July 01, 2015

Whistle Blowers

When Cindy Russo retired after seemingly a century as FIU women's basketball head coach, she already counted as something of a dinosaur -- a female head coach at FIU. The hiring of Marlin Chinn as her replacement cemented Russo's brontosaurus status.

This article puts FIU's dearth of female head coaches in perspective. Only 29 of the 138 schools with FBS football or Big East basketball have a lower percentage of women coaching women than FIU's 30 percent. Of the 10 women's sports at FIU, only three have female head coaches and the school's getting three sports for two women -- Rita Buck-Crockett is the head coach for volleyball and sand volleyball. Katarina Petrovic coaches the tennis team.

A case-by-case look at FIU's women's teams coaches reminded me of the 1980s Boston Celtics, which often included three white guys among five starters. The bombastic declarations that this melanin split demonstrated racism in the Celtics organization were countered with, "OK, who do you not want to start? Perennial All-Star Larry Bird, perennial All-Star Kevin McHale or Danny Ainge, for whom every NBA coach would find a spot?"

Similar situation among FIU's women's teams. Randy Horner's turned FIU's swimming and diving team from what one former swimmer called "a glorified high school team" into one of the best mid-major programs in the nation. Before the last two disappointing seasons, FIU's most consistent winners played soccer under the direction of Thomas Chestnutt. Joe Vogel coaches golf. That covers FIU's last three conference championship programs before the baseball team battered Conference USA into submission in May.

Softball coach Gator Rebhan came recommended by some of his current players. Track & field and cross country's Ryan Heberling ascended to head coach of both programs off convenience and his work with FIU's women's throwers, the strongest part of the track program in recent years. As has been noted here often, the women's teams consistently perform well academically despite so many FIU female athletes growing up with English as a second or third language.

In the overall athletic department, coaches who have shown progress but yet to prove definitively they can get it done consistently -- football's Ron Turner, men's basketball's Anthony Evans, men's soccer's Scott Calabrese -- occupy jobs women's coaches won't get as things stand now.

And that's the legitimate beef women's coaches and their advocates have with the steady stream of men into jobs coaching women's teams. Nobody's truly an equal opportunity employer.

Pat Summitt racked up 1,098 wins over 38 years as Tennessee's women's basketball coach. If you sat on a pile of her credentials and honors, you do your best Mongo Santamaria on Shaq's head. Handling the Tennessee program from the days when she had to drive the van and wash the uniforms herself, Summitt's knowledge of running a successful college basketball program is oceanic. Tennessee reportedly twice approached Summitt about coaching the men's team.

Yet, you never heard of, say, Louisiana Tech, nosing around Pat Summitt about coaching its men's hoop team. But Tyler Summitt with two years as an assistant at Marquette and 23 chromosomes from his mother gets the women's basketball job at La Tech, where all the coaches of women's teams have a Y chromosome.

Can you imagine one of Mike Krzyzewski's daughters doing two years as an assistant men's coach at Butler then applying to be the head coach at FIU? Can you imagine one of Mike Krzyzewski's daughters getting the chance even to be an assistant at Butler?

Though I'm a black man with a daughter, I don't get crazy about the gender/race role model thing. It's too limiting. There's too much to be learned from too many people of all skin tones and genitalia. And if nobody who looks like you has achieved something before, I say to that person what my mother used to say to me: "Guess you'll have to be the first."

But what about when you don't even get the chance to be the first? Because there's too much to be learned from diverse voices, the reduced volume of female coach voices matters at FIU and elsewhere.


June 30, 2015

Dolphins Coming to FIU

The Dolphins will hold a public practice at FIU Stadium Aug. 7 as part of a Friday Night Festival, featuring live practice and scrimmage, player autographs afterwards, cheerleaders and Dolphins alumni smiling and waving after signing autographs...all you'd expect from a franchise of good people working very hard to help everybody overlook 20 years of professional mediocrity on the field.

Tickets can be purchased here for $5 each.


