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12 posts from October 2007

October 30, 2007

New FIU Stadium Tour Part 1

Let's put aside the laptops and push away from the desktops for a moment and come along in the first of two parts of a tour the GPP took of the new FIU Stadium on Monday.

Odebrecht Senior Project Manager Rudy Armenta (w/glasses, picture right) walked FIU media relations associate director Evan Koch and myself through drawings of the stadium and then out onto the stadium itself Cindy_2 and up to the club level. To my surprise, our FIU spring football awards presenter, Miss Cindy Crawford, dressed in a white tank top, was already there working on the stadium. OK, she wasn't, but let's add a little beauty to this blog. So with Evan's photography skills and yours truly (right) taking notes this is the latest on your Pelegrinarmenta_3 future stadium....On this tour we'll look at what's currently being worked on: the south stands.

While the FIU track team practiced on the old football field, 50-plus workers were busy assembling the club suites and digging to begin the east end zone stands on Monday.

The first thing that grabs your attention when entering the stadium from the where the west end zone will be (that would be in front of the old fieldhouse) is the limited amount of Rudy_2 space between the south stands and the sidelines AND the limited amount of space between the yet-to- be-built west end zone stands and the end zone. Can you say home field advantage? Here on the left is a photo depicting the intimacy of the west end zone. Where Rudy is standing is where the west end zone seats would be. I counted about 10 yards from Limitspace_3 there  to the end zone. The photo on the right shows the nearness of the south stands to the FIU bench. I'd say about 5 yards between there.

Next, we walked up into the south stands, where the 1,400-plus silver seats in the middle are the club seats with cupholders. The blue seats, no cupholders, are the other seats. The club seats will be plastic bucket seats like you find at the movies. The blue seats will all have a bench back so no one goes home with a back ache. Here on the left are the south stands Southseats seats which you can see as you drive along Stadium Drive (SW 17 St.). By the way, all the seats in the new stadium will be tilted towards the field so that no one goes home with a neck strain either. You ever try seeing a baseball game from the left or right field lines at Joe Robbie Stadium? No need to turn your neck towards the action at FIU Stadium. The stadium is being designed as Rudy described it as a "parabola". Sort of like an oval octagon.

We would have taken the elevator to the club suites but that has not been installed yet, but the elevator shafts are there waiting for the box cars. There will be 4 elevators: 1 for FIU coaches, 1 for opponents coaches, 1 for club level fans, 1 for public access. When you get up to the suites two things hit you: 1) the 19 suites are going to be big in space and 2) you can see the entire campus. Side note here: driving from Coral Way into FIU, you can see the stadium from Coral Way.

Club Back to the suites (photo, left), which along with the concourse that will wrap around the entire stadium will be 40 feet off the ground. The concourse will be 20-feet wide so that everyone can walk around the entire stadium. Once the upper deck gets done the top of the stadium will be 82-feet from the ground. Here on the right is a view of the 50-yard-line from club level.Club50

Later on this week, the east end zone seats start to go up along with the visiting team and officials locker rooms which both will be located behind the east end zone seats. Then construction begins on west end zone seats and FIU's fieldhouse which will house FIU's locker room, coaches offices and weight room for all FIU athletes. Both fieldhouses will be embedded into the stadium.

We'll take a tour of those areas in Part 2 of our new FIU Stadium Tour. Check back here in a few days for the second part.

PANTHER PAWSEGppaw

Win a GPP Blog Leaderboard

We're down to 11 contestants, not counting the GPP. Of course, once FIU gets its first win this leaderboard is going to have a shakeup of gianormous proportions. Could it be this week against Arkansas State?

Yes, I know gianormous is not a word in the English language.

8-0: FIUrulez 152; Fomenter 154; NY Josh 157; FIU Fanatic 178; 24/7-11 178; Crazy Cane 212.

7-1: FIUPantherFan 156; GPP 174.

6-2: yippee 208.

5-3: Messod 209; CJ 217; SouthPaw 229.

2-6: alt7787 266.

CONGRATULATIONS!! to Mike Lowell, FIU alum and 2007 World Series MVP. Lowelll

CJ: Update away on Saturdays. Keep the blog informed.

SouthPaw: The Arkansas defensive coordinator was upset that FIU called 2 timeouts with 47 seconds left in the game and that's why he made that gesture towards the FIU sidelines.

FIUandME: Besides being an FAU alum, don't know why Cote would write about the Owls getting more coverage in the Herald. Yes, FAU is better than FIU right now (nobody's laughing at Howard now are they?), but the Herald doesn't even sell papers in Boca Raton. FIU is in Miami. When I picked up the paper this morning Costan it was called the Miami Herald. Not the Del Boca Vista Breeze.

Jerry & Hugh: Welcome to the GPP. Although I don't agree with either of your posts -- and that's the beauty of sports we all have different points of view --  as long as your posts are kept clean they will remain on this blog.

Jerry: Had to bring out the Panther Claw for part of your post. Call me names if you wish, whatever, we'll go back to kindergarten, but when you write vulgarities on this G-rated blog they will be deleted.

Hugh: I second, what someone else posted earlier: if Strock was such a good coach why weren't there a slew of NFL or college coaching offers after he left FIU last season? Ron Zook got the Illinois job after getting fired from Florida. Heck, even, Dave Wannstedt, who is not exactly Don Shula, got hired by Pitt after getting canned from the Dolphins. Sure, Strock helped Vinny and Marino and maybe that's what he's good at QB coaching, but a change was needed at FIU.

October 26, 2007

Woo, Pig! Sooie

Time for the last out-of-conference game of the 2007 season at the Hogs home. Hog_2

This one has a chance to get as ugly and messy as Porky and his pigsty.

Running backs Darren McFadden (Heisman Trophy candidate and possible #1 overall selection in next year's NFL Draft) and Felix Jones are running for nearly 250 yards per game.

The duo's biggest concern of late has been what to wear on Halloween. Not kidding. There is an on-line poll going on Hogwired.com on what the two backs should be for Trick or Treat: the 3 choices are Sonny and Cher, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble or the Blues Brothers.

