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32 posts from August 2011

August 31, 2011

Football Game Day I, 2011

As opposed to Football I Game Day, 2011, which would mean you've downloaded the original Mattel Electronics game onto your iPad and you're either playing or waiting for someone else to run across the screen several times to score a touchdown, prompting that electronic tune that seemed to be a TD dance unto itself.

Could see a lot of that tonight.

FIU vs. North Texas on Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium.

Preseason projections: The Sporting News picks FIU as the outright Sun Belt winner. Sports Illustrated says FIU, Troy and Louisiana-Monroe all hit the line 8-4 overall and 7-1 in the conference. Lindy's and Athlon both take Troy with FIU second, Athlon's predicting FIU with a 6-2 conference record and 7-5 record overall. Conversely, North Texas is picked as high as third (Sporting News) and as low as eighth (Lindy's) with SI and Athlon's both putting them sixth at 4-8 overall and 4-4 in conference.

The game: The first 4,000 in the house get a free football schedule magnet to hold those pizza coupons on the door until late the first weekend night after they expire, when you rediscover them because you've got the munchies and Triscuits aren't getting it done.

The significant number for the North Texas offense is 299.6. That's the average poundage of their offensive line starters, a number dragged down by 275-pound center J.J. Johnson and left tackle Matt Tomlinson, 6-5, 298, who might be their best lineman. The Mean Green will keep handing the ball to 5-9, 209-pound Lance Dunbar and try to punk FIU with power and bulk. If this results in long drives that suck the life out of The Cage, well, that's the point, now isn't it? With 6-4 Derek Thompson at quarterback, expect North Texas to make a few plays off the scramble as well as the play action pass. FIU's defensive speed won't be tested as much as the quickness of the front seven. North Texas will put up more than the 10 points of last year's 34-10 FIU win.

But it won't be enough.

North Texas' new defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was the DC at Western Kentucky last year, where an OK Sun Belt defense held FIU to 28 points in a 28-21 FIU win. Tonight, like a stud poker player slowly pulling cards from his sleeve, FIU reveals what they've learned of this expanded version of the offense over the last year. Once the Golden Panthers get the Mean Green going with runs at the defensive ends, look for them to occasionally go back the other way with quick, play action hitches and screens. Don't bet against them, from there, setting up a hitch-and-go bomb.

"21 (North Texas cornerback Royce Hill), I know he's a great cover guy," FIU's T.Y. Hilton said. "He loves bump-and-run. He's got great speed."

So do FIU's receivers. Wesley Carroll completes only 13-to-15 passes, but he averages around 18 yards per completion. A kickoff return touchdown ignites pandemonium late, but an interception return for a touchdown not long after puts North Texas next to Glass Joe. FIU gallops to a 47-24 win that's not as easy as the score makes it look.


To paraphrase an ex-girlfriend, that's one black man's opinion. I surely could be wrong.


The NCAA approved two hardship waivers in two days earlier this week. The second one allowed Salt Lake City native Lewis Walker, who played in 24 games over two seasons with Hawaii, to play this season after transferring to Utah. The first one put tight end Mike McFarland, from the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area, closer to the field for South Florida after leaving Gainesville. According to the St. Pete Times, McFarland cited a family illness as why he wanted to be closer to home.

Does this mean the NCAA's feeling like Don Corleone on his daughter's wedding day and be willing to let running back Daquan Hargrett and/or wide receiver James Louis do their thing for FIU this year?


Don't know, but Hargrett's one more of what FIU already has -- a short, fast back you use as part of a rotation. Louis, on the other hand, is a true talent. That he didn't play at Ohio State -- kind of a good football school with a tradition of tremendous college wide receivers -- as a freshman doesn't dim that he would be a dynamic addition, once he gets into football shape and hold of the offense.


A few recruits will be floating around The Cage at Camp Mitch on unofficial visits Thursday. Look for the official visits to start with the Saturday night games. No word on any more early commits -- yet.

The Herald's preseason football sections came out today. Please realize the deadlines on those were over a week ago, thus affecting the prognastications and the accuracy of several other details. Writers rarely get excited about what they scribble for the special sections and this is no exception as far as me and what I wrote. OK Apple Jacks reading, not up to Real Reading Room standards.


48 Hours

As the lightning horn blew Tuesday afternoon, signalling the end of post-practice on the field, T.Y. Hilton led the receivers in a running cheer to the locker room. Various coaches similarly scurried across the parking lot into one of the stadium meeting rooms for a compliance meeting. Especially these days, no coach wants to take the chance of skipping those.

