 'calm down, throw the ball nice and soft, a catchable pass.'"

Turner said, "He did a really good job mentally and was focused. He just missed a couple of throws that he should've made early that would kept some drives (going), but he's not going to make every throw. He's a young guy. What I did like is that he did miss some throws early, but he hung in there, hugn in there, and just kept playing and believing in himself."

As for the running game, Turner liked some of what he saw, but didn't like the inopportune false start penalties and some blown blocks that blew up plays at the handoff.

"The good news is we got a win," he said. "The better news is I think we can become so much better because we hurt ourselves a lot."

Such as the three red zone trips off turnovers. Three field goal attempts, partially because there were three false start penalties. For the day, FIU had 10 penalties for 65 yards.

FIU a two-touchdown underdog against a team with talent but not much record of recent success. A flood of turnovers, including Randy Harvey getting a special teams turnover...yeah, this reminded me a bit of the Panthers beating Southern Mississippi a year ago.

About two hours before the game, UAB players began trickling onto the field. They walked around, some down to the opposite end zone before all arriving at midfield. They formed a shield shape. A step forward, arms wrapped around shoulders, they bowed they had a team prayer. No matter your relgious feelings, it was beautiful to watch the aesthetics of them coming together. I wish I'd shot video, but instead ot just this picture.

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Also, here's a shot of the home side of Legion Field, as requested by chiapanther (file too big for Twitter). The announced crowd was 16,133. Even if that was the actual crowd (go with 10,000 to 12,000 actual) Legion Field still seats over 71,000, even without the removed upper deck. What would be a nice crowd for a stadium sized like The Cage, a stadium UAB would love, looks like a family club meeting in Legion Field.

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September 27, 2014

FIU World Football Also Opening C-USA Play This Weekend

Ladies first, on Friday night against Old Dominion, getting a 2-1 win on two goals by fifth-year senior Chelsea Leiva. Leiva's got six of the 11 goals scored this season for 6-4 FIU. I'm not sure how she wasn't a preseason All-Conference USA pick, but she'll be a postseason one. When Charlotte comes to Camp Mitch Sunday afternoon, they'll find an FIU team that's won four of its last five, with only one goal allowed by freshman goalie Nevena Stojakovic.

The gentlemen hope to follow up Saturday night in the other FIU football game against Alabama-Birmingham. A record of 3-3-1 describes erratic, especially with two of the three wins coming against teams ranked at the time, Michigan and San Diego State. That'll help FIU's RPI should the Panthers need to get into the NCAA tournament as an at-large team, which is likely. Conference USA's loaded with Chompers.

 

FIU coach Scott Calabrese inherited this schedule, but said, "As I start to design future schedules, that's going to be important. We have to have a good RPI. Winning Conference USA with New Mexico, Charlotte and Old Dominion, which are all Top 25 teams, there's no guarantee you'll win the tournament."

Also, "the good thing is when you play really good teams and you make mistakes, you know about it immediately. They don't let you get away with things," Calabrese said. "You find out a lot about your team which, when you look at the non-conference schedule and what it's purpose is to prepare you for your conference. So far, we've made major strides in that direction."

Calabrese knew FIU possessed the technically talented kind of players that could play the possession, attacking game he wanted to play. He just had to season them with defensive responsibility. 

"I think we take less risks at the back (than the start of the season)," he said. "That was evident in the Florida Gulf Coast game (Wednesday's 2-1 win). There were times this season where we would try to play a pass in an area if we lose the ball, the risk of losing the ball is much greater than the return of just possessing it around the back. We still have that tendency, but we're starting to move away from it."

The obvious offensive focal point is senior forward Quentin Albrecht, last week's Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week (the conference apparently lost his video highlights before their weekly TV show, depriving fans from seeing Albrecht's bicycle kick winner against San Diego State). But when I asked for two players FIU needs strong games from each night he named redshirt freshman Donald Tomlinson and junior Danny Gonzalez.

"(Tomlinson) is doing such an importand job in our midfield and doing it so well," Calabrese said. "He is our anchor, playing the (Sergio) Busquets-(Claude) Makelele role where he breaks up the play, he plays simple and quickly, he gives other players the opportunity to go forward because he accepts his role as a holding midfield player. He has been a really important part of what we're doing and he's not the guy you notice. Unless you're the coach.

