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14 posts from June 2009

June 30, 2009

Turtle Power at FIU

Tt FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas is not going anywhere after he turned down an offer to become Maryland's head coach.

Here is a quick version of a story that will appear on the MH on-line. Will update this blog post later with more from the Turtle....

   Coming off the greatest turnaround in FIU baseball's 37-year history and acknowledging he is building "something special", Golden Panthers coach Turtle Thomas turned down an offer to become the University of Maryland's baseball coach.

   After a 20-36 season in his first year as FIU coach in 2007, Thomas guided the Panthers to a 34-21 record last season -- the largest win improvement in the history of the program.

   "It's nice to be wanted," Thomas said. "But my heart is at FIU. We had the best turnaround in the program's history last season and I want to develop FIU baseball into one of the top college baseball teams in the state and in the nation. We are building something special at FIU."
   Last week, Maryland athletic director Deborah Yow contacted Thomas about the vacant Terrapins coaching job.
   Yow wanted to fly Thomas and his wife, Maria, up to Maryland on Sunday to introduce them to the program and have Thomas formally interview. However, after Thomas spoke with Yow for nearly 45 minutes on the phone, Thomas declined the job interview.
   "I'm very, very happy that [FIU athletic director] Pete Garcia hired to me to be the leader of the baseball program at FIU," Thomas said. "When you are the head coach of a program to me you have to stand the test of time. It's not like you win one year, you're a flash in the pan and you jump to whatever else. You have to really put your roots down, put your feet on the ground, roll up your sleeves and get to work. "

June 28, 2009

Fieldhouse Tour -- FIU Locker Room & the rest of the 1st Floor

Fhoutside Back to the second of our three-part tour of the new R. Kirk Landon FIU fieldhouse (left) with a look at your Panthers locker room and the rest of the first floor. We'll also walk you through the tunnel that your Panthers will come storming out of on game days.

Before we head on over to the FIU locker room here are some of the other features on the 1st floor of FIU football headquarters. **Click on each photo to enlarge it**

To begin with located north of the FIU locker room is the spacious equipment room (photo, right) -- an equipment manager's dream. The equipment roomFhequip (photo right) is about half the size of the FIU locker room and located just east of the weight room.

Just south of the equipment room is the laundry room (photo, left), which has a pretty neat feature. In the photo below on the left you see what looks like a large hole in the wall. That hole you see in the photo will eventually have individual slots marked with each player's jersey number for your Panthers to drop their dirty laundry, shoes and all into. Sort of like a laundry chute. The idea comes from the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have a very similar system Fhlaun for their laundry over at will-always-be-Joe Robbie Stadium to me.

Before we step into the Panthers locker room, we'll give you some shots of the new cleaning facilities. The players got to eventually get clean after the game and here on the right are a look at the new showers and one of the bathrooms.Fhshow The shower room (photo, right) has 22 shower heads to match the number of starters on offense and defense. So depending on who has the better game, whether it be offense, defense or special teams -- 2 of the 3 FIU units will get first dibs on the showers.

Here on the left is a shot of one of the new bathrooms. Wish I could give you a more detailed account of the bathroom, but we all know what a bathroom features: toilets, urinals and hand wash sinks. No, there will not be Fhbath a bathroom valet offering mints, mouthwash or cologne to your Panthers.

OK, let's step into the FIU locker room. Like the weight room, when you first step foot in the locker room, the first thing that hits you is the size of the place. Although the locker room is not as big as the weight room, the locker room is plenty big enough with nearly 5,000 square feet (more than 1/3 the size of the 14,000 square-foot weight room) and there will be 120 locker stalls for 120 players should FIU decide to keep that many players on the team.

Here on the right are some different views from the entrance of the locker room.Fhlock It might not be easy to gauge the size of the locker room with it being all white right now, but when we go back to shoot some more photos in July you might get a better idea of the depth of the place.Fhlocker 

We'll throw another photo of the locker room here below on the left to see if you Lockerrimk get a better view of it.

Another tidbit about the FIU locker room is that originally there were 2 pillars in the middle of the room. However, in order for MC to stand in the middle of the room to address the Panthers and no player have an obstructed view of their coach and teammates, the pillars were removed. In the photo above on the left, PG in the suit is standing where one of the pillars would have been. Here on the right below the 2 photos of the locker room is a photo of the 2 horizontal beams that were installed to support the area where the 2 pillars would have been.Fhbeam

Let's get the FIU Stadium jumbotron cranking with the Panther running through the Everglades and jumping buildings throughout Miami and pump up AC/DC's "Thunderstruck", you're about to run out of the same tunnel that your Panthers will storm out of on Sept. 26 against Toledo for the first home game of the 2009 season.

The tunnel begins at the southeast exit of the FIU locker room and runs in a sort of "L" shape into the southwest tunnel of FIU Stadium. This Tunnrimk photo on the left is of the second part of the tunnel.

At the exit of the tunnel stand a couple of players that will attempt to walk-on to the FIU team in August. Here in the photo on the right are offensive lineman Ralph Garcia-Toledo (left). RGT comes from a Kansas JUCO and is 6-0, 330 lbs. The other player is kicker Manny Juiz (right), who arrived at FIU from the Czech Republic, where he was a talented high Fhtn school soccer player. MJ can kick field goals with either leg and his career-long is from 72 yards out with his left leg. With the right leg, MJ has a career-long of 68 yards.

And here on the left is the view that your Panthers have of the FIU Stadium field when they are out of the locker room and ready to run onto Fhexit the field.

We'll finish up the fieldhouse tour next time with a look at the 2nd floor where the 6 extra meeting rooms/suites with the patio deck overlooking the FIU Stadium field are located. Plus, we'll show you MC's office and the 125-seat auditorium for team meetings.

You've gotten a preliminary look at the 1st floor of the FIU fieldhouse. (If you need another look at our 1st tour of the fieldhouse click on the link above on the left). With the first 2 tours in mind, tell us what you like the most.

Online Surveys & Market Research


June 26, 2009

FIU vs. Florida State and Florida

Helm FIU will be seeing a lot more of Florida State and Florida in the coming years on itsFSU_Cowgirls2 sports schedules. Here is the story that will be running in the MH on Saturday.....