Around football's house, everybody's pretty much in excited idle in wait for Thursday's run out of the tunnel. Not that practice was flat (the parts we media are allowed to see), but there's been a sense of "let's get it going" for a week. This is one area on which players and media mind meld. We're all sick of no games. Coaches, of course, always would love one more practice. Just one more, just an hour so they can cover some minor detail that'll wind up being subatomic in its significance to winning or losing compared to, say, the fact that they might be athletically inferior/superior in 10 different matchups.

Wesley Carroll, T.Y. Hilton and Mario Cristobal said the predictable things in Tuesday afternoon's last-availability-before-the-game conference. Carroll spoke with a quiet confidence, as he has all preseason. It's much more matter-of-fact confidence than "swagger." Hilton was modest, Cristobal tried to say something without giving away anything. I presume he was the same in Spanish....


By the way, if you're an expert on a program with a lower rung football team, you can make enough in legalized betting to keep the tooth fairy for sharks in business. FIU's a 14.5-point favorite on North Texas. Reasonable. The total score over/under is 53.5. Reasonable, but risky. 53.5? Between two running teams...at a level where the clock stops after each first down...in which the better defensive team gave up almost 170 yards per game on the ground last season?

Changes on the most recent roster from the roster through most of training camp: Off are freshman safety Lyndon Edwards from Northwestern High; freshman offensive lineman Richard Reay from Tampa Robinson; senior running back Torrence Seymour from Miami Varela; senior defensive lineman Jeremy Jermin from Brooklyn and Nassau Junior College, where Eddie Murphy went "for two weeks" he cracked in a Saturday Night Live moment. Redshirt senior Kicker/punter Michael Cal now wears No. 47. Redshirt senior linebacker Christopher Edwards wears No. 56; freshman linebacker Kelby Maynor has No. 57; junior offensive lineman Paul Lungren is No. 62; freshman defensive lineman Lars Koht is No. 74. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan White is now No. 77.


Texas A&M's saying it didn't send a withdrawal letter to the Big 12. Sort of like saying "I haven't called a lawyer yet" after you've asked to see other people and made a very public pass at the hot, rich neighbor. Whatever. The money's still on the Aggies to be the first domino to fall.

The Sun Belt coaches, for the most part, talked around conference realignment and what it means to the Sun Belt on the conference call Monday. Todd Berry of Louisiana-Monroe said, "I don't think we're looking at a dramatic impact on the Sun Belt at all." Troy's Larry Blakeney said, "I don't know where the chips will fall. The only thing any of us in the Sun Belt are looking for is an automatic bid (to a BCS bowl)"  whether by merger with another conference or some other route.

As I've written in one comment and two blog posts, from talking to a few folks, I see FIU in Conference USA in the not-too-distant future. If the big boys decide to steroid up in size, C-USA will look for a similar-sized partner with which to combine school mass.

That's about it for tonight. Be back Wednesday afternoon/evening with the season advance post.


August 30, 2011

Depth Chart Blues (and Golds); women's soccer evens record

Seeing Michelle Trachtenberg all grown up on Weeds reminds me that the extra duties of blogging have taken me away from my usual late summer indulgence: getting into the fall writing rhythm by watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes. So let me throw down the first football depth chart of the season then get into proper writing shape for the season with “Lovers Walk” or “Once More, With Feeling.”

QB: Wesley Carroll, Jake Medlock. Really, if it goes beyond that, either the game has been long won or the season has been long lost.

RB: Darriet Perry, Kedrick Rhodes, Jeremiah Harden, Darian Mallary. Rhodes looked the best this August, though.

WR: T.Y. Hilton, Michael Curry.

WR: Wayne Times, Willie Wright. Weewy, weewy, swift wide weceevers.

WR: Glenn Coleman, Jacob Younger. Nobody under 6-2 allowed.

TE: Jonathan Faucher, Colt Anderson.

LT: Caylin Hauptmann, Prince Matt

LG: Kevin Van Kirk, Shae Smith. Both were listed as starters.

C: Giancarlo Revila, Donald Senat

RG: Curtis Bryant, Jordan White

RT: Rupert Bryan, David Delsoin


Defense in a 4-3, which makes sense against North Texas. In a nickel, either Junior Mertile or Richard Leonard would get the fifth defensive back spot.

DE: Tourek Williams, James Jones.

DT: Andre Pound, Jerrico Lee.

DT: Isame Faciane, Joshua Forney.

DE: Paul Crawford, Greg Hickman. Both The Long and The Square of it are listed as potential starters.

LB: Jordan Hunt, Markeith Russell

LB: Winston Fraser, Chris Edwards

LB: Kenny Dillard, Luis Rosado

SS: Jonathan Cyprien, Terrance Taylor

FS Chuck Grace, Demarkus Perkins

CB: Sam Miller, Junior Mertile

CB: Jose Cheeseborough, Richard Leonard. Look out for “Leonard” (said with icy James Mason voice from North by Northwest…)

K: Jack Griffin

Kickoffs: Dylan Lynch, Jack Griffin

P: Josh Brisk

LS: Mitch McCluggage

Kickoff returns: T.Y, Times.