As for Gonzalez, he said, "We're trying to play a possession-oriented style, attacking soccer and he's able to do all those things and he couples it with an exceptional work rate. He's the box-to-box midfielder. If you want to control the middle of the park, which ultimately gives you your foothold in the game, those two players need to play well. So far, they have been."

Gameday V: Trying To Catch the Fly Guys

 

Getting redshirt junior cornerback/kick returner Richard Leonard back injected danger into FIU's return game. It gave defensive coordinator Josh Conklin options, especially when defending the run because Richard Leonard can fly. And, Saturday, ithe speed Leonard shows on defense and vision he shows on returns might be put to use on offense.

Which is why Leonard could be the player on whom FIU upset hopes hinge against Alabama-Birmingham.

This isn't what I would've said a month ago when I picked UAB as one of FIU's victims this season.

Alabama's played Mr. Potter to Alabama-Birmingham's Bailey Building & Loan since UAB started football in the 1990s. Alabama, with Nick Saban on the way, blocked UAB's hiring of Jimbo Fisher (you can hear Fisher's "Phew" all the way from Tallahassee). The Tuscaloosa-centric Board of Trustees blocked UAB's attempt at an on-campus stadium, leaving the Blazers playing in 87-year-old Legion Field. UAB's other facilities got a needed upgrade only this past offseason after the hiring of Bill Clark.

Clark's got the perpetually underachieving Blazers playing offensively up to speed -- literally. UAB's 17.2 yards per completion as a team and wide receiver JJ Nelson's 26.8 yards per catch jump out at you, but that all works off the run. UAB's run the ball 149 times in three games and thrown it only 86 times. With running backs Jordan Howard and D.J. Vinson averaging a combined 4.8 yards per carry, the threat of the run opens up space for Nelson, Josh McGee and tight end Gerald Everett.

These days in college football, good offenses eventually eat. You just have to keep them out of the buffet line. That's where Leonard comes in on defense. His and Jeremiah McKinnon's ability to single cover UAB's wideouts can allow the front seven plus strong safety Demarkus Perkins to do what they've done to three of four rushing attacks so far this season. 

Don't expect Leonard and McKinnon to zero out the UAB streakers. That's not realistic for any cornerback short of All-America status. They just have to prevent a total strafing that would prohibit FIU from even attempting to have a balanced offensive attack.

And either the defense gives the offense a short field with some turnovers, scores on turnovers or Leonard needs to returning as many Hunter Mullins punts as he can. Mullins made the Ray Guy Award Watch List as one of the nation's best punters. Like Guy, Mullins can outkick his coverage and I'm not talking about his girlfriend. Alabama A&M took a Mullins punt back 77 yards. The Blazers cover kickoffs better, allowing 21.7 per return. Similarly, don't head for the bathroom early when FIU punts. Nelson's got more flat out speed than Louisville's James Quick, whose shifty speed didn't allow him to take full advantage of some holes in FIU's coverage.

Accepting the premise that even a good defensive job on UAB keeps the Blazers tractable in the mid-20s, that still means FIU's offense needs more juice that its shown in the last seven quarters against FBS competition. Don't be surprised if that's where Leonard comes in on offense.

FIU's had one, real, multi-play touchdown drive against a non-Wagner opponent this year and that was in a quasi-hurryup situation against Pitt. Otherwise, there's been a 9-yard drive and two two-play drives. FIU's last in Conference USA in average possession time.

FIU needs to increase offensive production. Neither quarterback, Alex McGough or E.J. Hilliard, gets it done consistently. The run game breaks off a big gain, then breaks down the next two or three plays. Should the Panthers try harder to create long drives? Or, do they throw a few more chips on the Big Play line and hope the long drives just wind up coming because UAB's defense isn't Louisville's or Pitt's?

That's why you might see Leonard, FIU's most dynamic player this year, on offense. The same vision, elusiveness and acceleration that makes him a threat on kickoffs can do the same on jet sweeps, reverses or bubble screens. It would be a logical thing to try.

UAB has started slowly in each of its three games. If FIU can get something going early, the Blazers might panic despite themselves.