   FIU and Florida State signed an agreement to play a home-and-home series in men’s basketball beginning this December and the Golden Panthers are in negotiations with the Seminoles and the University of Florida to schedule more games in other sports.

   Led by new basketball coach Isiah Thomas, FIU will travel to Tallahassee on Dec. 6 to take on the Seminoles. The following season on Nov. 19, 2010 Florida State visits Uf FIU’s U.S. Century Bank Arena.

   “We’re very excited to play a team the quality of Florida State,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. “It’s a great opportunity anytime you get a chance to play a team that played for the ACC championship.”

   FIU defeated Florida State 65-60 in 2004 in Tallahassee the last time the two teams met.

   This past season FIU and FSU met in baseball with the Seminoles winning 15-5. The two schools -- which have met 19 times before with FSU holding a 13-6 series lead -- are working on a possible 3-game series for next season.

   FIU is also looking to continue its series with Florida in football and re-start a basketball series with the Gators.

   The Panthers and Gators meet for the first time on the gridiron Nov. 21 in Gainesville and are in talks about future football games.

   FIU and UF would also like to renew their basketball series. The Gators have won both meetings with the Panthers -- the last game being played in 1993.

   “It’s very important for us to continue to have a balanced schedule with Florida and Florida State in different sports,” Garcia said. “We will continue to schedule games with both schools as we move forward.”



 Tell us what you think of these scheduling moves in our poll below the Pawse.




Nothing official yet on the TT watch, but it looks like he's leaning toward staying at FIU. When I get confirmation from TT you will have it here.




quijote: WTF is a college football game without the sounds and the hunnies complimenting the game? Pete what's the deal here?


Fans & Pete, Football season is almost here. I'm VERY upset that FIU has YET to contact me with any sort of away game fan packages. I want to go to Alabama, Rutgers and UF games, but would obviously would like to go with a FIU sponsored fan group. Some of us are very busy and have to plan these schedules ahead of time. Any word on when FIU will make "fan group" packages available?!


PP: Like many schools across the nation, FIU has to make cuts in its athletics program. Unlike other schools across the nation, FIU does not have the type of financial support from donors, alumni and other people to make less impactful cuts and thus you have these unpopular cuts.


FIU does not have that huge outside financial support, because of 2 reasons: it hasn't been in Division I as long as other schools and FIU has never really given its fans and would-be bandwagon fans much reason to cheer over the years. As we all know everybody loves a winner and consistent winning = more fans, which = more interest in the program, which = more support and more donors.


Since the change in athletic administration in 2006, FIU has made a commitment to winning as evidenced by type of athletes being recruited, 8 new head coaches in 13 sports, and new and improved facilities.


No longer acceptable are the days of let's play close to .500 ball and collect our state paychecks every 2 weeks. Let's be honest before 2006, the university viewed its athletic department like the P.E. department. But now there is a refreshing accountability with the FIU athletic program.


And we're starting to see the fruits of these changes in FIU sports with the Panthers football and baseball teams producing the 2 largest historical turnarounds in school history. MC's boys improved (+4 wins) and TT's boys improved (+14 wins) in just their second seasons at the helm.


Plus, FIU won Sun Belt titles in volleyball and tennis in the last year. The men's soccer team reached the Conference USA title game. FIU has produced 3 All-Americans (5 if you count all 3 of Yarimar Rosa's All-American honors) and won 4 Sun Belt Coach of the Year awards in the last 2 years.


Although it may not seem like it financially, FIU is building an athletic monster (to borrow a phrase from MC) with the type of athletes and coaches in place right now and those that are headed this way. Which is why you have other schools ready to start pouncing on coaches like TT.


But this commitment to winning needs support and maybe now with the initial and future successes of FIU's teams those more than 140,000 FIU alumni in South Florida will start coming out and supporting an athletic program on the rise.


And this long answer to the question above is not meant to start a telethon. No, by support I mean -- like several GPP readers have posted in previous blogs -- go to FIU games and bring friends along that might not be aware what's happening at SW 8 Street. And like that shampoo commercial -- "those friends will tell their friends and their friends will tell their friends".


This is not the old FIU sports where winning was something to hope for. This is an FIU that has its sights set on conference championships and much more. FIU's teams are being built to win. It's happening right now.



The answer to your other question: FIU doesn't have travel packages to away games, but you can get in to games at Alabama, Florida and Rutgers, plus all 5 FIU home games for a total of $200.


That would be $50 for season tickets and then you can purchase whichever of those 3 road games you want to go to. The prices are: $55 for Rutgers, $50 for Alabama and $45 for Florida. Those road prices are set by the host schools and not FIU.


FIUPantherFan: Pete, please post a contact e-mail/number for the FIU cheerleader coach, I would like to contribute. I know the Dazzler coach use to post on FIUGoldenPanthers.com.


PP: This was posted in the comments section of the previous post:

You can contribute at:
Panther Cheer Club
c/o Coach Racquel
P.O. Box 655052
Miami, FL 33265

and this is their Facebook support page:

Turtle is one popular guy with at last count 154 votes in our last poll question. Nearly 80% percent of you say TT stay at FIU.  Among those readers is our first GPP reader from Sweden. As someone in Uppsala, Sweden says Turtle Power at FIU. Here's our latest scorecard:


37 COUNTRIES: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, U.S.A., Venezuela, Vietnam.

1 DISTRICT: Washington, D.C. and 1 TERRITORY: Puerto Rico.

June 23, 2009

Turtle A Terrapin?

Turtle FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas is a candidate for the vacant Maryland head coaching job. Comes as no surprise that TT is getting offers, especially after producing the greatest turnaround (14-win improvement) in FIU baseball history.

The Terps, who have been a middle of the pack team in the ACC for some time, are bringing TT up to College Park later this week for an interview and are expected to make a decision on their next head coach by the end of the week.

Spoke with TT and here's what he had to say on the job opening:

"It came out of the blue. I didn't apply for the job. A gentleman I vaguely know that went to school there and is in charge of finding the right candidate remembered me from my 10 years in the ACC with Clemson and Georgia Tech. The athletic director left me a message to bring me in for an interview."