Would be great for the Golden Panthers if McFadden and Jones go as Ferris Bueller and Cameron and Fer take the day off.

FIU has not helped itself with its run defense this season giving up more than 200 yards per game and I don't see Arkansas running below that number.

The FIU offense has gotten a little bit better of late taking leads to start the last two games, but the Golden Panthers will need to explode for points in this one to make it competitive.

Arkansas is not the elite of the SEC, but they are just more advanced physically than FIU right now and don't see this one close.

GPP thinks: Arkansas 45, FIU 13

PANTHER PAWSE

Hope that live baseball blog went off well last night and maybe we can get more of those going in the future.

alt7787: Thanks for the visual support there with Clint Hurdle. Eerie similarities.

Quijote: The Canadian team that FIU played is good, but they just weren't last night. They are among 60-70 teams that are currently playing in the Perfect Game Showcase tournament in Jupiter at the Marlins spring training complex. The teams in that tourney are made up of some of the best high school and college talent in the nation. TT sent some of his assistants up there this week to look at some players.

CJ: Haven't heard anything about FIU looking at Jaren Jones, but with the running back playing at the head coach's alma mater I'm sure MC knows who he is.

2006PA: Welcome to the GPP.

October 25, 2007

Play Ball, Eh!

FIU's exhibition game against Team British Columbia Twins has yet to start, because the Canadians arrived at the ballpark here at 8 p.m. after playing in Jupiter earlier this afternoon.

Yours truly did not arrive until now, because I was on the phone with a Hawaii newspaper negotiating some stories I will be writing for them about a golfer that's playing in Miami this weekend. But that's not important. Let's play ball, eh!

Roman is on the PA mike announcing the lineups as I type this. Here are your FIU starters for tonight:

CF Ty Main, SS Junior Arrojo, RF Raimy Fuentes, 3B Anthony Boza, C Kevin Mirabal, DH Javier Sujo, LF Corey Lozano, 2B Chris Altieri, 1B Enrique Cepero, P Corey Polizzano.

Not some of the guys we expected to see, but maybe they'll get in later in the game. Let's start blogging....

October 24, 2007

Thursday Night FIU Baseball Live Blog

It's not as catchy as FOX's Saturday Game of the Week or ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, but based on your posts and e-mails, the FIU team -- besides football -- that so many of you have eagerly awaited to see debuts Thursday night at FIU's University Park with an exhibition game.

Fiubase_2  The Golden Panthers take on a team of college level players from British Columbia at 8 p.m. and you can follow and post about the game with our first live blog on the GPP. I'll be posting and answering questions as the game occurs. If the wireless is in working order at the stadium, the blog should begin by 7:45.

Been told most of the Golden Panthers will get into the game and that some of the players on the Canadian team are also part of the Canada's National team. So it should make for some good baseball in October, other than the World Series.

Speaking of the World Series, Boston is going to win. But this has been gnawing at me since the Clinth_3 playoffs began earlier this month and the Colorado Rockies have been on TV more than ever. See if you can answer this....who the heck does Rockies manager Clint Hurdle resemble? 

All correct answers get free admission into Thursday's FIU baseball game.

PANTHER PAWSE

Puma: The APR for FIU has to do with graduation rates. The NCAA letter of allegations has to do with playing athletes that were not qualified academically to participate in NCAA games. With the new football stadium, there will also be a new weight room, visiting locker room, officials room and coaches offices. FIU is still talking with pro soccer to play in the new stadium. Wiley As far as the Marlins new stadium, I'll see it when I believe it. I think Wile E. Coyote has a better chance of catching the Road Runner before the Marlins get a ballpark built.

Ultimate FIU Fan: It could be worse for your rooting interests right now, you could be Cubs a Cubs fan (100 years and counting). As far as the FIU/Arkansas game, there is no webcast nor any local TV broadcast in Arkansas. I checked everywhere in Arkansas and this game is only on radio. The FIU/Arkansas State game the following week is on Panther Pass and Comcast Sports TV.

Messod: I don't think the uniforms you see for sale on the web would be the same as next year's because I would imagine they would have some kind of unveiling ceremony when they break out the new uniforms.

CJ: I thought about doing live GPP blogs for football, but when I'm the only one covering the game it's tough, because I need to follow play-by-play. Plus, this season at the Orange Bowl, I lose my wireless connection quite often, because of the OB's outdated system. When the Herald eventually covers FIU with more than just myself then live blogs could be done for football, because one person could do play-by-play and the other blogs away.

FIUrulez: Can't knock CJ for his enthusiasm. I can take out my own garbage.

By the way, whoever on this blog said that "The Office" was a funny show....don't know about that. Saw a few episodes the other day on TBS and I don't think I laughed once. Now, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Curb_2 Family Guy, Entourage and Seinfeld those are funny shows.

FI-UM Fan: Glad the GPP can keep you informed and entertained. Good to have you posting again.

FIUoptimist & JD: Welcome to the GPP.

FIUoptimist: From my conversations with several high school coaches throughout Florida, MC and his coaches have been recruiting all over the state.

JD: You are entitled to your opinions and they are welcomed here. Thanks for your interest in the GPP. The Middle Tennessee and Stanford football programs have been around much longer than FIU and have much more academic, athletic and financial support. FIU is in year 6 for football and we all know the first five years could have been much better with several aspects that have already been covered numerous times on this blog. Let's forget about the youth and inexperience of the Golden Panthers football team. The fact of the matter is that FIU football needs better players to make those turnarounds like MT did last season winning the Sun Belt and with what programs like South Florida, Kansas, Illinois and Rutgers have done.

Be back tommorrow at the ballpark!

October 22, 2007

Not Reinventing the Wheel Here

We've tried celebrity guest psychologists, Tony Soprano and even Tom Petty in trying to help Golden Panthers fans grasp the situation of FIU football this season and for the near future and apparently there are still some people confused. So let's see if the GPP could help out.