Even if they do, I see them calming down by halftime. Their habit of slow starts doesn't look as self-destructive as FIU's habit of giving up points in economy-size chunks. That's a problem against a team that likes to score that way.

UAB 44, FIU 21.

But that's one the opinion of one Hoosier descended from Kentuckian grandparents (proving evolution). I could be wrong.

September 26, 2014

Football Still Grounded; Floor Pic

The football team's no longer tempting claustrophobia on a one-engine plane designed to fly with more motors than that.

They got put on the bus, Gus, sent to a mall to eat dinner while a new plane was flown in from a few hours away, according to FIU sources. The team might not get into its hotel until 10:30. Luckily, this isn't an early afternoon kick, but rather 3:30 p.m.

FIU's been using Allegiant Air, to other airlines as a food truck parked on Meridian is to Lincoln Road, for years. This isn't the first issue that's delayed travel the night before a football game. But, they're cheap.

THIS YEAR'S FORMER SUNBLAZER ARENA FLOOR

Logo's almost done.

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Plane-to-Birmingham Jail

Imagine a shirtless, sweaty college football team that's been confined to a plane without air conditioning and, indeed, without enough jet propulsion. After over a half hour of losing water weight, they're told only one engine on the plane is working so, hey, got to get a new plane.

That's Friday afternoon with FIU football and Allegiant Air, the charter company FIU still uses. FIU chartered with Allegiant. I flew commercial through Charlotte. I'll likely be in Birmingham before the team leaves Fort Lauderdale Executive Jet Center.

This isn't ideal preparation for a road game against a talented team (see, "2012, FIU vs. Louisiana-Layfayette")

September 24, 2014

Getting there...

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Athletics Committee Meeting Stuff

The Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meets every few months to get reports on the athletic department’s doings from athletic department people with titles. There’s public discussion of those doings between the suits on the Committee and the Athletics Titles. The Suits and Titles exchange pats on the back or harrumphs. The Titles vow to improve. Then, the Suits get coffee as a slightly different set of Suits comes in for the next BOT Committee meeting. The Titles whoosh back to the west side of Camp Mitch.

The value in these meetings come in the chunks of information or analysis the Titles lay on the Suits. After a moment of feistiness from committee chairman Jorge Arrizurieta regarding the minutes of the February meeting, the Sept. 10 meeting carried a happy feeling. Not quite Up With People happy, but it was a Prozac-and-Percoset party compared to the last two Athletics Committee meetings I attended.

STUFF A CASUAL FAN MIGHT CARE ABOUT

A committee member happy to see the FIU vs. the University of Miami football series revived asked if FIU was working on any kind of football relationship with Florida State or Florida.

“We’re working with all the major schools around the country,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. “We wanted home-and-homes. We feel we can bring those games here. As you’re seeing Pittsburgh this week, Louisville’s coming here to play, we feel at this point in our development, we want to do home-and-homes. We’re willing to play anybody anywhere as long as we do home-and-homes.”

STUFF A HARDCORE FAN MIGHT CARE ABOUT

Garcia admitted sophomore Stephanie Texeira, the softball team’s best player as a freshman, played a larger than usual role in the selection of Gator Rebhan as FIU’s new softball coach.

“Obviously, when we go through the process of selecting a head coach, for the most part, you don’t talk to the student athletes that much about the search process. This was a little bit different,” Garcia said. “She was very adamant about what they wanted. The night we selected our next softball coach, she was actually sitting in her car about two hours outside my office waiting to hear if Gator was going to be our next coach.”

Early on in these things, the athletic department presents a proudly FIU example of the student-athlete ideal. It gives the committee a hot chocolate feeling inside before getting an ice bucket challenge of real problems elsewhere. Texeira got the call for this one. It won’t be her last.

Texeira pointed out her Mom-and-Dad home is only 15 minutes away but she stays at FIU. She extolled the Student-Athlete Academic Center (SAAC), the first of many attaboys for the SAAC on this day.

She went on to talk about Rebhan: “Gator has been my mentor for 6 years. I played for him in travel ball. I was fortunate enough to have a coach who was able to push me, to challenge me, he did everything he could to push me to the best that I can be. And it’s not like he picks on me. He picks on everybody. And everybody knows he does it because he cares.”