On the potential of the Maryland job:

"The thing that is attractive is that Maryland is in a good baseball conference. I've been up there in College Park a number of times when I was at Georgia Tech and Clemson. But Maryland is at the bottom of the conference looking up, but you can kind of work your way up there."

On the potential of FIU:

"We really made a nice turnaround in the last year and we're building something here. I didn't want to lose Tom Ebert [Ebert signed with the Red Sox on Saturday]. We need to get another starting pitcher for next year. I enjoy living in Miami a lot. I like the area and talent level for baseball in South Florida and throughout Florida. I like the weather and everything as far as baseball is concerned. I like that when I came back from Arizona State that I was able to move right back into my Miami home."

Is money going to be a factor in his decision:

"No money is not a factor."

So what's the feeling TT has right now about the whole scenario?:

"I don't really know how I feel right now."


While TT figures out the scenario presented to him, you let us know what you think of the job Turtle has done in his 2 years at FIU....


June 22, 2009

MC Q&A Part 4

Although the start of your Panthers 2009 camp is still 49 days away (Aug. 10), the new season is gettingMc closer with the newest Panthers meeting today for orientation and an entire team meeting scheduled on Tuesday. FIU then starts its summer conditioning. We'll continue here with your Q&A with MC.

FIUFPL: What steps have you taken/will take to maintain attendance in these hard times?

FIUfantastic: What are you doing to ensure that every single seat in that new stadium is being filled? Commercials? Give-a-ways? Concerts?

Chrisfiu: My guess is attendance most likely will increase this fall. What efforts are currently underway to bring out as many fans to the games as possible?

**The 3 questions above are similar so MC answered them all at once:

MC: Well step number one is recruiting good players which is constant improvement of our product on the football field. That’s something that we’ve said since Day 1 that we wanted our FIU fans, alumni and family to take great pride in to come out and want to watch these guys  provide an exciting product.


Number two is being very visible in the community, everything from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to Habitat for Humanity, and making sure that the community knows that we do care about our people and our hometown.


Fans Thirdly, the advertising for the 2009 campaign is just about underway with everything from commercials to billboards to events promoting the upcoming season as well as reaching out to every alumni possible with contact information to come on out and support the team. I advise everyone out there right now that is a fan to reach out to 20 people and get them to that stadium, because those that have been there understand that when that place is rocking it is a special place and we still haven’t reached its full potential like we can. You have my word always that we are going to put something on the field that is going to be fast and ferocious. It’s going to be geared toward winning championships.


The biggest thing also is always on a program to continually get better. Also, some of that responsibility is on the fan base as well to really put forth a great effort since we are building something that is extremely special. It’s evident it’s one of the best turnarounds in college football last year. It’s going to continue to grow. It’s an exciting thing, but what really generates enthusiasm and excitement is when the fans and alumni take it upon themselves to realize, wow, our school, our team right here in the community is doing some pretty special things and we need to go out there and support it.


FIU Fanatic: Any late additions/substractions from signing class you can talk about? When do you expect signees to report to take classes at FIU?

MC: Everything looks to go according to plan as what we announced on signing day.

They will be here for orientation on Monday, June 22. Most of them, especially the local guys have already had their physicals. They are all graduating from high school this week (MC answered these questions in late May). In the next couple of weeks once they have received full clearance they will be joining us for workouts for the beginning of their summer session as well and officially becomingSbctrophy members of the Panther family.

Nick F: First and foremost, I want to sincerely thank you for making us Alumni proud of our Football Team and I applaud your commitment to the program!! What are your/the programs goals for next season, 3 years, 5 years?

MC: Improvement every year until we win our first championship and then continue bringing home championships.

Gold: Do you see a change in attitude by the players from year to year since your inaugural year? If so what is the change?

MC: Absolutely. Number one it’s from a commitment standpoint and becoming a student of the game in the way they carry themselves and in the way that they go back to their hometowns and they are wearing FIU gear head to toe. The pride they take in the classroom. The respect they show their peers. The amount of work that they do in the community and the hunger and the approach on a daily basis to becoming a championship football program.

Baltimore Panther: I know you expect 100% from all your players, but what unit do you expect to lead the team?


MC: I can answer that question I would say in the second week of camp. You saw a big-time Pm leader step up in T.Y. Hilton last year. You saw Paul McCall step up. You saw Scotty Bryant step up. A healthy Jeremiah Weatherspoon is a guy that needs to step up. Anthony Gaitor stepped up in a big-time way. Greg Ellingson has stepped up. You see a lot of guys that have stepped up, but we need guys on the offensive and defensive lines to be those names that come to mind right away. I cannot emphasize that enough and it may sound like a broken record and I know that and it needs to be that. Our team needs to know that the offensive and defensive line need to have a phenomenal summer in the weight room, because we are going to coach them as hard as humanly possible.


FIUPIKE: Do you think we have the ELITE speed to match up and give Saban some problems?

MC: I don’t think we have elite speed. To me elite speed is 4.3 across the board. We are not there. Do we have players that can give people problems? I believe we are getting there. We trust that anyone we play against we are going to give them problems. We are always recruiting to get to that elite speed. I think very few teams in the country have that elite speed, but being here a team in Florida we areAabs recruiting to get there.

CJ: How can I lose 10 lbs along the mid section? Being that you’re the fittest coach in all of  college football according to ESPN. I’m sure you know, haha.

MC: (Laughs) I think the best way to do this is to employ you as a volunteer tight ends coach for fall practice and we’ll run around for an entire month and eat healthy food and take in some Panthers football.

An insider: Does your blood still bleed orange and green, or is FIU truly in your heart?

MC: FIU is where my heart is. FIU has provided myself, our coaches and our players with an opportunity to make history and this is our only focus. People always bring up alma mater, because it’s a place that you played at and I think every player or coach that played somewhere has to carry a degree of pride for the place you played for, but it should never, ever take away from the focus of what your job is and that is to make your place the best place in the country.

Dp Bruce: How concerned are you about the depth behind Darriet Perry at running back?