Before we get to the final therapy session, FIU baseball's exhibition game against the Canadians is at 8 p.m. Thursday at FIU's University Park. Admission is free.

Back to football. We won't bring up that many people are impatient, because that goes with the territory where FIU is located -- South Florida, where the official city or area logo might as well be a bandwagon. And Bandw judging by your e-mails and posts on this blog the weight has gotten lighter on the FIU bandwagon of late.

Sure it's been a frustrating football season down here with the college and pro teams combining for an 0-14 record thus far. Heck, I'm running out of ideas to write features on. But once again, and I know many are not friends with the word down here, but "patience" is needed with the Golden Panthers football program.

There were signs of progress against Louisiana-Monroe. After being backed into many first quarter holes this season, FIU came out strong for the second consecutive game taking the lead. The defense was getting in the ULM backfield and the Warhawks could not run sideline to sideline on the Golden Panthers. Wayne Younger looked more comfortable throwing the ball. Julian Reams displayed his potential and Jeremy Dickens, Greg Ellingson and Elliott Dix all showed why they're here. Scott Bryant is a tackling machine. Anthony Gaitor and Jonathan Betancourt had some tackles for loss.

Of course, FIU could not sustain its early game momentum and finish off ULM. Maybe that's the next step with this inexperienced team: finishing what you start. The offense is still not as consistent as it can be. The run defense struggled with the rushing between the tackles and the pass defense is still vulnerable.

Won't bring in psycho-babble, nor blog about it anymore this football season, but this is where FIU football is right now: MC and co. are starting from scratch this season. They were handicapped by the APR when they lost 9 scholarships, plus whatever other scholies may be lost from the NCAA allegations next February. Before PG took over, the FIU athletic department was run like a junior high P.E. department. There was no clue about how much support was needed to run a Division I-A athletic department. I'm not just talking about $$, but academic support for the athletes as well, thus the APR issues.

Band Much has been done to strenghten the academic support and now MC and co. have to stock up on Division I players. Once again this is not a let's-put-a-band-aid-on-it type of solution. But there is the evidence that building a program from the bottom up can be done. See: Rutgers, Illinois, heck even No. 11 Kansas was down for a while in the 1990's. Even Sports Illustrated thinks FIU has the potential to be a major college football player as UltimateFIUFan pointed out in the latest issue of SI.

Some of you are disappointed in MC for not turning into Don Shula or Bill Walsh after seven games. Yes, he may make mistakes along the way. All coaches do, even Shula and Walsh did. And AGAIN for the hyperventilators ready to pound on their keyboards, I AM NOT COMPARING MC TO SHULA AND WALSH. As fans you all are more than entitled to voice your displeasure. I just think MC and co. deserve a fair shot -- not 7 games -- to clean up the program, bring in better players and then judge what he does.

Thought I wouldn't bring in another guest on here for help, but part of a song playing at Best Buy the other day caught my attention regarding FIU football. It's not a football song -- there aren't many of Avril those anyway -- but this verse from "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne, no relation to Andy Leavine, is pretty appropriate nowadays.

"Chill out, What you yellin' for?

Lay back, it's all been done before

And if you could let it be. You will see"

Back to the GPP, OK, retiring now from the psychology business. Thinking of doing a live baseball blog from Thursday's exhibition baseball game. What's your feedback on that?

PANTHER PAWSE

Win a GPP Blog Leaderboard

7-0: FIUrulez 130; Fomenter 140; NY Josh 144; FIU Fanatic 158; Crazy Cane 160; 24-7/11 172.

6-1: FIUPantherFan 145; GPP 158; FIU0406 173.

5-2: yippee 192.

4-3: FIUJM 179; CJ 190; Messod 202; SouthPaw 208.

2-5: NYCFIUFan 194.

1-6: alt7787 246.

paradox: We'll give the FIU women hoops some props here before their season begins. Sure, they Whoops_2 deserve it being one of the better FIU teams through the years.

Messod: There's nothing concrete regarding the gold being out of the uniforms or with a new logo. Just saying there are whispers about it and I would imagine for the new stadium opening next season FIU would have new football uniforms and possibly an alteration to the logo.

Puma: By "getting there", MC means there is progress being seen with the team.

CJ: Like yourself I too was curious about FIU's recruiting. So I called several local high school coaches and coaches around the state and many of them have said the same thing: FIU has been recruiting at my school like never before. I wouldn't put too much stock in any of those scouting services, because the real answers don't come until mid-to-late January when signing day draws nearer. Until then it's like having a 3-0 lead in the third quarter and saying you're going to win the game.

jerry, FIUChris and FAU OWL: Welcome all three to the GPP.

jerry: FIU has all the potential to be a football success someday. Like we've said before here in this blog: one of the hotbeds for recruiting is the south Florida area, FIU is a public university, a brand-new stadium, football facilities and weight room are all set to open soon and FIU is in Miami. Do have to correct one thing from your post: MC and PG have only been here for 7 of the 19 straight losses. Not all 19.

October 19, 2007

714 Days Ago

That's how long it's been since FIU won a road football game. It's been longer than that since the Golden Panthers baseball team reached the NCAA postseason, but that should change soon. More on FIU baseball at the end of this post.

On November 5, 2005, the Golden Panthers came back against Louisiana-Monroe for a 31-29 road win which also marked the first-ever Division I-A victory for FIU. So where does FIU play tommorrow, you may ask? At Louisiana-Monroe.

Carmca_2 Num_2 Now I'm not into numerical superstitions, but removing the November from the date above, leaves you with 5, 2005. You add the 5 and 05 that leaves you with 10 and 20. Tommorrow's date is 10/20. Ok, never mind just showing you I was not asleep in math class and making a point that the 23 movie by Ace Ventura, which tries to make a case for numerical hocus-pocus, was awful.

It will take a lot more than brujeria for the Golden Panthers, who in their five-plus years of existence are 3-28 away from Miami, to snap the road skid and the nation's longest winless drought at 18.