Then, with “We have a Turtle (baseball coach Thomas). Now, we have a Gator,” Garcia introduced Rebhan.

“This is a dream come true for somebody who was born and raised in Miami, coached the last 20 years here to be a coach at FIU,” Rebhan said. “It is an honor. I think the admiintration and the support of everybody to give me this opportunity.”

He stated, “One of the goals here is I want to keep the local talent from leaving. We have so many great players here in our backyard that for years we let get away. That’s one thing I want to focus on – keep our local players here. Girls like Stephanie, All-Americans, we keep them here, it builds excitement and fills the stands.”

He also thanked the administration for the new softball stadium. Rebhan pointed to the softball team’s 3.34 team GPA last year to applause and stated the goals for the season: 40 wins, winning the FIU-hosted Conference USA tournament, “and hopefully go far in the regionals.”

Rebhan closed with “One thing about girls softball, from coaching baseball and softball -- with girls, they have to feel good to play good. And right now, being out there watching these girls out there, they feel good. They feel good about themselves and the program.”

NUTS AND BOLTS STUFF THAT FEW CARE ABOUT IN PROPORTION TO ITS IMPORTANCE (JUST ASK FOOTBALL AND MEN’S BASKETBALL…)

Without mentioning FIU’s most recent appearances in the national media noise, Garcia swung into talking about Compliance, the SAAC and academic progress rating (APR). This is usually when “How did this happen?” gets asked often enough to be each meeting’s signature catch phrase.

Not this time. Compliance hadn’t bungled anybody’s eligibility. Nobody’s been put in academic time out. There’s no new APR problems.

“I feel very comfortable about what we have going on in the SAAC and the Compliance department with our APR and it’s been a total, total team effort,” Garcia said. “We’re starting to see the results. In a lot of these areas, you don’t see the results until two or three years down the line. What’s really encouraging is we’re seeing immediate results.”

He sang of Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Bejar – “She’s a workaholic. She gets things gdone. She’s very demanding, I’ll say that. But it makes everybody go to the next level.” – before handing the floor to Compliance Director of several months Hank Harrawood.

“I know from our last meeting, the certification process was important to make sure our student-athletes on the field are indeed able to represent us on the field,” said Harrawood, hired in the months following the Ray Taylor and Marita Davydova oops-ups that cost both basketball teams.

Now, the new web-based certification system will, he said, “allow for cross checking. It’ll allow everybody to go back and see what others have done. It’ll allow for greater accountability in the certification process and help majkre sure our athletes are indeed able to represent us when they do represent us on the field.”

Also, all the coaches who needed to be certified to recruit off campus passed the certification the first time. Harrawood said from what he’s heard that’s an FIU first.

Arrizurieta gave kudos that, so far, Compliance being under the Athletics umbrella works. Garcia extolled Harrawood’s work ethic with “weekends, he’ll call me in the middle of the night. Then, he introduced APR consultant John Shukie.

Shukie used to work for the NCAA. Now, he’s the president of Forward Progress Athletics Company, which works with 20 schools. Right before Shukie made that transition, he got a call from FIU as a school staring the APR abyss of men’s basketball and football.

“Let me paint the picture for you in the summer of 2013 when I did get that call,” Shukie said. “FIU athletics, especially men’s basketball and football, were facing some difficult APR issues. The men’s basketball team knew they’d be ineligible for the men’s basketball tournament coming up this past academic year. Football was looking at a very difficult sittaiton where they might fall in that same boat.”

“The first thing I did was diagnostically figure out, How did FIU get there? What put them in this situation?”

Shukie listed staff instability (the SAAC had more directors the last few years than Gone With the Wind) plus a lack of resources. Then, when bringing up the APR issues that penalized basketball and threatened to do so with football, he pointed at former men’s basketball coach Isiah Thomas and former football coach Mario Cristobal.

“What was lacking were some coaches who didn’t necessarily buy into the concept of APR,” Shukie said.