June 29, 2015

June 27, 2015

Summer Friday Night Softball for Charity

While I wrote about a summer camp at the University of Miami that disappeared and a sailor who disappeared before rambling up the Palmetto and I-75 to the NHL Draft, David Furones went to the Cypsquad Charity Celebrity Softball Game Friday at FIU Baseball Stadium. Proceeds from the event benefit former FIU safety Johnathan Cyrpien's CypSquad Foundation.

Furones reports:

Cyprien, a starting safety the last two seasons for Jacksonville, put together a team predominantly of former college teammates, high school teammates at North Miami Beach High, former UM players and other NFL players with South Florida ties against members of the military, policemen and fire fighters from Miami-Dade County.

Proceeds benefited the CypSquad At-Risk Youth Program and the Feed Our Block Foundation. A number of children in the program were on the field meeting and taking pictures with the stars before and after the game.

“Our mission, No. 1, was for these kids out here because we wouldn’t be having this event if it wasn’t for those guys,” Cyprien said. “This foundation started about a month ago, and it’s for at-risk youths to put them in better positions so they can make better choices.”

Among the top standout sightings were Indianapolis Colts Pro-Bowl wide receiver and former FIU Panther T.Y. Hilton, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Northwestern High), Chicago Bears safety Antrel Rolle (UM, Homestead South Dade) and former FIU baseball star Garret Wittels, he of the 56-game hitting streak.

Cyprien said his highlight on the field was scoring a run in the 9-5 victory for the celebrity team. The top bloopers: Isame Faciane dropping a fly ball, Dolphins safety Louis Delmas dancing around the field every chance he got or rapper Ice Berg just embarrassing himself at the plate.

Some of the best ovations from the roughly 1,000 in attendance came for Hilton, of course.

“Any time you get a chance to come back to your old stomping grounds, you do that,” Hilton said. “Just give back, just come out here and have fun and spend some time with the kids.”

Cyprien plans on making the softball game an annual event with the connections he has in both the Miami and Jacksonville areas.




June 26, 2015

Football Past & Future

Former FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien's Cypsquad Celebrity Charity softball game, benefitting Cyprien's foundation that assists at-risk youth, will be 6 p.m. tonight at FIU Baseball Stadium.

The lineup includes former FIU football players Antwan Barnes, Anthony Gaitor and Tourek Williams; former FIU baseball hit streaker Garret Wittels; Dolphins safety Louis Delmas; Minnesota Vikings quarterback and Northwestern High graduate Teddy Bridgewater and a host of others. Tickets still available here.

Meanwhile, after FIU's camps, they've gotten a run of verbal commits for next season. 

South Dade running back Jawon Hamilton, 5-10, 185, not rated by any of the major recruiting sites

Tampa Bay Tech safety Isaiah Brown, 6-1, 185, three stars by 247Sports, not rated by other sites.

Lake Nona wide receiver Ulice Gillard, 6-1, 190, not rated by the major recruiting sites

Tampa Countryside guard/tackle Wyatt Panaccione, 6-5, 280, not rated by the major recruiting sites


The 2015 schedule is out.


Same here.


June 18, 2015

Extending, & Extenuating

Credit to FIU Student Media for getting a sit down with FIU President Mark Rosenberg and to the president for being responsive to student media for the chat that resulted in this video. Rosenberg answers questions about athletic director Pete Garcia and the football program going back to Division II.

While Rosenberg could've given a Dikembe Mutumbo finger wag after swatting the second question into the metaphorical 10th row, he did a little dancing when asked about a Garcia contract extension (Garcia's up in 2016). Rosenberg called that question "premature," which it most certainly would be if this were a completely different athletic department and athletic director. As it is...look, if you're reading this, you probably know all about it and if you don't, click on "Pete Garcia" on the list of categories and read away. I have neither the time nor the inclination to rehash it all here.