In Louisiana-Monroe, FIU encounters an upset team that lost to previously winless North Texas last week. The Warhawks can pound the ball on the ground. They average more than 200 rushing yards per game and have the nation's No. 16 rushing offense. FIU, meanwhile, is giving up more than 200 rushing yards per game and rank 105th in the nation in run defense.

It's quite possible that the Golden Panthers can get their fourth road win and snap the losing streak, but here's what they need: an offense that can score early and often. FIU has had a knack for falling behind early on the road over the years making the deficit too much to overcome in the second half. Of course, the Golden Panthers defense has to stop the run.

ULM will probably start its freshman QB Trey Revell, who is less mobile than starter Kinsmon Lancaster. Lancaster has a banged up knee and ankle, but could play according to the Warhawks coach Charlie Weatherbie. Regardless, we know what happened the last time a backup QB started against FIU. See: Middle Tennessee three weeks ago.

Really want to pick the Golden Panthers to win, but don't have enough confidence yet in the offense to see a repeat of the last time FIU was at Malone Stadium. Not a pretty result in Monroe. Monroes_3   

GPP thinks: Louisiana-Monroe 29, FIU 17

Drove by the new football stadium on Thursday on the way to FIU baseball practice and they have begun installing the blue 50-yard line club seats on the south stands. The majority of the south stands are up. The old scoreboard was also knocked down yesterday to begin work on the east end zone. Been told construction is two weeks ahead of schedule.

Cap As far as Golden Panthers baseball, the team will play its first exhibition game next Thursday against a team of college players from British Columbia. Some of the players on that team are members of the Canadian National team. The game is open and free to the public, but the game time is still undetermined. The Canadians are playing in a tournament in Jupiter a few days before they come to FIU. I'm told FIU should know by Monday. I will post on here the game time as soon as I know.

PANTHER PAWSE

UltimateFIUFan & FIUPantherFan: The Panther Pass webcast of Saturday's game is being run through Louisiana-Monroe's website. I spoke with the Monroe people yesterday and they said if you can see the video on their home page then you will pick up the game. They said don't worry about that sample video they have in the registration process. If you have trouble, here is the website company's number: 877-967-3267.

MaXx: I think with a new logo on the horizon the gold pants are history. The team uses the gold pants Tb_2for practice nowadays. Blue pants are not the issue, the Patriots wear blue pants and they seem to be doing just fine, even though they may cheat. FIU just needs better players in those blue pants.

FIU0406: I would imagine they would paint over the old logo on the facade of the baseball stadium. That's like an early 1990's logo on the front of the baseball stadium. Kind of a little ironic that logo has been there so long with the past struggles of the baseball team.

fiufan751: I don't think your enthusiasm is misplaced for FIU baseball. I think what TT is bringing to the diamond is what was needed a long time ago for FIU baseball.

chil'in man: Tell Veronica, I said, Hola, bellesa.

Itsthatguy: Welcome to the GPP.

October 15, 2007

The Six-Game Sense

The second half of the football season begins Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe where FIU recorded its first Division I-A victory back in 2005, a 31-29 come-from-behind victory. Will the Golden Panthers get their first win in 22 months there as well? Can FIU get its first win before the Dolphins do? Good chance this Logo_2 Fins_2 week with Miami facing New England.

Let's see what can we make of FIU's final six games in 2007. Using our football sixth sense and without the help of the FIU Witches, which is a risky and stupid idea, but what the heck, let's set the stage for the second half of the season. We'll still include the Witches as part of rating the games. 1 witch = not likely an FIU win. 2 witches = quite possibly an FIU win. 3 witches = best chance for FIU win. Oz witch = no FIU win.

Five of the last six games are Sun Belt games so there should not be any lopsided games, but then again that was the thinking going into Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Still, if the Golden Panthers can get solid games from two of the three parts of the team (offense, defense and/or special teams), then FIU can win 3 and possibly 4 of its last 6 games starting with this Saturday's game.

First up is Louisiana-Monroe, who with the exception of its 30-13 win against Arkansas State, the Two_3 Warhawks have given up plenty of points: 35, 69, 54, 24 and 31 to North Texas, who like FIU is building with a 1st-year coach. Outside of last year's game (35-0, ULM) -- which occurred after the season was shot after the brawl -- FIU and Monroe had their first two games decided by an average of 5 points. We'll have more on this game later this week..

Ugly_2  FIU then travels to Arkansas, which is down in the SEC, but still plenty ahead of the Golden Panthers right now. This is one of the two games where I can't see FIU pulling it out.

The Golden Panthers stay in the state of Arkansas and play Arkansas State after Pig Sooey. The Alyss_4 Indians and their Power "O" offense have always given the FIU D fits. The way the Golden Panthers have not been able to stop the run this season, logic says they won't win here. But this is the wacky Sun Belt and you never know. FIU will need plenty of offense to win here.

Charmmm_3 The road games are over after Arkansas State and the Golden Panthers host the final 3 games ever played in the Orange Bowl starting Nov. 17 against Louisiana-Lafayette. As of today, the Cajuns have one win, 38-29 over North Texas, and the least amount of points their D has allowed has been 28. In the other games, the ULL D has drawn bad lotto numbers: 31, 38, 48, 37, 29, 52.

Next up is the 6th annual Don Shula Bowl and much like last season it could Ugly_5 get ugly, because FAU has put together a pretty good team this season with a potent offense. Plus, the Owls Florida speed will be able to match the Golden Panthers Florida speed. See FAU holding the Shula Trophy for another year.

Chrm_2  The season finale against North Texas will not go 7 overtimes like last year's game, but it should be another close game. The Mean Green have won both games against the Golden Panthers by three points. This one could be just as close.

PANTHER PAWSE

Roman: John Petika has been alternating in left field with Raimy Fuentes. One player who Turtle made mention of, but his sidelined right now with an elbow issue, is junior outfield transfer Jordan Karcher from Gulf Coast CC and Pennsylvannia. Karcher is 6-5, 228 and can really hit according to TT. He expects Karcher to be ready for the season.