Having had a long APR discussion with Cristobal as he groaned about the difficulty in raising a low APR, I’d call that assumption into question. I'd also say the problems in Compliance and the SAAC, the same ones being celebrated as being fixed, contributed heavily to the basement APR. Such as the SAAC advisor who advised one athlete to take a course he'd already taken and passed, helping his academic ineligibility (she later advised a track athlete right into inelgibility).

“We are still, in some senses, paying for what happened in 2010-11 and 11-12 now because we keep those numbers until they roll off four years later,” Shukie said. “We had coaches, at least from what I can tell -- who have since left (or been fired – DJN), I did not deal with them -- weren’t necessarily recruiting with an academic purpose. They were probably recruiting with an athletic purpose, to win games, but there didn’t seem to be a real strategic plan for recruiting student-athletes who could be successful on the court or field and off the court or field.

“Over the course of the year, I’ve witnessed a 180,” he continued. “I thind it starts at the top. When I say at the top, there’s a group of people at the top. It starts with Pete Garcia stressing to his coaches, emphasizing to his coaches the importance of academics. I wasn’t a witness to what was going on before I got hired, I assume those conversations happened before I arrived as well.

“What I have seen is coaches buying into that. Especially in football and men’s basketball, where a lot of my work has been focused. We have coaches that buy into the concept of APR. They’re bringing in student-athletes who are focused athletically and academically.”

So, does Shukie think change started at the top with Garcia or at the coaching level? He seems to say both.

Anyway, Shukie lauded the involvement of men’s basketball coach Anthony Evans and football coach Ron Turner: “I’ve had more phone calls from Coach Turner than any coach I’ve worked with across the 20 schools I’m involved with.”

Shukie said any athletes coming to FIU just for a visit have their academics fully vetted before coming. If not in order, he claims, no visit. Remember the cancelled visit by all-purpose guy Javonte Seabury, for a while FIU’s highest rated 2014 football recruit? There you go.

“Part of our strategic plan is to have them create relationships with the faculty For men’s basketball, we require them to face to face interactions with the faculty, not just sit in the back,” Shukie said. “They have to actually go introduce themselves. We also require men’s basketball to participate in the on-campus mentoring program so they can have an administrative, faculty mentor. Not just helps them academically, but ties them to this school. So they feel tied to FIU and not just tied to FIU men’s basketball program.”

Arrizurieta half-joked, “if we were the first (client) and helped you get another 19 clients, we should get a reduction on our fee.”

Garcia countered, “Mr. Chair, just the penalty alone for football for any school that doesn’t make the APR (minimum) is $300,000. He’s worth every penny.”

The February meeting introduced a new bigger budget for the SAAC. This meeting officially introduced the new SAAC Director, Wes Maas.

Maas said the SAAC will add two learning specialists by the end of this semester as well as an assistant director position. The SAAC itself is getting a construction version of a workout-and-wardrobe makeover.

Maas wants to increase “the pride in our facility so our student athletes, who are 18 or 19 years old, feel as good about walking into the SAAC that they feel when they walk into the math lab on campus, which is amazing, state of the art and it’s new.”

They won’t be walking in for study hall. Maas eliminated it because he felt that a system of simply counting hours turned SAAC employees into timekeepers. It failed to provide the in-person attention some athletes need.

“We want to create independent learners. We don’t want to hold hands, we don’t want to facilitate eligibility,” Maas said. “We take the syllabi, break down the reporting status, so we know every week what our student athlete is supposed to be doing. We bring them in on Sunday or Monday. We have the student athlete create their objectives for the week, what they’re supposed to complete and when. We can assign them tutoring, we can assign them office hours with faculty, we can do anything in that time to ensure the student-athletes have the resources they need. Then we follow through the week and make sure the student-athletes complete the objectives they’re assigned.

“This is obviously for freshmen and athletes new to the university. But the idea is teach them how to do it, so that the next year they can do it and be independent in the process.”

After Maas finished, Arrizurieta said he was proud of the work the committee did in pushing for improvements in the SAAC and Compliance.

“Whatever else this board needs to do to support the initiative of athletics, the SAAC, Compliance, I’m incredibly happy to see that we are generally in the direction of progress, we’re tangibly seeing progress,” he said.

Vice Chairman Mitchell Adler assented.