Anyway, after Muhammad Ali Rosenberg floated like a butterfly from that question, he straight out said he wants to keep productive people around and Garcia, in his opinion, has been productive "with the resources he has had, with the capabilities that have evolved."

"Resources" is the less crass way of saying "money and people." According to USA Today's annual college sports economics survey, FIU received only 3 percent of its 2013-14 income from ticket sales, last in Conference USA. Meanwhile, its portion of the athletic's budget coming from subsidy was a Conference USA high 80.2 percent of which the overwhelming majority comes out of student fees.


June 16, 2015

Report: Former FIU baseball player Lozano killed

A hit-and-run by a Toyota or Lexus SUV killed former FIU infielder Corey Lozano Sunday according to this report from Channel 25 in Palm Beach.

Lozano's FIU career, from 2005-08, put his name in the baseball program's record book beyond all-time roster. He played 216 games (sixth all-time), produced 250 hits (tied for fourth), 173 runs (sixth) and 44 doubles (seventh).

Anyone with any possible information on this, please contact Palm Beach Gardens police at 561-799-4406.

June 15, 2015

FIU on ASN (football, of course)

Conference USA announced which games will be televised on the American Sports Network and FIU announced game times for two should-be home wins. Actually, the five games involved might comprise the Panthers' 2015 victory total.

ASN, a division of Sinclair Broadcasting that too often doesn't include a station in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, decrees that FIU's home games against Texas-El Paso on Oct. 18 and Charlotte on Nov. 7 will be at noon. If you heard a Nancy Kerrigan-like screaming, that's FIU's marketing and sales reacting to any potential hope for a decent crowd getting kneecapped.

I used to wonder why FIU didn't play more home early afternoon football games to take advantage of the heat. I saw the Rice and Pitt crowds -- using "crowds" more loosely than jeans sag on the ignorant -- last year. I wonder no more.

The annual Shula Bowl, at FAU this year, gets a 3:30 p.m. kickoff for Oct. 31, Halloween, on ASN. That'll take a few parents out of the trick-or-treating game. I hope two South Florida teams means ASN manages to show the game down here on something other than ASN's streaming site.

FIU announced its home opener, a planned punking of North Carolina Central, and the Oct. 24 Homecoming game against Old Dominion will be 6 p.m. kickoffs.



June 14, 2015

Phillicia & Phil

Long jumper Phillicia Fluellen officially finished FIU's 2014-15 athletic year when she sailed to 14th in this week's NCAA Championships.

Fluellen's leap of 20 feet, 4 1/2 inches was her third best this season and second best among the mid-majors at the meet behind 10th place Texas State's Allie Saunders (I'm not counting 11th place Tennessee State's Clairwin Dameus as being from a mid-major -- that track program's been good longer than half the coaches at that meet have been alive.)


The premier college football preview publication, by information tonnage and accuracy, Phil Steele's College Football 2015, is now online if not newsstands.

Steele ranks FIU 103rd overall and fourth in Conference USA East. One of the common problems when turnovers become the manna you turn into victory, as in FIU's five wins over the last two seasons, is that's not consistent sustenance. Steele lists the Panthers as one of the teams with a positive double-digit turnover margin, a statistic that precedes a dropoff in wins the following year for 65 percent of such cases since 1991.

But, Steele points out FIU was four plays from being 8-4 last year instead of 4-8 and expects this year's model to be the best of the three Ron Turner FIU teams.

So, there's that.



June 12, 2015

C-USA Gives FIU's Vander Schaaf School Money

 FIU swimmer Courtney Vander Schaaf graduated with a psychology degree and minored in biology. She's going into the accelerated nursing program at Valparaiso -- yes, Valpo, known for Orville Redenbacher, Ken LaVicka and this shot -- and gets $4,000 toward that cost as one of 14 Conference USA Jim Castenada Postgraduate Scholarship recipients.

Castenada was a Rice coach, faculty athletics representative and instructor for 46 years. The scholarship recipients are chosen by the conference's faculty athletics reps.



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