Punt returns: T.Y., Times

My peers at CBSSports.com put T.Y. on their preseason All-America team as the all-purpose guy. Nice to see him get the notice.

Former FIU wide receiver Greg Ellingson got cut by Jacksonville Monday. Over on the Gulf Coast, Anthony Gaitor is listed as the third string right cornerback for Tampa Bay.  


Kelly Hutchinson buried a feed from Chelsea Leiva early (8th minute), then Johanna Volz struck late (71st minute) for a 2-0 win over Florida Tech in a soggy home match Monday night. Hutchinson's goal was her second of the season. Kaitlyn Savage and Melanie Raimo split the shutout, which gave FIU a two-win weekend and a 2-2 record.

August 28, 2011

Football, Futbol, Futball Femenino, SNL

Made Sunday morning football practice with colada and orange juice in hand, Froot Loops down the gullet.

For those wondering about numbers, neither James Louis nor Daquan Hargrett has been assigned digits yet.

Defensive tackle Jason Fitch, who sprained a knee in the first scrimmage, is back at full practice as are wide receiver Mike Jean-Louis and offensive lineman Ceedrick Davis. Wide receiver Rockey Vann still is limited, but there's still a chance he plays Thursday against North Texas. He'll run with the first and second team Monday. Defensive back Demarkus Perkins had a stinger last week, but did contact drills Sunday. Coach Mario Cristobal said Perkins has lost some weight and improved his conditioning from two weeks ago.


The men's soccer team (1-0) hosts FAU tonight at 7. The Golden Panthers beat Earth-Prime's Owlmen 2-0 last year. 


While I was knocking out a burger (no cheese), rice and a pitcher of sangria at Van Dyke, the women's soccer team was knocking out their first win of the season, 1-0 over Akron. Kim Lopez scored in the 44th minute and FIU so dominated possession and play, keeper Kaitlyn Savage had to make only one save on Akron's paltry three shots at goal.

After taking the sabbath to rest and watch video, 1-2 FIU will try to even its record Monday at 7:30 p.m. against Florida Tech, a Division II Final Four team last season.


At the Cal Molten Classic, FIU's volleyball team took the court against No. 3 and tournament host Cal around the time East Coasters would be watching their local news and prepping for Saturday Night Live. Or, Saturday, watching The Weather Channel and prepping for Irene. The volleyball team might've still been on East Coast time, but Cal was right on time, dumping FIU 25-23, 25-16, 25-15 i the second match of the day for each. Sabrina Gonzalez had nine kills and four blocks. Marija Prsa had eight kills and Andrea Lakovic had seven. Chanel Araujo had 12 digs.

Earlier Saturday, FIU got rid of UCal-Riverside 25-20, 25-15, 25-20 with Prsa and Jovana Bjelica blasting 14 kills each and Bjelica doing it defensively, too, with 10 digs. Araujo led the team with 15 digs and Lakovic totaled seven blocks.

Gonzalez and Renele Forde were named to the All-Tournament Team.

August 26, 2011

Officially, James Louis at FIU & practicing

As more than one FIU student knows after today, Ohio State transfer wide receiver James Louis officially is enrolled and attending classes. He's practiced with the team Friday evening as did West Virginia transfer running back Daquan Hargrett.

Both Louis and Hargrett each will file for a hardship exception waiver. If those exceptions are granted by the NCAA, they would allow Louis, who redshirted last season at Ohio State and Hargrett to play this season instead of sit out, as per normal transfer rules.

The decision on those waivers could take a few weeks.

MEN'S SOCCER Senior Lucas De Croce and junior Sebastian Frings scored to give FIU a season-opening 2-0 win against Nova Southeastern Friday night. VOLLYBALL FIU spanked Fairfield 25-20, 25-16, 25-19 in its season opener Friday night.

Transfering schools & conferences; volleyball, men's soccer start Friday

 James Louis went from wide receiver to FIU’s version of Elvis Thursday. Sightings of Louis around the Modesto Madique Campus dotted message boards and Twitter, leading to rejoicing that he was enrolled.

While Louis probably was around Camp Mitch, I wasn’t able to confirm his enrollment Thursday. Not that it won’t happen, not that it won’t happen soon, just that it hadn’t happened yet. 

The football team had Thursday off and will have a walk-through Friday afternoon.


Texas A&M sent the Big 12 a letter saying, basically, it wants to see other conferences. Houston, of Conference USA, is considered one of the favorites for replacement should A&M bolt. SMU tells The Dallas Morning News that it wants to leave Conference USA, preferably for the Big 12.