MC: Right now, it’s DP, Darian Mallary, Daunte Owens, [Receiver] Kendall Berry has been moved to running back. He kind of played more of that in high school. John Ellis is another back we have back there. Jonathan Ramirez did a nice job in the spring. You always want more. We would like to have more backs and we plan on signing at least 3 backs this year. I feel good about our guys, but we have to stay healthy.

OC Panther: Do you talk shop with any of your peers?

MC: Discretionary shop. Never, ever talk about recruiting. Doesn’t matter if it’s a guy that everyone knows about or no one knows about. We never, ever disclose any information regarding our recruiting and the betterment of our program. In terms of scheme that doesn’t apply and there are no overlaps, maybe. Usually, we go visit and we ask a lot of questions, butJep we don’t tend to answer many.






June 18, 2009

Fieldhouse Tour -- Lobby/FIU Store/14,000 sq-foot Weight Room

The R. Kirk Landon Fieldhouse -- the new headquarters of FIU football -- is getting its final touches in these next few weeks and will be ready for use by your Panthers in July.

Here's the first part of our 3-part tour as we take you through most of the first floor of the FH. Since the FH is still under construction the photos you are about to see may or may not give you a good sense of the inside of the building, but you decide.

When everything is painted and the toys to the FH start arriving, we'll have another set of tours in July for you. For now enjoy what's the going on in the FIU fieldhouse. **Click on each photo to enlarge it.**

Before we take you inside the FH, here on the right is a rendering of what the facade of the FH will look like and here Fhoutside on the left is what the facade looks like right now.Fhfacade The first drawing in the photo on the right is what the west side of the FH will look like, that's where the windows looking into the humongous weight room are located. The second drawing in the photo on the right is looking at the FH from the north side (the side where FIU's game day tailgating takes place which is SW 17 Street). So as you can see there are 2 different drawings of the same FIU logo on 2 different sides of the FH.

Located just to the right of the lobby of the FH is the ticket office. As we approach the lobby -- which will be the main entrance to the FH -- here below left of the photo of the current facade of the Fhtix FH is a shot of some ticket windows.

Let's go into the FH's lobby. Here on the right is a shot of what the lobby would look like once you're inside.Fhlob

Located in the lobby will be an FIU merchandise store and a temporary FIU Hall of Fame. When we went to the FH on Monday the store was under construction, but here on the left are a couple of photos of the skeleton of Fhstore the store. The first photo shows an open rectangular window of the store (obviously, they will put glass in there Fhinsidstore once it's ready). And the second photo, to the right of the first store photo is looking at the lobby from inside the store.

The reason the FIU Hall of Fame will be temporarily located in the FH is because the plans are to eventually make a permanent FIU Hall of Fame inside the future Alumni Center (don't have a date for you on when the AC will be built). The AC will be attached to the east side of FIU Stadium. For now, Mike Lowell and co. will be housed on the first and second floors of the FH. Once we go up to the second floor of the FH, we'll give you some photos of the temporary HOF area.

Although most of the features of the FH, such as the exercise equipment have yet to arrive, there are some FH toys already in the building. For example, after Darriet Perry runs for 200 yards against Troy Fhwhirl this season, he'll probably want to take a dip in the new whirlpools (photo, right). As of Monday, there were 2 pools in the building, might be more on the way. Of course, all the stuff covering the whirlpool will be removed for DP.

Hopefully, not too many of your Panthers will be regulars in the injury/rehab center inside the FH. Here on the left is a look at one of the 6 Fhinj separate rooms for getting treatment. These are some of the storage cabinets. To the left of the cabinets (but not in the house yet) will be training tables and other medical supplies.

We gave you one photo in the previous blog previewing the sparkling 14,000 square foot weight room. Hopefully, the following photos give you a better sense of just how humongous the strength and conditioning room for ALL FIU athletes will be.

Here on the right is a photo taken by a professional photographer (Joe Rimkus, of the Herald). Joe asked for PG to stand near the NW corner of the weight room and Joe took the photo at a diagonal angle, which he says gives you the best view for how large the room is.Weightpg

And then on the left we have 2 photos from an amateur photographer (yours truly). These 2 pics on the left are from the NE corner of the Fhweightentrance weight room. The 1st pic is from the entrance of the weight room and maybe you can tell how far south the room extends to or maybe you can't because I took the photo.

The 2nd photo might give you a better view of all the windows of the weight room. So if you want to see how much your favorite FIU athlete squats, here's where you can check it out from.

Fhwtwind On the next tour, we'll take you inside your Panthers locker room and show you some of the features of the room that can be seen now. We'll also take you down the tunnel that your Panthers will storm out of as they run onto the FIU Stadium field to sounds of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" before the home opener against Toledo on Sept. 26 and every other home game after that.


Give us your thoughts so far on the fieldhouse in our poll below the Pawse Q&A.

FIUFPL: Pete, what does this all mean for Phase 2. Is that even on the drawing board within the next 5 years?

PP: The next step is getting the north side and student support complex done. Building an upper deck to get the stadium's capacity to 45,000 will depend on attendance and support for the program.

FIUJM: Pete, any news on Hardaway joining the coaching staff? Was reading the sports section today and towards the end of the newspaper it had list of local kids that got drafted last week by ML baseball team...I can't believe someone put that Ryan Mollica was from the University of Miami and drafted by the Mollica Mets. Very sad!!!!

PP: Not yet, but it is a good possibility. Last time, I spoke with IT, he said he wanted to have his coaching staff filled out by the end of July. The error regarding Mollica in the paper was fixed today. Maybe, it was that they wanted Mollica across town, because he hit better than any 2nd baseman from the Coral Gables school. By the way, Mollica became a New York Met yesterday when he signed with the team.

Quijote: Pete, The 2009 Gold Cup is quickly upon us. Miami is a host city for the tournament, games will be played at FIU Stadium. What new phase 2 implementations will be ready by then to show off on the national and international television transmissions? When will tickets go on sale?

PP: What you see right now at FIU Stadium is what will be shown off. Tickets have been on sale for a couple of months now. You can buy tickets HERE

FIU Fanatic: Any news about Noel?....or do we have to wait until tomorrow?

PP: Noel is expected to make a decision on Friday.