“Thank both of you and the rest of the trustees for pushing the envelope and making us better,” Garcia said. “I’d like to thank President Rosenberg and the administration for giving us the resources we need to make this work. I echo the senitments that its been a team effort from both your stand point, the administration and everybody who’s doing the actual day-to-day work. I couldn’t be more proud of what everybody’s done and more excited for our future. Because without academic success, we’re not going to have any other kind of success.”

EPILOGUE

Arrizurieta stayed for the Finance Committee meeting that followed. He asked FIU Foundation president Howard Lipman if there was a policy of “a donor gone bad,” a clear reference to David Alfonso. The donation deal between FIU and Alfonso that put his name on the football field now called Ocean Bank Field ended after only three of its five years.

Lipman said as far as taking a donor to court “I don’t think that would be anything I would ever recommend.”

In 99 percent of cases, Lipman said, an unfulfilled donation occurs not out of any maliciousness but bad situation, i.e., market downturn, business dropoff, something happens in their lives (bad health and bad divorce can suck your money faster than the biggest black hole -- DJN).

“The last thing we want to go is create a policy toward the 1 percent,” Lipman said.

Arrizurieta said some protection must be given because “We’ve been through this before. It’s not intangible, it’s tangible and it’s happened.”

September 23, 2014

Turner Talks O; Basketball TV

I talked to cornerback/kick returner Richard Leonard today for a story that'll appear online tonight and in print tomorrow. After that, I asked Ron Turner what he saw from the offensive film of the Louisville game. 

"I saw very poor trust in our techniques and fundamentals. I think the guys knew they were going against a really good team. They started seeing things that weren't there and thought they had to do something different than what they've been coached to do," Turner said. "You wouldn't expect that from, especially the offensive line, a group that all played last year. You'd expect that out of a freshman. That was disappointing. Stuff was showing up on film, technique-wise, that we'd never seen them do. They didn't do it in practice, theyd didn't do it in training camp. That's how you get beat. That's why we didn't execute.

"We're horrendous on third down (125th in the nation). We're not executing," he continued. "We've got guys open, we overthrow them. We've got guys open, we drop it. Guy runs a wrong route. Right guard doesn't block the right way, the right technique and gets beat. That's killing us. It's us. It's not anybody else but us. We've got to execute. We keep it about as simple as we can for them, we've got to go out and execute.

He liked some of FIU's running game, which gained 144 yards on 35 carries if you subtract the five sacks for 56 yards in losses.

"And, (Louisville's) good. At certain times, a lot of times, there was a physical mismatch, to be honest," Turner said. "You get a mismatch, youv've got to do everything perfect to give yourself a chance. If you're off a little bit, you have no chance and that's what we did."

Despite what Turner said, you have to wonder if FIU will add any new wrinkles on offense to insert more turbo to keep pace with an Alabama-Birmingham offense that barely has been forced out of fifth gear. 

The line's moved from UAB by 11.5 all the way up to UAB by 16.5, 17 one place before dropping back to 16.5. In mid-major games, hardcores look for bad lines and jump all over them early before the books realize how far off they might be.

It should be noted in last year's conference opener, FIU was a 17-point underdog at Southern Mississippi before getting its only win of the season.

TV BASKETBALL

Conference USA announced that FIU's men's basketball team will appear at least once on national television, when it goes to Southern Mississippi Feb. 12 in a Fox Sports Networks game.

September 22, 2014

Charity Patches; Baseball Freshmen; Four-Letter Floor

FIU will join over 100 other FBS schools this Saturday in wearing a Coach to Cure MD patch to promote funding for Duchnne Muscular Dystrophy research.

You donate at the Coach to Cure site. You can even text a $5 donation to 90999.

BASEBALL

Collegiate Baseball says FIU has the nation's No. 29 recruiting class. Among its Conference USA peers, that puts FIU second to Rice (No. 23).

MORE FLOOR

If you click on the truck picture from two posts ago that shows the replacement floor being brought in, you can expand it to where "ANAHEIM" is easily visible along the side of the truck. Apparently, the floor got trucked all the way across the country from the home of the Anaheim Ducks, the Honda Center, or, colloquially, The Pond.

Here it is getting put down Monday afternoon

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