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The Prez Talks FIU Sports Part 1

A right fielder, wide receiver and high jumper growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, FIU President Mm_2 Mitch Maidique has been a sports enthusiast for a while.

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 Mc_2 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 Fiuthin Fiupanth Fiu_2 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 Oldlogo_2 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 Fiuital International University. We'll go with FIU. We will have Fiublock the logo that you will see everywhere and it will always be the same.

GPP: Will that logo be the current shield logo?

Logo MM: No, it will just be the three block letters F-I-U.

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 Loz_2 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?

Unveil 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.

GPP: So for the first sentence written in an article, the right way would be to write "Golden Panthers" Gppp and then after the use of just "Panthers" would be OK?

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.

Gppaw GOLDEN PANTHER PAWSE

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 Jf_3 to win too many baseball games. You need pitching to win at any level whether it's little league, high school, softball,Ps PlayStation, fantasy baseball, college baseball and MLB. You Js 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 Pow 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.

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good article pete glad to hear it from the horse's mouth that all with FIU will stay as FIU golden. very interesting talking sports w/ maidique. off topic but i think we got the best president (name wise ) in miami. come on... shalala or Midique. his name is def. more fun

Great interview. Im looking forward to the rest. MM has done a great job of builing FIU into a big school.

In other words, Pete, you are telling us the pitchers are throwing junk - likely as they are being told by the pitching coach. Yet the head coach says he wants them to "throw your stuff in there", which makes me wonder: who is the guy in charge? If a kid has a 90+ fastball, why have him fool around with the junk? So like I said before, the pitch calling is questionable. If the kid is an attack-type pitcher, why not just go with that? I suppose the trained pitching coach should know better than someone sitting in the stands, but whatever he is doing sure isn't working.

Thanks for the interview, Pete. I love hearing Mr. Maidique's vision for FIU. I think too many FIU fans and alumni are guilty of "smallthink" by focusing on what was instead of what will be.

I agree that we absolutely need to standardize our "brand." And keeping Golden Panthers was the right decision.

But my favorite quote from Mr. Maidique in the first part of your interview was this: "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." I've always believed that our football program is by far our most important asset--the one we need to focus on and invest the heaviest in. I don't believe our men's basketball or baseball programs will ever achieve sustained success until our football program is established and successful. It's the rising tide that will lift all boats, so it's nice to hear Mr. Maidique acknowledge that.

Here's an idea for a new logo: F1U - with a one replacing the "I". Stands for Football 1st University.

Atheltics is important, and Maidique's statement that football first is legit. However, I think FIU missed the boat in acknowledging baseball's importance in the pyramid. I would've liked to have seen basketball receive the second most attention. In NCAA athletics, basketball is clearly the number #2 sport, just look at what the sweet 16, final four has done it terms of attention compared to the college world series. From coaching to recruiting to infrastracture, FIU has clearly treated it as if it was our #10.

Not sure if anyone read the Herald article but, former Dolphin running back Rob Conrad bid $2000 for the opportunity to stand on the sidelines at FIU's first game at the new cage. He'll be wearing headsets, as well. Nice to see professional athletes showing some interest in our football program. I know Dan Marino was heavily involved when our football program began. And I believe Jim Mandich was one of the founding members of the team.

Getting swept by Jacksonville is inexcusable. Is it possible that TT has already lost the focus of his players? Hopefully this upcoming homestand will turn the ship around this season. Question to the blog, if TT goes sub .500, will he get the pass we deservedly gave MC this past season?

yes FIU dad, well at least he should. i have always been a firm believer in coaches getting at least 2 years to show a sign of improvement you cant really tell if the coach has begun working their magic in their first season it takes time to build something. now if TT will get those 2 or 3 years is up in the air b/c this is miami, the city where impatiance was born. this is the city of do it now or else.

Agree with CJ, TT needs some time. This season with everything already mentioned before has been a big disappointment, however we shouldn't judge TT's body of work yet. In my opinion, he needs two full recruiting classes, which would put him into his third season. In TT's third season, with all that has been said about his greatness there better be something very special done that HASN'T been done before in Div I by FIU baseball. That is the CWS!

GO FIU!!!

I agree with both CJ and UFF - but I cant help to realize that the expectations for this baseball season were so high and that there was a reason for it. Just look at the predictions by the FIU faithful. Everyone had them being a power in the SunBelt and possible making to a regional. Why were the expectations so high I guss is my question if the team was so bad? At least with football the expectation were tempered. Most of us knew the team was going to win only 1-3 games. Here, in baseball though, the expectations were much higher and in my opinion, this baseball program, and the new man in charge are a lot more disappointing than the football team this past year.