It's not painted yet and a lot of the furnishings are not inside yet, but what are your initial thoughts about the new FIU Fieldhouse....


June 16, 2009

No-el, No-el.....Early Christmas for FIU & Isiah?

Noell Another top hoops recruit has FIU among his finalists. Noel Johnson, a four-star guard/forward, will soonNoel decide between FIU, Clemson, LSU and UNLV.

Johnson, the No. 53 overall prospect and No. 11 forward, was granted his release from USC after the former USC coach Tim Floyd mess.

Said Johnson: "It's important for me to play in the ACC, but I don't have a conference preference. I just want to make a difference for a program. Florida International – First and foremost, I like coach (Isiah) Thomas. I like the academic side of things, too. It's a new school, a new program and they are building it up to be a big-time program. . . I'm looking for a school that will keep the promises they gave me in the recruiting process. I want a place where they'll help me graduate and I want to be a big part of the alumni there, too. I'm looking to possibly major in graphic design."

Johnson, who is 6-7, 200 pounds, averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists as a senior. He expects to make a decision on Friday.


pikedanny: 30 questions left and Pete gives us 6. Two of which were answered by two sentences or less. Wow... thank you for the overwhelming amount of information. I know you try to stretch the Q&A series out a bit but come on... You're doing an 8 part series or something?

PP: Appreciate your passion for football, but there will be no 8-part series. We'll get you more questions that are answered in depth on the next MC Q&A. For now, June is National Iced Tea Month. Let's all grabTea a glass of iced tea.

Quijote: Pete, We'd like to know what FIU is doing to get the BASKETBALL seats filled for the upcoming season.

PP: There will be a basketball marketing campaign before the season featuring Isiah, possibly some billboards similar to what FIU has had with MC in the past. Isiah is also going to speak to local clubs and organizations about FIU basketball and the first of his basketball camps begins this weekend at the Bank.

FIU_GPanther: Pete do you have any info on when construction will begin to close out the bowl at FIU stadium?

PP: An architecture firm has started the process of designing the north side of the stadium and the student support complex that will be embedded into the north side of the stadium. The designs for both structures is expected to be completed by summer to late 2010 and construction is expected to begin in 2011 with 2012 being the target date for completion.


One FIU structure that is close to being completed is the sparkling new R. Kirk Landon Fieldhouse. The GPP took a tour and photos on Monday and we will have part 1 of 2 of the fieldhouse tour on the next blog. For now here's an appetizer of the 14,000-square foot FIU weight room....(click on the photo for a larger view)




June 15, 2009

MC Q&A Part 3

Mc We're 56 days away from the first FIU football practice of the 2009 season and we've got about 30 more questions to get to with FIU coach Mario Cristobal. So let's move on....

Joel: When we get to a bowl game this season, what team would you like to go up against the most?


MC: We want to play anybody, anywhere, anytime. I would like to play a Florida team. I want to keep playing Florida teams. I’d like to play Miami, Florida State, South Florida, Central Florida -- although we are going to be playing them soon. We want to create as many rivalry games as possible for our fan base to enjoy.


FIURage: Is FIU planning on moving out of the Sun Belt ? If so what is the projected time frame?

MC: Our only focus is to win the Sun Belt Conference, which has done a great job since we’ve been in it.


FIU Fanatic: What element has struck you, or surprised/impressed you, about FIU in the 2+ years you've been at FIU?

MC: I was surprised at the energy and commitment of the people that surround FIU. I was surprised after being at Rutgers that it was year 6 or 7 before we started reaping some of the benefits of working extremely hard. I think in year 2 at FIU we saw some things and improvements in areas that usually take a couple of more years to develop. I was surprised by that in a pleasant way, but our expectations are extremely high.

CrazyPanther: Since the secret is out about TY being as good as he is, do you think teams Ge are going to be able to game plan against him better and take him out of the game? If so, who are the GPers other options?

MC: That’s why Greg Ellingson (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) has developed how he’s developed and that’s why Ty Frierson had a great end of the year last year. That’s why Darriet Perry came on strong and that’s why we signed Edgard Theliar, Jairus Williams, Wayne Times, Darian Mallary, Dudley LaPorte. It’s going to be hard to focus on T.Y. Hilton. He has to be a focus if I’m watching FIU film. I’m saying stop No. 4. He is an unselfish player. He will gladly go block for somebody else if he’s getting double covered and we can’t feed him the football. But on the flip side of that, we will find ways to get T.Y. the football. We’ll keep doing so. You attack a defense. Some times it’s T.Y. and some times it’s not. We expect people to come after T.Y. and we’ll go after them too.

An insider: Are you committed for the long haul to FIU, or are you hoping to use it as a spring board to a bigger school?

MC: As stated before, all of us have had opportunities and all of us have chose to come to FIU. We work day and night to make FIU a great place and we are committed to being here.

Upfront Bruce: Obviously, camp is crucial for all, but what players need to really stand out in August in order to get more playing time or keep the playing time they already have earned?

MC: Andre Pound and Jonas Murrell. Does this sound familiar? Yes. It all starts up front and will continue to be up front. Those two guys have to be a force up front. We move a lot. They have to take on double teams. They have to keep centers and guards off of the legs of our middle linebackers. They have to set the tone up front. They have to control the line of scrimmage. They are going to be huge in the process. On the flip side, every single offensive lineman and for that matter every single defensive lineman, throw them all in there. It’s the most important camp for all those guys.


June 12, 2009

Name That House

Fh No, it's not the latest game show, but the shiny new FIU fieldhouse has a name now -- the R. Kirk Landon Fieldhouse, after a $1 million dollar donation by FIU Trustee Kirk Landon.

The new FIU football palace and weight training center for all FIU athletes is set to open next month in July. The showpiece of the fieldhouse is the 14,000 square-foot gym. The FH also has 8,500 square-foot locker rooms, equipment room, injury rehab center, coaches offices, FIU merchandise store, FIU Athletics Hall of Fame, team meeting auditorium and 6 team meetings room that go out onto the patio deck overlooking the FIU Stadium field from the west end zone. The rooms overlooking the field will be used for recruits and donors on game days.

Currently, I'm with Miami's professional football team this weekend in Davie as the Dolphins go through their final mini-camp before the real training camp begins in late July.