Think there's some interest with TT & FIU baseball? By my count, there were just as many people in the stands for last Saturday's intra-squad scrimmage as there were at many of last year's games.

fiufan751: Welcome to the GPP. Besides Steven Stewart and Chris Allen, TT sees Corey Polizzano, Akeem Francis and Jorge Ramos as part of the starting pitching staff. One pitcher TT made note of as well was freshman Daniel DeSimone, a righty from Gulliver. Center field right now is being played by freshman Ty Main, who arrived at FIU from Maryland.

UltimateFIUFan: Checking the Sun Belt basketball rosters, there are several teams with big men. Middle Tennessee and North Texas each have a 6-10 center. New Orleans and Troy each have two big men. UNO has two 6-10 centers. Troy has a 7-0 and a 6-10 center. Western Kentucky has a 6-10 center. As far as FIU hoops practices they are closed.

Looking at the Louisiana-Monroe website (ulmathletics.com) you can watch Saturday's football game for $8.95.

October 13, 2007

Listen to the Turtle with the Mike

Walking out of Pharmed Arena the other day heard the voice emanating from the FIU baseball diamond.

The voice, which inflected a southern drawl, was authoritative and was talking baseball. But it did not Fodreams_3 say: "If you build it, he will come", but rather was constantly teaching the fundamentals of baseball.

Had to get closer to the baseball stadium to check this out. Upon entering the stadium, there was new FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas, microphone in hand, instructing his Golden Panthers during a break in an intra-squad game.

Hung around for a few innings. Returned the next day to look at another practice and intra-squad Mike_6 Turtl_7   game and to listen to the Turtle with the mike.

From watching a few practices this week, the impressions I got were that the Golden Panthers should be  a fundamentally sound team this year -- in other words, mental mistakes should not lose games anymore. Is all the talent on the FIU baseball team yet, well, we'll find that out starting in late February against USC.

TT spent each practice drilling his team on the details of the game such as how to take a lead off first base, judging a pitcher's pickoff move and always backing up on the play no matter what position you're playing in the field. Plus, there was plenty of discipline, if players did not run on and off the field to their positions in between innings, then TT called them out on the mike.

But what kept standing out was the constant teaching of the game by TT. Just things that are not as glamorous as a home run, but just as important to the game. Such as when a third baseman incorrectly picked up a slow roller down the third base line. TT stopped the game and showed the player how it's done.

TT also has the Golden Panthers hitting with wood bats until mid-February. No FIU player will be Wood_2 swinging the aluminum until then.

"It's a little heavier bat makes their hands, arms and forearms stronger," TT said. "It's got a smaller sweet spot so your hands have to make the barrel find the baseball a little bit more. We do not pick up a piece of aluminum until the middle of February."

Among some of the other Turtle thoughts from a conversation with the FIU baseball coach:

"It appears we are strong in the corners [1st base, 3rd base, left field, right field]. We still need to improve up the middle a little bit: catching, pitching, shortstop, center field."

Pitchers Steven Stewart and Chris Allen, who were hurt last season "have thrown very well to this point and have come back pretty strong."

With 5 games per week this season with the NCAA changing the schedule to a later starting date to give northern teams more home games, TT says he's trying hard to find 9 or 10 pretty good pitchers.

Among some of the guys TT mentions are swinging the bats well: Junior Arrojo, who through 4 games leads the team in hitting. Jorge Castillo (Louisville transfer), Tyler Townsend, John Petika and Enrique Cepero, whom TT says: "He's made a jump. He's using his hands a lot more to hit and not so much his body."

TT also would like to establish roles in the bullpen, unlike the traffic jams in years past with the FIU 'pen. If the season started today, TT says lefty Evan Ellison would be the closer.

And as far as the starting pitchers, TT says he does monitor the pitch count on his pitchers.

No more of "He's bigger than me and he wanted the ball." fiascos. Need a refresher on that quote check out "The Beauty of Baseball" blog in the GPP's archives (April 12). Look for this beautiful photo....Zeta_2 

TT expects to sign between 12 and 14 players by November 21, NCAA baseball signing day. And he would like to schedule "the big boys" every season like USC, Arizona State this season. TT said FIU will play every Florida school in the next two years with the exception of the Gators, who have not returned calls. FIU visits FSU next season along with playing UCF and USF.

"If you want to be one of the big boys, you have to play the big boys and you have to win," TT said. "You don't just have to play them, you HAVE to win. You have to play some good people to get your guys to understand this is the level of play and the talent level you got to have to go to the Super Regionals and the College World Series."

No Beg As far as the future of the crosstown series with the Hurricanes: "We'd like to play them 4 times a year," TT said. "But we're not going to beg. It's up to them."

PANTHER PAWSE

Messod: SR said Cedric Essola is expected to redshirt this season, because he has asthma issues. SR did say that Essola "is a major part of the immediate and future plans of FIU basketball." Speaking with SR, the projected starting lineup is: PG Michael James, SG Kenneth White, SF Chris Fuller, PF Alex Galindo and C Russell Hicks. But like any sport, that can always change.

UltimateFIUFan: I'll look into the practices and have an answer for you in the next blog.

From the responses in the latest hoops blog, there's no surprise that football is still king around these parts, even with the 18-game losing streak. Let's see if baseball is on second base or third base with your responses.

Will be getting back to the gridiron and the pigskin in the next blog.

October 11, 2007

Once Upon a Time in FIU Basketball. . . .

O

n the Pharmed Arena court on the beautiful campus of Florida International University, two giants arrived to provide hope for Golden Panthers basketball.

Then a pair of animals emerged to also help with the FIU basketball cause. And over yonder beyond the 3-point arc and in the paint, a trio of archers - one of them a Redd sharpshooter - returned to supply the bulk of scoring to lead the Golden Panthers to what can be one of their best seasons and maybe a fairy-tale ending where FIU finishes the 2007-08 season living happily ever after wearing a Sun Belt crown.

Back in the present now, October 2007, sat down with FIU hoops coach Sergio Rouco the other day and Rouco_2 the 4th-year coach has high hopes for what can possibly be a special season for FIU basketball.