FIUDad, I think what happened was that we (FIU faithful) had gotten use to a minimum of 35 wins (except last year, which was a disaster) and either be a bubble team or get an outright bid. Even these last 5-6 years of not going to regionals, we were somewhat in the hunt until either the end of SBC play or the SBC tourney. This year, however it’s a disaster from the get go! TT came with all this fanfare and what, we get smoked by nearly all teams we play. It was expected by USC, however not by everyone else! I know my predictions are going to be WAY OFF. But hey, dreaming is free!

GO FIU!!!

How about a much simpler theory, people? (Occam's Razor applies to sports, too.)

This is the first time Tortuga's been the captain of a baseball program and not just a second or third-in-command. And we all know this is, in many ways, a new team. Maybe all these struggles we're seeing is just a learning curve for the coaches and the players. Learning how to play right, and learning how to play right together. I'm not giving excuses for the losses, but sometimes you need a bad experience or two if you're going to improve.

Baseball's obviously fallen below expectations, but I don't think they were unreasonable ones. Everyone loves to say that Price was a bad coach and didn't get "talent"... which just wasn't true, by the way... yet even if it was, they were perennially a contender or a bubble team for a regional bid every year. Even the last couple of years.

With a guy replacing DP who has a proven eye for talent and all those trips to Omaha, there's no reason to have expected anything less than 35 wins, being competitive in a vastly underrated Sun Belt Conference and contending for a regional berth. None. This wasn't a 6-40 baseball team that TT inherited. This wasn't a disaster of a program. I agree with Pete that DP didn't make the most of all the local talent, but we weren't Maryland-Eastern Shore, either. They should be doing better, and TT should not get the pass that Cristobal has gotten. MC literally inherited junk from Strock. TT had something he can build on. Big difference.

With that said, of course you give TT more time. You have to be fair to the man. It's too early to judge him. And FIUDad, you really gotta cool it with the alarmist talk. A guy with TT's resume better not have "lost" a team this early in the season. And if he has, which I SERIOUSLY doubt, you'd have to question the players more than the coaches. He has the resume. Most of them do not.

Glad to read the interview, Pete. Good work, as always. And I'm glad MM is doing what he's doing with the logos. That was something that needed doing a long time ago.

Too many people made the argument that Price had decent players but made poor coaching decisions. Since TT has pretty much the same players plus some others he brought in himself, if he does not have at LEAST a .500 record, it will be a disappointment. His record as a recruiter is not in question. But his ability to get a team to play to their potential - as a team - has not been proven yet. And I reiterate - the ability of his pitching coach to improve on what was there previously has also not been proven. Waiting with baited breath.

Okay paradox - you asked for it! :)

You mention in one post that "If a kid has a 90+ fastball, why have him fool around with the junk?" Two problems here: first, a 90+ fastball is meaningless at this level and beyond if you can't get an offspeed pitch across for a strike. Second, who are you suggesting has one on this team other than Allen, Stewart and maybe Desimone? Alot of people want to talk that kind of velocity but I haven't seen it on this team. It's too early to tell but I'm wondering whether there's enough legitimate D1 arms on this squad? That's not saying the current guys can't be successful but outside the Fri-Sun starters, you're not going to give many of them the ball and say, "well, we've got a "W" tonite!" As Coach will tell you, pitching is 90-95 percent of baseball and winning is difficult when you're down a bunch early.

To those that mention that this is the same group of players - I agree but I caution you that the schedule is slightly different. I don't see as many guarantee wins like last year (e.g., five against Florida A&M (not sure they've won any this year and you probably won't recognize a team they play) and 4 against Rhode Island). Mid-weeks games against Florida Gulf Coast (who is a solid squad; just lost to Florida 2-1) and Jacksonville are not the A&M locks of the past. You need pitching to win these games now - you are not going to just outhit these teams!

The jury is still out but I've got to believe TT's a great coach and I would bet that the players, to a man, will tell you that. That's not to take anything away from DP. He was a wonderful man who I can only guess got the most out of his players because of the way he treated them. For now, give TT time to work his magic. You'll be able to fairly judge him two years from now when he has his own pitching staff assembled. I think you'll like what you see!

fiufan751, you make a great point. The schedule this year is not as forgiving as last year. It's easy to take a team like FGCU and Jacksonville lightly but they are way better than the teams that we played last year out of conference. Add to that the fact that we have to save our best pitchers for the Sun Belt games and you have trouble brewing during those midweek games. We are throwing out pitchers who on last years schedule format would probably have never started or only started a few games and this year are being relied on to carry the load. I'm not saying i'm happy with the team so far, because I am not. However, it is way too early to judge TT and we should give him his due time just like any other new coach.

lol well im no baseball fan so all this is just a filler till spring training starts off. pete you should as Maidique when sept 20 rolls around is he goin to be in the press box, on the feild or in the stands with the rest of the student body?

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