With a break in spring football here on a Wednesday -- the next practice is Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and Scrimmage No. 2 is set for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday -- let's take this time to finish up the interview with FIU President Mitch Maidique.
Yes, I know the Coral Gables team visits FIU baseball tonight for the final time. Canes coach Jim Morris is not renewing the series after the April 23rd game in Coral Gables. We'll get to baseball later in this post.
In this last part, we'll get MM's take on the new stadium and the state of FIU sports. Let's get to it....
GPP: So what are your initial thoughts on the new stadium?
MM: I think the most exciting thing that is happening is the new stadium and the fieldhouse. It will be both a gathering place for all our university as well as a football place where all the university staff, faculty, friends, alumni, administration can all come together to cheer our team. I think that will be a transformative moment on September 20 in FIU's history. I just hope everyone that is a supporter of FIU athletics is there. The more exciting thing that can happen is to begin winning a few games in football.
GPP: Is the student services center still on target for construction in 2010 and finishing the north side before the 2011 season?
MM: Yes, but we're trying to accelerate that. What will be done by Sept. 20 is everything except the north side. The fieldhouse, we're negotiating right now for a completion date, but it shouldn't be more than a few months later than Sept. 20. Both levels of the fieldhouse. By the time we're done playing in 2008 it will be completely done, but we hope it will be done sometime during the season. That's what I'm shooting for.
GPP: I'm sure you already walked the concourse of the new stadium. What do you think of that view from the east end zone concourse (photos below left, right) where you see the downtown Miami skyline, the Ritz Carlton in Coconut Grove, the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and Dadeland?
MM: It's phenomenal. It's the best part of the stadium. And when we go to 45,000 capacity which is the next step, you will have an even better view in an even higher up concourse. It's wonderful that Miami is not so built up that you can see the downtown from the suburbs. I can't wait to get in that presidential box and see the original kickoff. I may not even be in the box for that. I'll probably be down on the field.
GPP: What's the latest on Main Street FIU?
MM: We need cooperation from the county so I'm trying to get the county to make available the land that we need to build that. But as far as we're concerned, it's a question of timing, but that's something we are going to do. We are going to do.
GPP: The land you are talking about is the Tamiami Park/Youth Fair area?
MM: Yeah, so the parking garages could spill over. They will be used by the Youth Fair, by Tamiami Park. We would make more efficient covered parking so it's a real asset I think. The Main Street would go between the stadium and where the performing arts center is. The residential parking lot would go and we would actually push back the space a little bit and we would have Main Street there with dorms on both sides, residential, commercial. It will be phenomenal.
GPP: Why do you think in the past FIU has not had that athletic success that you want to have in the future as a major Division I college athletic program?
MM: I think the main thing is I had focused on academics and I had focused on getting new programs and building a research university and not an athletics powerhouse. Up to the time that Pete Garcia got here, the athletic director was a secondary figure reporting to a vice president, maybe even sometimes an associate vice president. Right now with football, athletics becomes a major force in the university and the athletic director reports directly to me and is aware of everything that is going on in the university. I think the priority we're giving to athletics now, if you look at the athletic budget now it probably doubled over the past five or six years. So it's a question of investments, it's a question of attention and I think we are on the move now.
Tonight will be the first of the final two meetings between FIU and the Coral Gables school and with a stacked Hurricanes team it could get ugly for the Golden Panthers and their suspect pitching -- especially since TT is not exactly on Morris's Christmas card list. Don't be surprised if the score gets run up.
Yes, a win would be great for FIU and TT, but the focus for the Golden Panthers has to be on the Sun Belt right now since the 11-19 record does not give any hope of an at-large regional bid. By the way FIU0406 is looking like he or she is in the driver's seat for the "Win a GPP Blog II" with a 30-26 predicted FIU record.
FIU has played well in the conference this season at 5-4, where that record could easily be 7-2 with a little better pitching and defense. Still at 5-4, FIU is one half game from third place in the Sun Belt.