"This is my most talented team from 1 through 11," Rouco said. "It's the tallest team I've had. It's the team that I've had more players returning on our roster. I like my group. The question mark is at point guard. If we can get the job done at the point, we have a chance to win the conference."

Giant_2  The high hopes, no pun intended, for this season can be found in Giant_4 "SR's Two Giants" - 7-foot, 244-pound junior Russell Hicks and 6-11, 235-pound junior Badu N'Diaye.

"The first thing that comes to people's minds are the two giants," SR said. "Russell is a presence on both [offense and defense]. Badu is one of the quickest big men I have ever coached. When we run sprints we put him with our guards, because he just blows away from the big guys. Russell has a 7-6 wingspan. Badu has 7-4. We are going to score in the paint. We've never scored in the paint. It's been a while. Badu is a cat in the paint."

Hicks arrived last year from Pepperdine after making the All-West Coast Conference Freshman team. N'Diaye, no relation to former FIU guard Ismael N'Diaye, comes from Southeastern Iowa CC where Ivan Almonte, one of the best Golden Panther hoopsters ever, attended.

Helping the 2 giants, are a pair of "animals". Guard Erick Nsangou and forward Nikola Gacesa. The sophomores, according to SR, are two of the strongest Golden Panthers.

"Erick has to play, because he's an animal," SR said. "We feel he can play any position, but the post, because he's so strong and athletic. Nikola is probably the most-improved physically and basketball-wise from last year. He's another animal. He's ripped. He's strong. He went from 215 to 235."

SR said Nsangou (6-1, 220-pounds) is so fast and strong that he may lend him to MC to play running Amned back.

SR thinks the main scoring is going to come from the trio of Alex Galindo, Chris Fuller and newcomer and former Texas A&M guard Kenneth "Redd" White.

"Those three can combine for 50 points a game," SR said. "I think those three guys can carry us offensively and all the other guys are threats as well."

Soto_2 While FIU waits for former Florida State point guard Josue Soto to be eligible next season after transferring from Tallahassee, senior Michael James and freshman Tremayne Russell will handle the point guard duties this season. Nsangou could fill in at the point if James and Russell struggle.

"Mike is going to get the nod and should be the starting point guard," SR said. "Tremayne will back him up, but we always have Erick there."

FIU has 17 home games this season and plays at Purdue and Kentucky at the end of 2007. "If you don't play them, you can't win them," said SR, about playing the two hoop powers.

This basketball story begins, Monday, Nov. 12 against Florida Tech, but we won't know how it ends until early March 2008, where there may be Madness on the Pharmed Arena court or in Mobile, Alabama, site of the Sun Belt championship.

"We won 3 of our last 4 to close the regular season," SR said. "We battled everybody. We won some or we were right there. This year you have two giants and another year of experience. This could be a good year."

PANTHER PAWSE Gppaw

Was going to have the FIU baseball blog before the basketball, but rain cancelled yesterday's intra-squad scrimmage. Look here for the baseball blog in the next few days after I check out some of the scrimmages.

UltimateFIUFan: Turtle inherits some hitters, but he needs to recruit and stockpile pitchers. FIU hit last season and I believe they will hit again this year.

Yandro: Glad to have you back on the GPP. The baseball roster is not set, because TT is still evaluating what he has. The FIU baseball signing class is announced on Nov. 21 - national signing day for baseball.

sunblazer69: The FIU witches love the Golden Panthers baseball team. Remember they helped in Chrd_3 finding TT to come on over here and lift the baseball program. The girls haven't been around the GPP lately, so here they are.

CJ: MC and his staff are going after every position. They need to stock as much talent as possible and they know that.

Quijote: As far the APR issue for FIU, nine scholarships have been forfeited. If FIU has to surrender more after the recent NCAA letter of allegations, the athletic department will find out in February when they meet with the NCAA.

Crazy Cane & Andy D: Appreciate your enthusiasm for the GPP and don't want you to curb it, but let's Curb_2 Yanks_2 leave all the sucking to the Yankees.

CrazyPanther & FIU Alumni Relations: Welcome to the GPP. 

October 09, 2007

Halftime/Fall Practice Time

We've reached the halfway mark of the 2007 Golden Panthers football season and there aren't any huge shocks as to the way the season has played out thus far.

In fact, had dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse the other night and, don't ask me why, but FIU football Ruthchris came to mind in the middle of a filet and some merlot. More on that in a second.

Meanwhile, the FIU baseball team is in full fall practice mode -- a blog on that will be posted here in the next couple of days. FIU hoops gets its training camp going on Friday at 12:30 p.m. and will also be having a blog on that later this week. So we got a full plate of FIU sports blogs coming for your reading pleasure during this football bye week.

Speaking of a full plate, had this analogy invade dinner the other night. Was thinking of writing a mid-season report card on FIU football, but all I could come up for grades is incomplete. Here's why.

Right now, FIU football is like a 1 or 2-star steakhouse, where all the ingredients are not there yet to make it a 5-star restaurant. MC and staff inherited a poorly run restaurant, but one that with the right changes can become like a RC's. There are some filets on the Golden Panthers right now, but there are not enough. FIU is overstocked with palomilla steak, which is not bad, but not what you need to become an elite D-I team or a five-star steakhouse.

Add to this that MC & co. were shorted some steak knives after the APR report from earlier this year and might be shorted a few more after the NCAA's notice of allegations last week and you can see why Fred_2   today, the Big Mac and Fred G. Sanford's favorite drink -- ripple -- are more closely associated with FIU than a filet and an Opus One merlot.

But just like it has happened in other places like Rutgers and South Florida, things can change for the better. As far as the NCAA letter last week, we'll know more in February when the NCAA responds to FIU.

In anticipation of possible sanctions, PG, smartly, has already withheld some scholarships from each FIU team. And PG already surrendered the 9 scholarships from the APR.

