And MM is just as enthusiastic about the future of the "The Sleeping Giant" that is your "FIU Golden Panthers".
MM began to build the FIU athletic department in October 2006 with the hiring of athletic director Pete Garcia. MM says he knows he got the right leader to turn FIU into a major athletic program. The GPP sat down with MM to talk FIU sports and in the first of our three-part series the FIU boss talks about FIU sports present day and dispels the rumors about FIU changing its name, colors and mascot. Plus, what's going on with the FIU logo....
GPP: How would you assess the state of FIU sports right now?
MM: I think it's the early stage of a major rebuilding program. Pete is coaching the current coaches. He has replaced about half the coaches that we had. He's made some very good choices starting with Mario [Cristobal], just an absolutely great choice. I think that Mario is going to make this university very proud as the years go on. Football is by far more visible than all the other sports put together so you need to have a successful football program to be serious in athletics.
GPP: Eventually where would you like to see this athletics program go?
MM: I think we are destined to be one of the major public research urban universities in the nation. Now who is in that group? The big universities in the big cities. And I think over a period of time we need to be nationally competitive in all the major sports. I think that's what we're going for.
GPP: There have been rumors that FIU is changing the mascot, name, logo and colors. What's the truth?
MM: There's a rumor that we're going to change the mascot. That rumor is not true. There's another rumor that we're changing the colors from blue and gold, that's not true. There's another rumor that we're introducing a new logo and that's not the case. We're not as much introducing a new logo as we are recalling the 15 logos that are floating around here and saying this is the only logo. Some of our letters sometimes are thin, sometimes are thick, sometimes they have edges, sometimes they don't, sometimes they're italics, sometimes they are block letters. There will be an approved set of letters [for the logo]. We will go NOT by Florida International University. We'll go with FIU. We will have the logo that you will see everywhere and it will always be the same.
GPP: Will that logo be the current shield logo?
GPP: Sort of like what the baseball team is wearing this season on their hats?
MM: Exactly, but it will be a particular color and shape that everyone will have. So that when you get a letter from FIU you will have those three letters. That's the only way to establish a brand. We're not changing the logo, we're just standardizing one of the logos which will be approved. We are going to put it out there. We're going to get some feedback on it. So it's not that we're inventing a new logo. We're just saying this is going to be the standard logo. Our shirts, our paraphernalia, our banners, our stadium, our football helmets, everything.
GPP: So will the new standard logo be the same font the baseball team is using now, because I know they have new uniforms this season?
MM: I've seen the [baseball uniforms] I think they look very similar, but it will be precisely the shape, the size, the color, the shading. It will be "This is what it's going to be". So it may be very close to what the baseball team has, but it won't necessarily be that one. The one we are putting out is the one that everyone will have to standardize.
GPP: Is there a timetable to unveil the logo?
MM: Yes, it will be done way in advance of the Sept. 20 football game [new FIU stadium and home opener vs. USF]. Six months before that. By next month, if we want to do it six months ahead so we can order the right kinds of uniforms and what have you, it has to be done by the end of March, by April 1st. That's something that's really exciting.
GPP: There is talk of removing the Golden from the Panthers, what's up there?
MM: No. The Panthers will stay as Golden Panthers, however, I think that more and more people are using Panthers for short. We'll keep it officially as Golden Panthers.
MM: Yes, just like you may find the logo says Golden Panthers, but for short we may on the [football] helmets have it say Panthers to simplify it.
We'll have part two of MM's interview on the next post. On to the diamond.
Yes, the FIU baseball team has not gotten off to the start many had envisioned. The reason is simple and it's been written on here before: if you can't get opponents out, you are not going to win too many baseball games. You need pitching to win at any level whether it's little league, high school, softball, PlayStation, fantasy baseball, college baseball and MLB. You can only win a number of games 15-14, 14-13 outslugging the other team.
Yes, the Golden Panthers have a real pitching coach and a much better head coach this season, but they don't have all the players. Like I wrote on the last post with MC & Bill Legg, the FIU offense still doesn't have all the players they need so we'll see some improvement there this season, because every player has one more year of experience in the spread offense but don't expect to see a Top 25 offense, at least not yet.
Same thing goes with FIU pitching. TT and pitching coach Felipe Suarez do not have all the arms they need this season. TT was hired last June so he had less than six months to recruit pitching. Let's see what he can bring after a full year of recruiting.
What I've noticed so far this season with some of FIU's pitchers is that they are not attacking the strike zone with their best pitches. It was quite evident in the USC series, where they would nibble with pitches on the corners and then fall behind 2-0 or 3-1 in the count and the Trojans were sitting on a fastball and you know what happens when a batter is sitting on a fastball: POW!.. After the Wagner series, I asked TT why some pitchers were not attacking the strike zone and he said:
''All we ask our guys to do is, at the end of the game, whatever stuff you've got, throw your stuff in there. Throw your velocity, throw your breaking ball and let the chips fall where they may."
There is plenty of quality pitching among the high schools in our area for TT to assemble a solid pitching staff, not to mention TT's recruiting ties outside of Florida will also bring in pitching. From watching FIU baseball for more than 10 years now, I can tell you that the former FIU head coach did not take advantage of the pitching-rich high schools down here. That's one reason why FIU's pitching is shaky this season. This is a transition year from DP to TT. The same thing happened to MC in football last season transitioning from DS's poor recruiting.
So relax, enjoy the national pastime, the FIU offense and hope the pitching comes along throughout the season. Things will get better with the nation's top recruiter now in charge of the Golden Panthers.