Wasn't exactly the way anyone would have liked to start a new job, but at that time new FIU athletic director Pete Garcia was hired. On his first day on the job, PG had to dole out suspensions for the Rocky VIII auditions against UM in the historic stadium FIU closed out the right way with a win.
Now with a new on-campus stadium on the way and having overseen a full calendar year of FIU sports, PG talks Golden Panthers athletics to the GPP.
GPP: What are your thoughts on the past year of FIU sports? Is it what you expected or not?
PG: Growing. Getting better. Hectic. Exciting. Challenging. It was kind of what I expected. These programs you hire the right people. You let them do their jobs. They have to bring in the right student-athletes and once they start getting their student-athletes in there then you start seeing the difference. You start seeing it in a lot of areas. You start seeing the improvement right away academically and then you start seeing them in wins and losses.
GPP: As far as the teams, in the past year which team surprised you a little bit in the way they performed and which team did not perform like you expected it to?
PG: I would say beating the No. 1 ranked team in baseball is obviously a good accomplishment for our baseball program. I would have liked to see us do better in men’s basketball and everything is else is kind of what we expected.
GPP: Were there any teams that maybe you didn’t expect much from this year and they overachieved?
PG: No, because we expect a lot from all our teams.
GPP: How do you feel about the stadium progress?
PG: The main thing is that we’re still on time for September 20th. Every day I go out to the stadium and it’s exciting and the closer it gets, the more complete the stadium gets. It’s hard not to get excited about it.
GPP: In the original drawings of the stadium it didn’t seem like it was going to be tight around the field and there was going to be a gaping hole on the north side, but I’ve been by it now that the west side is going up and it looks very tight. What do you think?
PG: People heard us say before that we had put it right on top of the teams and they don’t really realize that until they go out to the stadium. Once it’s complete and they see where the seats are and see where the teams are, they can almost reach out and touch this team. It’s right on the field. There’s not too many stadiums around the country that have that feel to it.
GPP: What about the progress of the fieldhouse?
PG: The fieldhouse has been started and right now we’re hopeful that fieldhouse will be completed by January 2009. The stadium has to be ready to go by September 20th, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be things in there that we’re not working on through the season when there are no games being played. Other than the 5 weekends, they keep working the rest of the time.
GPP: What do you expect from the football team this season?
PG: I know they will be improved just because they have one year under their belt of the new coach, the new coaching staff and the players' off-season conditioning program and then the new recruits that have been brought in here. Then the improvement of the kids that were already here. I think it will be an improved team. We still have a challenging schedule, but I would say that we’re always going to have a challenging schedule. That’s how you get better and that’s what we expect to do – get better game by game.
GPP: What about the men’s basketball team, what do you expect there?
PG: I expect to have a great year in basketball.
GPP: Because of the new recruits, returning players?
PG: I expect to have a great year in basketball.
PG: I expect to have an improved year in baseball. Turtle has done a phenomenal job recruiting-wise. I’m real excited about the kids he has signed and all the pitchers he has signed. I wish baseball season was starting now.
GPP: You’ve been 21 months on the job. What’s been the toughest part during that time?
PG: Just trying to do all things that have to get done, at once. With the staff that I have here, we’re taking on the challenge to not wait. If it needs fixing we’re doing it, no matter what area – compliance, academic support, improving the teams themselves, whatever it’s been, we’ve gone out and got it. It’s not like we could only fix 2 things at a time. We’re trying to fix a lot of things at the same time and build a stadium.
PG: I knew it was going to be a program that had to really be built, not re-built, it had to be built from the ground up according to Division I standards. So no, I haven’t been surprised. You just have to hire the right people and put them in the right areas and let them do their jobs and if we do that we’ll be OK.
GPP: What’s been the most rewarding part of the job so far?
PG: I love building. So here you’re building everyday. Literally, everyday. I go home and my shoes are dirty, my pants are dirty. They know I’ve been to the stadium. You can’t hide it.
The MC Q & A that you good people submitted the questions for has been taken care of and we'll have the first of several parts on here this coming week. Don't know how many parts we'll break it into, because I haven't gone through the tape and MC's answers for the majority of the questions were very detailed.
MaXx: When I get a hold of a photo of the new football helmet, it will be on the GPP. The entire logo will be on the helmet, but the difference from the logo you see above left next to the words Golden Panther Pawse, is that the block FIU letters on the helmet will be white with gold outline. The entire new Golden Panther logo will adorn the helmet and the helmet is a darker blue.
FIUFan: Yes, it is a slow time of year. No coaching searches going on. Golden Panthers football training camp is still about 47 days away, but the GPP will still be here all summer. So don't worry the MH has not cut my hours, but I do have 3 weeks of vacation time that I'm going to take in the next 46 days before the MH football previews and the season gets going. I will still be blogging when I have downtime during my vacation and throughout the summer. There's only so many beaches and golf courses a man can go to.
Miri: Both the football and baseball wins in the previous poll were significant. FIU football won't see the OB again (neither will anyone else) and FIU baseball won't see UM again.
Grab a pencil to adjust your scoring at home....The 27 states the GPP is read in: ALA, CA, COL, FLA, GA, IDAHO, IL, IND, IOWA, KAN, KY, LA, MASS, MD, MICH, MIN, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TEN, TEX, VA, VER, WIS.
The GPP is also global with these 8 Countries logging on: Australia, Brazil, Hungary, Italy, Panama, Spain, United Kingdom, U.S.A. and the GPP is also followed in 1 Territory: Puerto Rico.
You read what the AD expects from three Golden Panthers teams this coming season. Now let FIU Nation know what are your expectations....