I've gotten e-mails from many of you pinning all this on Strock, but he's not the main culprit here with the NCAA sanctions. You can pin bad recruiting on him. But blame the past FIU administration from the top on down for the NCAA issues. The resources were not there, but also there was no leadership and that's why all this occured.

Enough talk about this NCAA paperwork. The Golden Panthers offense made some progress against Troy. FIU had its most total yards of the season and passing yards, but did not finish enough drives.

The bigger concern coming out of Saturday's game is the run defense. FIU is not going to win too many games when the opposing offense controls the ball with the run. Troy ran for 299 yards. Need to fix that for the final 6 games of the year and beyond.

Punter Chris Cook had a spectacular game with punts of 71 and 68 yards and a 50-yard average. While he's not always consistent -- much like the rest of the team -- Cook has the leg to be All-Sun Belt for the next 3 years.

There are 6 games left in the season and the thinking is FIU could win 4 of those IF and that is a big IF, if the Golden Panthers can put together a complete game -- offense, defense and special teams. Of the 6 left, don't see FIU beating Arkansas or FAU. The Golden Panthers can beat Monroe, Arkansas State, Lafayette and North Texas.

Callen_2 Let's put the football on the sidelines for a few days now and step into the Sangou_2 batter's box and set up behind the 3-point arc.

PANTHER PAWSE

Win a GPP Blog leaderboard

6-0: FIUrulez 125, Fomenter 136, NY Josh 136, FIU Fanatic 147, Crazy Cane 150, 24/7-11 165.

5-1: FIUPantherFan 141, GPP 154, FIU0406 164, yippee 175.

4-2: FIUJM 161, CJ 172, FIUmom 176, SouthPaw 191.

3-3: Messod 192. 2-4: NYCFIUFan 177. 1-5: YouGotGold 218. 0-6: alt7787 237.

NYCFIUFan: Here are some answers to your questions...Howard S. and Leavitt both had a work ethic and college football knowledge from the start and that's why FAU and USF are ahead of FIU right now. Lazys Strock had neither of those qualities and FIU missed out on the first 5 years. Give MC some time and see what he can do. MC brings the work ethic and recruiting knowledge.

NYCFIUFan & FIUJM: 1) Last time I spoke with MC he said Colt Anderson is not ready yet. Wayne Younger has made some progress and MC has said WY has outplayed both CA and Paul McCall in practice. While MC has not said who his QB of the future is, I think it's CA and eventually he will get in there. When given time by the O-line, Younger has shown improvement since Penn State.

2) I didn't think the play calling got conservative in the 4th quarter. In fact, half of Younger's 40 passes came in the 4th quarter.

3) The players are buying into the system and there is promise. That 39-yard screen pass to Ned would have been stopped in the backfield a few weeks ago, but O-line executed their blocks and Ned ran through the Troy D for 39 yards. From what I can tell, the players respect MC. Unlike, the past few years when I've seen players yelling back at coaches during practice. There is none of that with the new staff.

4) The FIU lineup is not the same caliber as other Sun Belt teams, because the recruiting was poor under the previous coaching staff. Strock should have been developing guys the last few years for when the talented seniors on offense and defense graduated this past year.

5) The Sun Belt would love to be part of the BCS, but that's the NCAA's decision and not the conference's. Say this for the Sun Belt, the conference is much improved and if they keep knocking off BCS teams, the NCAA will take notice. SBC has already or is just about ready to surpass the MAC and C-USA real soon.

YouGotGold: Yarimar is very talented and probably could throw a football, but the volleyball team needs her.

sunblazer69: Good to have you back on the blog. I think Rick Mello is on the phone line for you.

Frustrated: Welcome to the GPP. Eventually, the Golden Panthers will have you changing your blog name to Elated.

October 05, 2007

The Troy Ache-man

It's not an easy task, but if the Golden Panthers have any chance of upsetting defending Sun Belt Champion Troy then they need NOT to contain, but STOP quarterback Omar Haugabook.

Haugabook, the Sun Belt's Player of the Year last year and making a strong case for it again this season, is an offensive machine piling up 2,714 yards of total offense last season with 26 TDs. This year, he's on a pace to surpass that total yardage mark with 1,662 yards as of today and he has 13 touchdowns (8 passing).

Aikman What makes Haugabook so dangerous is that he can viewed as a quarterback with Emmitt the combination skills set of a Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. (For those wacky posters, who may be inclined to pound their keyboard after reading the previous statement, I am NOT saying Haugabook is equal to those two NFL Hall of Famers). What I am saying is he's a good passer, but if there is nobody open, he can easily tuck the ball and go through the defense with his legs. He was the leading rusher in last year's Troy/FIU game with 111 yards.

And as we've seen in the past two games (against Kansas and Middle Tennessee) stopping a mobile quarterback for FIU has been as difficult as counting all the grains of salt in the Atlantic Ocean. Haugabook can make the Golden Panthers ache. The Trojans offense is averaging 34 points per game and nearly 500 yards (446) of total offense -- all of this against stiff competition like Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma State.

Once again the pressure is on the FIU offense to get something going and score. Yes, we know all the talent is not there yet for the offense (let MC bring in another class or two of recruits), but they are not going to cancel tommorrow's game because of rain so the Golden Panthers have to find a way to score or this game could get ugly on the scoreboard with Troy's offensive firepower.

Middle Tennessee freshman quarterback Dwight Dasher delivered a great imitation of Haugabook last week. I'm afraid Golden Panthers fans, it may be deja' vu all over again this week. Yogi

The GPP thinks: Troy 44, FIU 12

PANTHER PAWSE

Puma: Unfortunately for FIU right now, your question is a valid one: will there be more turnovers than points in Saturday's game? If there is a silver lining to playing Troy is that the Trojans' defense is human having allowed 46, 59, 23 and 31 points this season before holding Louisiana-Monroe to 7 last week. Of course, the 46 and 59 were to Arkansas and Florida. The FIU offense like the rest of this team is being built and it's a process and I know "process" has become a football cliche over the years, but that's where it's at now. Who knows maybe this is the week we see some of the process evolve.