Will be back with coverage of Miami's college football team in the next post as we'll continue your FIU Panthers coach Mario Cristobal's Q&A.

And we'll also take you on a field trip next week to the new FIU football headquarters and get some pics on here for you. By the way the fieldhouse will not have the aqua and red colors you see in the drawing above. The fieldhouse will be the same blue and off-white/tan color as FIU Stadium.

Apaw Congratulations to Tyler Townsend for his second All-American honor today as Baseball America named the newest Oriole to their All-American team. Tyler was named to the Louisville Slugger All-American team last week.

And congrats to outfielder Greg Waddell (Mariners) and second baseman Ryan Mollica (Mets) forMoll Mets getting selected in the MLB Draft. The Panthers could use Waddell's bat for another season. Best of luck to Mollica -- a senior and one of the classiest baseball players ever to don an FIU uniform.

And a tip of the cap to FIU President Mitch Maidique as the FIU Board of Trustees voted today to re-name the University Park campus after President Maidique.

The writers that cover the Sun Belt Conference teams voted on the conference's All-Freshman team and several of your Panthers made the squad: pitcher R.J. Fondon, 1st baseman Mike Martinez, infielders Raiko Alfonso and Garrett Wittels and outfielder Pablo Bermudez. On the honorable mention list was utility player Michael Vargas. FIU had the most players on this year's All-Sun Belt first team, and FIU had the most players on the Sun Belt's All-Freshman team....Turtle Power!

June 10, 2009

Sweet Home Baltimore

Tyler Townsend made himself at home last week at an Orioles pre-draft workout in Camden Yards. LateTyler Tuesday night, Tyler became a Baltimore Oriole after he was selected in the 3rd round (85th overall) by the Orioles.

Tyler became the 3rd highest drafted FIU player in the 37-year history of FIU baseball. Only pitchers Josh Banks (2nd round to the Blue Jays in 2003) and Tom Corcoran (3rd round - 61st pick - to the Tigers in 1981) have been selected higher than TT. 

Reached Tyler at home in Lewes, Delaware earlier today and here's what he had to say:

So what's it like to not only be the 3rd highest drafted player in FIU history, but to be picked by your hometown major league team?

TT: I don't know if it has hit me yet. I'm really excited to get started. Everyone around here my family and friends have always been big Orioles fans.

Os Judging by your previous answer, sounds like you're ready to start pro ball and bypass your final season at FIU?

TT: I would say there is a 1 percent chance I'm staying, but a 99 percent chance I'm going to pro ball. I think I'm ready to start my career. I got my agent working on my contract and hopefully he can get that done by this weekend. I'm trying to start as quick as possible.

Although you weren't the highest picked FIU player, you were the highest college player drafted south of Gainesville in this draft. Considering the college talent in the state of Florida, what do you think of that?

TT: It's just a great honor to be picked up at all, but to go that high among all the great college players in Florida is unbelievable. I'm just trying to take it in.

What do you think was the biggest reason for your record-setting season at FIU in 2009? (TT set the single-season and career RBI marks and total bases record)

TT: I put in a lot of hard work from last year to this year. Having a good summer (TT was the MVP of his summer league) also helped and it all paid off. Then I went to the Orioles pre-draft workout and that helped too.

What happened in Camden Yards last week?Oriolepark

TT: The Orioles told me they really liked me and then again after the workout. I did really well fielding balls in the outfield, even though I was drafted as a first baseman. I ran well and I hit a couple of balls out to center field and right field.

Did any of your home runs hit Boog's Bar-BQ out behind the center field seats in Camden Yards?

TT: No, but I came close. I've hit home runs out in Camden Yards when I was in high school playing for an Orioles-sponsored travel team.

Once you sign where will the Orioles assign you?

Ab TT: I'm going to start in short season with the Aberdeen IronBirds and then I hope to be in low Class A ball by the end of the year.

Do you have a timetable for when you want to get to the big leagues?

TT: Not really, just getting there anytime would be great.

FIU had 2 other players taken on the second day of the draft: junior pitcher Tom Ebert (thanks, Alex J. Hernandez photo) andEbert Bosox incoming outfielder Josh Garton.

Ebert was taken in the 19th round by the Red Sox and Garton in the 12th round by the Reds.

Talking with TE during the final weekend series against the Hooters last month, he said that the Red Sox and Marlins were the two most interested teams in him. TE also said he would like to finish his pre-med degree and that it would take something special to lure him to pro ball after his junior season. Heard the Red Sox are making a special offer to TE and he might have thrown his last pitch at FIU.

Garton, who played at Volunteer State JUCO last season, is expected to sign with Cincinnati.

Day 2 of the draft is complete with the final round on Thursday. So who is the next FIU player to get a call from 1 of 30 major league teams?

June 08, 2009

MC Q&A Part 2

Mcr Back to your Q&A with FIU coach Mario Cristobal as we got plenty of questions to get to as we continue our countdown to the 2009 Panthers football season. Just 63 days until FIU opens camp (Aug. 10) and 96 days until the Panthers open the season (Sept. 12) at Alabama. Let's get back to your questions....

FI-UM Fan: Which players do you expect to be leaders this year on your defense?

MC: Scotty Bryant has done it before and we expect him to do it again. We expect Jeremiah and Anthony Gaitor and Ash Parker to step up. Guys like Armond Willis, Cody Pellicer to step up. Expect Aaron Davis and Winston Fraser, two young guys, I expect an impact from them. All these guys have a chance to make plays and be a leader. We got some freshmen coming in that we expect to come in and challenge. How much can they lead? We’re going to find out in camp. Chuck Grace we expect big things out of, closing out the year strong with an interception, having a great off-season and aJonas great spring campaign. It’s going to be interesting with some of the events at the end ofFore spring ball like George Palmer going out and playing corner and doing a great job. Here’s a guy that shows up here at 6 a.m. every morning and works out like a maniac. Another one that we expect big things from him and he has to prove it and he has committed himself to it is Jonas Murrell (far right). Jonas has already lost 30 pounds this off-season, He’s down under 320 working his way to 300 pounds. He was up to the 350-pound range. He’s been running and dieting. He lets me know constantly that he’s using the George Foreman grill instead of running over to McDonalds. I’m really proud of the way he has come along and the fact he’s taken ownership in his body. He knows it’s going to result in better performances. There is a guy that can be a legitimate force up front.