Don't worry there will be an FIU basketball blog along with an FIU baseball blog on the GPP next week when football is on a bye.

NYCFIUFan: There will be ample notice given when the "Win a GPP Blog" winner will write so that those who don't want to read it can turn off their computers....no delete that last part....no, so those who don't want to read it can read the GPP blog archives.

TNGoldenPanther: There are enough great Florida high school players for FIU to get even with the recent lack of success. Plus, MC and staff have shown they can get players from across the U.S. And don't forget some of the selling points of FIU: new stadium and football facilities, a great university located in South Florida/Miami and players have a chance of playing right away. Yes, the 17-game losing streak is not good for business, but the positives here outweigh the negative.

About the new stadium, seeing those metal beams sticking out of the ground where the south side stands will be sort of reminds me of Superman's fortress of solitude. Without the ice. Stad Fortt

CJ: Got your score 24-10.

One of my amigos, Larry Milian, of the "Dos Amigos" radio show on 790 AM will have MC on the show tommorrow Saturday between 12 noon and 1 p.m. The show runs from 12 noon to 3 p.m., but MC is expected to be interviewed between 12 and 1 p.m.

Off to FIU baseball practice this afternoon, will let you know what's going on....soon.

October 03, 2007

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Ledge Judging by the fewer fans on the ledge after the Middle Tennessee game, it seems that many have figured it out that turning around the Golden Panthers football program is not an overnight fix nor a 1-year overhaul.

Glad to see the therapy provided here by Frasier and Tony Soprano on the GPP has helped in some way.

Don't be overly shocked by the way Middle Tennessee dominated FIU. Yes, the Blue Raiders were 0-4, but those losses were to LSU, Louisville, a much improved FAU and Western Kentucky, which is not really a I-AA team with their move up to I-A and multiple I-AA national championships. Plus, MT is co-defending Sun Belt champ, no slouches in Murfreesboro.

There were some people who were expressing concern that the team and the coaching staff would take on the mentality of last year's winless squad and just mail it in. After seeing practices this week, I can tell you the intensity is still there for both players and coaches. As far as a grace period for MC that so many of you were discussing....I'd say wait until he has most of HIS players on the roster and not just 20+ like this season. By year 3 we should have a better grasp of where MC is at with FIU.

FIU is building a football program from what was left by the previous staff, which like we've said here time and again -- is not much. So for Golden Panthers fans it's like Tom Petty sang...."The Tpetty waiting is the hardest part...."

In fact, the refrain from that song sounds pretty appropriate for FIU football right now:

"The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card [loss]. You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part."

The good news is that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. With coaches now in place that have a work ethic, with a plan for recruiting and with a lot to prove....there is no reason why FIU football cannot take off like No. 6 South Florida has. One major difference between the Bulls and the Golden Panthers is that USF has had leadership from the beginning. Heck, with half the effort, FIU had USF beat 20-14 last season with 2 minutes to play in the game. Can you imagine a few years from now when the teams meet again in Tampa? I know the 2 teams open the new FIU Stadium (more on the stadium down below) next season, but the Golden Panthers won't be expected to knock off USF then.

If you need proof that turnarounds can happen at FIU, look no further than the volleyball team which is now 11-2 and 6-0 in the Sun Belt after sweeping FAU last night. The defending SBC champion Golden Panthers -- nice ring to it, huh? -- won just 3 games and lost 23 just 3 years ago and now are atop the conference. Main reason: the recruiting got better. FIU had its first volleyball All-American last season Voley Yarimar_2 in freshman Yarimar Rosa (picture, left).

Which is the next turnaround team at FIU. Gotta think it's a race between baseball and basketball. Don't worry fiugrad78, haven't forgotten about the baseball blog. Look for it next week during the football bye week. Also got an FIU basketball blog planned as well.

So take it on faith Golden Panthers fans, the waiting is the hardest part.

About the new football stadium, drove by there this morning and the infrastructure for the south side of the stadium is already in the ground and up. You can see the shell of where the south side seats will be going. Next up is getting the infrastructure in for the east end zone seats some time this month. Construction is going on schedule.

PANTHER PAWSE

Win a GPP Blog leaderboard

5-0: NY Josh 112, FIUrulez 113, Fomenter 122, CrazyCane 133, FIU Fanatic 137, 24/7-11 144.

4-1: FIUPantherFan 131, GPP 140, FIU0406 150, FIUmom 151, Hay 154, yippee 165.

3-2: CJ 156, FIUJM 156, SouthPaw 184.

2-3: Messod 183.

1-4: NYCFIUFan 170, YouGotGold 197.

0-5: alt7787 216.

UltimateFIUFan: Don't know if you can say FIU took several steps back after losses to Kansas and Middle Tennessee. Quite honestly, until the Golden Panthers win their first game this season I don't know if you can say they've taken any steps at all, if they have they're baby steps. Having a new system for the way things are done on and off the field is definitely a step in the right direction.

Puma & quijote: As far as adjustments on offense go, the spread is the way to go with the athletes that are already on this team and with the recruits MC and staff are targeting. The system works (ask LSU and no, I am NOT comparing FIU to LSU), but all the offensive personnel FIU needs is not here yet. Offensive coordinator James Coley has been creative with the play calling, but he does not have all the cards in the deck yet. If you ask any FIU football fan, Oldf_3 there is no way you would want the 1920's offensive playbook that was previously run here.

SouthPaw: I think Don Strock is comfortable in the golfing environment he's in now. Read the last sentence of my reply to Puma and quijote, above.

CJ: The first stage of the stadium is the lower bowl which like I stated above, you can see the infrastructure already up for the south side with the east end zone going up next.

Latest Herald blog rankings for September has the GPP holding steady at No. 5 in sports and No. 10 overall of 33 blogs. The combining of the Dade and Broward high school blogs are proving to be a challenge to pass, but we'll get there. If we're No. 5 with a winless team, could you imagine the readership and ranking when the Golden Panthers start winning? They won't only get bandwagon fans at the new stadium, we'll get them here as well. Thanks all for your support.


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