FIUPIKE: How much faster & stronger will this team be against Bama, versus last season against KU & Iowa?

MC: I think we will be stronger. I think Alabama is a stronger team than both Kansas and Iowa. I think it will be one of the more physical games that we play all year long. We’ve watched film on them already and they deserve what they did last year playing for the SEC Championship. Now our strength and Strong conditioning program in the second year you are starting to see the benefits, some of the results of being in Coach Rod Moore’s program where now bodies are thicker in the right places and leaner in the right places. Where your squat and power clean numbers are getting to legitimate Division I levels. Where guys can not only withstand the rigors of football, but deliver shots and make tackles, plays and fight through double teams like you expect them to. We expect to get in there and get nice and physical and mix it up with them and have a great showing by our guys.

CJ: What do you think is the biggest hurdle to winning the Sun Belt Conference?

MC: In 2 years of coaching in the Sun Belt what I have noticed is that the two teams that have won it, Troy and FAU, have been teams that have gotten better as the season went on. Troy suffered an injury at quarterback and still found a way to get better as the season went on. They made some adjustments and have some great players. Both teams showed constant improvement and I think that’s the biggest challenge. Being to able to get through a tough schedule with no bye weeks, going 11 weeks straight, being able to improve and overcome any injuries you may have. The key to every single game in the Sun Belt is about the people in our locker room and not necessarily the people in the other locker room.

TheChampionUnderdog: Any plans of using Wayne Times in a Wildcat type formation this year?Wtimes

MC: Without disclosing too much, let’s just say there are a lot of plans for Wayne Times. The combination of Wayne Times (right), Darian Mallary, DP, Junior Mertile, T.Y. Hilton. There are some players that have good skill sets that allow them to do a couple of things with the football in their hands and we’re going to get them on the football field. We expect big things from Dudley LaPorte to help us implement a phase of our offense that we haven’t shown yet at FIU in the two tight end sets with Eric Kirchenberg and Jonathan Faucher and John Ellis. We’re excited about the diversity that we can show this coming fall.

alt7787: How has the economy affected you and FIU Football? Do you think the economy is better?

MC: It affects everybody. We never ever sacrifice performance. We always make sure our players are well fed. That we travel comfortably. That we have academic support. We certainly are in need of funding and certainly encourage all those out there that are willing to support FIU football to come on out and do so. Especially now, when we are on the cusp of something great.

BaltimorePanther: How do you feel about the games against Rutgers and UF?

MC: Extremely excited about it. Our recruits were very drawn to that, to get on the big stage and playFire against those teams. I think both teams are physical and fast. Florida is particularly fast like world-class track fast. I expect a tough, physical game and I expect our guys coming out of that tunnel breathing fire and getting ready to rock and roll. We’re going to be extremely prepared and we’re going to go in there and fight for that game.





Should be a big day for Tyler Townsend tommorrow (Tuesday) when the MLB Draft opens up. Might also see Ryan Mollica, Tom Ebert and Scott Rembisz also get selected.

Pizza Face & OC Panther: Hey Pete can you get a list of all the recruits that are signed as well as players that are returning. So that we could have a better idea how the BB team is looking for next year

PP: From what Isiah has signed so far we have: Stephon Weaver, Marvin Roberts, Antoine Watson, Phil Gary and Kavon Lytch for this coming season. (Brandon Moore is for the 2010-11 season, Eric Frederick is a commit and has not signed yet).

Returning players expected back for next season: Cedric Essola, Nikola Gacesa, J.C. Otero, Tremayne Russell and Nick Taylor, although last I heard Taylor was not on scholie. He walked-on to the team. As for Freddy Asprilla, check the FIU lineup in Ohio State. So that's 9 scholies being used from the list above, so there could be another 2 or 3 slots.


You read at the beginning of this post some of the players MC expects to lead the D this season. Now we all know what players like Scotty Bryant, Jeremiah Weatherspoon, Ash Parker and Anthony Gaitor can do. So thinking about the other defensive players, in your opinion, which one of the following will have the biggest impact on the FIU D this season.

June 06, 2009

One Moore Player For Isiah

Brandon Moore, a 6-9 power forward, will transfer out of the University of Arkansas and sign with FIU andBrmoore coach Isiah Thomas on Tuesday in Miami.

Moore averaged just 9 minutes as a freshman last season with the Razorbacks and will have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Moore will be a redshirt sophomore when he is eligible to play for the Panthers in the 2010-11 basketball season.

Coming out of high school, Moore was ranked the No. 32 power forward in the nation and was a 3-star recruit. We'll try to get the newest Panther hoopster on the GPP this week when he arrives in Miami.

June 04, 2009

New Football Commit; FIU All-Freshmen

We'll get back to the very popular Q&A with MC on the next post. For now, here is a little bit of this and a little bit of that from the world of your FIU Panthers athletic program.

Mcgee Ocho Add another Northwestern High player to the FIU defense for 2010 when Bulls defensive back Khambrel McGee is expected to join former Bulls and current Panthers Anthony Gaitor and Kenny Dillard. McGee has committed to FIU for the 2010 signing class.

McGee is rated a 3-star cornerback by rivals.com. Khambrel is no relation to 2009 FIU signee and fellow DB Jarrell McGee. But Khambrel (far left) does bare a resemblance to Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco (near left and right of Khambrel). Don't you think?

Gaitor, coming off an All-Sun Belt season in 2008, was named to the College Football Performance Defensive Back Watch List on Thursday.


First baseman/outfielder/DH Mike Martinez (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) was named to the Freshman All-American team afterMm hitting .335, with 6 HR and 37 RBI this past season.

MM is the second Panther baseball player and fourth Panther overall to be named an All-American this past season.

Right fielder Tyler Townsend was recently named All-American, following the All-American years of FIU volleyball player Yarimar Rosa (3-time All-American) and receiver T.Y. Hilton, a Freshman All-American.

Also, the Sun Belt All-Freshman Team is currently being voted on and Martinez, along with outfielder Pablo Bermudez and pitcher R.J. Fondon have been nominated for the team. When voting is concluded I will have the results on here. That Turtle guy can recruit a little, eh?


One of our loyal readers, gpantera, posted in the comments section of the previous blog an interesting anecdote about MC and his enthusiasm for FIU football. Thought it was a hell of a story, such a hell of a story that here is the re-post of it....gpantera writes:

So get this. I’m at an alumni gig a few weeks ago and get introduced to Coach MC. He’s kind enough to indulge an FIU sports geek like me for about 15 minutes. We discuss the obvious stuff – how FIU is on the rise, TY’s da man, all the excitement around this year’s recruiting class, etc. Once I felt I may be wearing out my welcome, I say, “Hey Coach, if you’re ever in the Gables, it would be a treat to have you stop by my office. There are plenty of FIU Panthers employed where I work that would get a kick out of meeting you.”

Now how many of you are thinking “FAT CHANCE” as I did? I was just throwing out this request as a parting shot, never anticipating the guy would actually take me up on it.

You guessed it. The freakin’ guy showed up to my office the next week. Yes, he came by my office accompanied by one of his assistants. We toured our agency. I introduced him to every Panther in sight. He took pictures with us and simply energized with atmosphere with blue and gold love. True damn story.

I always knew Coach is one fired up dude, but to take this unexpected, highly appreciated step to satisfy a single alumni's request is insane.

Mcc In case you were wondering, Coach MC is the realist deal in South Florida (next to D-Wade of course).

Go Panthers!


Coach, if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this story. It’s just too good not to share, especially with my friends in the GPC (Golden Panther Community).


Won't go too much into this, because it could change next week but the latest word from the local hoopsvine this week is that center Freddy Asprilla might be having a change of heart and stays at FIU. Stay tuned or wait until the FIU starting lineup and reserves are announced in early November at Ohio State when the Panthers tipoff the Isiah Era against the Buckeyes.


No new states or countries to tell you about joining the GPP (although our friends in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Croatia and the Czech Republic have chimed in) in our last poll question, which is still open. The question is "Heading into MC's 3rd season, FIU has a) exceeded expectations; b) met expectations; or c) not met expectations.

Found it interesting that of all the votes we have received so far, there is only one vote for "not met expectations". Someone in Pinecrest, Fla. is still longing for the days of 45-minute practices, beat the Turnpike traffic and catch the back nine holes with a football legend.Fggolf



June 02, 2009

Mario Cristobal Q&A Part 1

You good people have asked the questions and FIU football coach Mario Cristobal has answered. We got more thanMc 40 questions to get to. We'll divide the MC Q&A into several parts. If you don't see your question in this post, don't run yelling out of the room. The questions have been answered and we'll get to all of them. Here's the first set with MC's answers....

FIUFPL: Can we have details on plans to have the football team walk to the stadium followed by the band, and surrounded on either side by the fans/students/alumni?


MC: It’s a tradition that we want to establish. What we are looking at in the future -- and of course it depends on funding which of course the entire state of Florida depends on -- is to have a giant Panther statue out in front of the stadium where we can line up a Panther Walk lining both sides of that walkway with fans, family, friends, maniacal people that are all about the blue and gold and be able to walk right through there on the way to the locker room and prepare to take the field.


FIU Fanatic: What aspect/aspects of FIU in general, do you believe has/have been the best one(s), or most successful, in order to "sell" a recruit why he HAS to come to FIU?


MC: There are several. Like any business in the world: location, location, location. We all learned that in high school or in college. That’s number one. Number two when you set foot on campus it wows you, because FIU is an impressive place from top to bottom. From the classroom settings to the new facilities that are being built which are state-of-the-art and some of the finest in the entire country. To the people on campus from academic support people to professors and deans to the training staff and administrative staff. And of course the coaching staff. You have some dynamic people that love FIU and want to take it to the highest level and are completely committed to it. The energy that is felt when recruits get on campus has really opened some eyes. Recruits often times say, "Wow, I never knew" and they leave here with a great impression.


Fiustadium OC Panther: What’s the toughest place to play in the SBC?

MC: The toughest place to play in the Sun Belt is right here at FIU Stadium for all opponents that enter our stadium.

Nick F: Given the huge momentum that exists with the program, how will you be able to rein in the focus of the players, to play consistent all season?

MC: I think our players have a firm grasp of the process and respect the process. The process is not about the scoreboard and it’s not about the hype. It’s making sure we are the best possible football team that we can be while doing great in the classroom. That is on us as coaches. How do we do it? We coach hard. We coach extremely hard and very detailed fully pointing out no matter how great a player has done in a particular practice that he can always improve. I think that keeps us grounded.

Gold: When you accepted the position to become FIU's head coach, if someone would have told you on that day where your program would stand going into year three, would you have said that it would:
a) exceeding your expectations
b) meeting your expectations
c) not meeting your expectations

MC: We have exceeded our expectations. The facts were clear. The team was 0-12, on probation with limited scholarships and losing scholarships going forward with a very poor academic performance. Those are monster hurdles. Those are not easy. I think with the commitment of our players, the commitment of our athletic director and the staff all have done something about as impressive as it gets in terms of turnarounds and I think all it’s done is made us hungrier. It’s whet our appetite. It’s stoked our fire, because we know in the big picture it’s going to translate into championships.

JSuarez88: What kind of role do you think Larvez Mars (right) will have this season? Has he gained any Mars weight?

MC: He is as good as any freshman linebacker in the country. Extreme energy. I have watched him in practice for three years now out there. Let’s just say he and Anthony Gaitor (left, thanks AJH photo) are going to get along real well. They will make practice alive and they will make the offense step up, because they will Gaitor crank it up in practice. Also expect him to be very smart, to take the defense in and I expect him to come in and challenge for a starting position. At last I checked, Pooh Bear was about 220. He’s big enough. He’s a thick kid – upper and lower body, strong, physical, fast, explosive. Apopka is known for its weightlifting.



You answer Gold's question above. Inheriting an 0-12 team and a program on probation, how has FIU done under MC since then....

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