Watch these developments and anything that involves an opening in Conference USA.  That’s the next landing spot for FIU, their Queens house as they try to George Jefferson up to the Big East Side someday.


FIU’s already in Conference USA for men’s soccer, which opens its season with 7 p.m. home games Friday against Nova Southeastern and Sunday against FAU. This year, completely out from under scholarship limitations for the first time since 2007, they pulled in a recruiting class of that had head coach Munga Eketebi smiling when I ran into him on campus earlier this week.

The nine freshmen include two players from Iceland, forward Andri Alexandersson and midfielder Arnthor Kristinsson; two goalkeepers, Belen Prep graduate Daniel Mion and Covington (Wa.) Kentwood High graduate Rodney Greiling; German forward Quintin Albrecht; forward Colby Burdette from Boca Raton High; midfielder Esteban Castro from Miami Ferguson High; forward Roberto De Sousa from Davie Nova High; and forward Arley Londono Jr. from Miami American High.

(If that last name sounds familiar, perhaps you’ve heard Arley Londono Sr. on Gol TV as a play-by-play announcer. If you go way back, he sealed a unique place in South Florida sports history by being part of the Florida Panthers Spanish-language radio team that called all the Panthers home games and a few road games.)

The attempted talent injection’s working thus far. Nicolas Rodriguez-Fraile (six goals, two assists) led the team in scoring last year as a freshman despite playing in only 10 of the 17 games and starting only one. Junior defender Anthony Hobbs is FIU’s lone preseason all-conference pick and by late in the season, he could be one of the few upperclassmen still holding down a starting spot.


(One of several team photos from their Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=238485542862699&set=a.140623319315589.26356.139604556084132&type=1&theater

The team leaders on the group that flew out to Berkeley to open their season at the Cal Moten Classic believe they already have more of an actual team than the bunch that went 20-11 last season and lost in the semi finals of the Sun Belt tournament.

“I feel like there was a lot of frustration because a lot of the girls didn’t know each other,” senior Sabrina Gonzalez said. “We were in different zones. There were six different players instead of playing as one team. I feel like this year, we were able to get to know each other a little more in the summer and we prepared a lot better than we did last year.”

Head coach Danijela Tomic said bluntly, “We were a dysfunctional team."

When it was pointed out that dysfunctional team still managed a pretty good record, Tomic said, “We had a decent season. But we set such a high standard for ourselves. In 2009, we were 32-4. It’s hard to top that.

 “That team never really clicked,” she continued. “We were just up and down. This year, it seems like everybody’s on the same page. I think we as coaches, I as a coach, did a better job of explaining the expectations and what FIU volleyball is all about during the recruiting process.”

Of the 2010 recruiting class, only redshirt freshman Jessica Egan and sophomore Una Trkulja remain. Gonzalez said she believes team leaders such as she, Andrea Lakovic and Renele Forde have already established a tone for the freshmen.

“From the beginning, we set some goals for what we need from the newcomers,” Lakovic said. “Last year, we were kind of easy on them. I don’t want to say, (they were) not working hard. But we kind of went easy on them: ‘they need to adjust to a new school, new environment…’ This year, we were a little bit tougher. They need to know why they’re here. We set some standards they need to know since the first day how we want them to work and adapt to our team.”

They’re definitely bigger. With All-American setter Natalia Valentin moving to student coach after her eligibility ran out, FIU’s setters now are Forde, 6-3, and Egan, 6-2. While that alters the setter-hitter timing, it’s also an lengthening that should improve FIU’s defense.

 “We needed to become a better blocking team, a better defensive team. When you have a big block in front, it’s easier to play defense behind that block,” Tomic said. “Our middle blockers, Sabrina and Andrea, they’re small for middles, but Sabrina’s in the best shape of her life, she’s jumping very high. Andrea’s also playing at a high level. Sylvia (Carli), our freshman, is 6-3. She’s going to be a big help. Right now, she’s a better blocker, which we need, than a hitter.

“Our defensive specialists, Carolyn Fouts, a walk-on freshman from Gainesville (Buchholz High), I think she pushed Chanel Araujo, a junior, to play at a higher level. Rachel Fernandez, another a walk-on from Miami (Westminster Christian), she’s playing extremely well defensively.”

One of this year’s team goals is going undefeated at home. That’s logical. For one thing, FIU lost only two at home in 2008, then one in 2009 and 2010 each. Secondly, FIU hosts this year’s Sun Belt Conference tournament, Nov. 17-19.

“There is one thing our seniors have not accomplished in their four years and I haven’t accomplished as a coach and that’s winning the Sun Belt championship,” Tomic said. “We need to get over that, I think, mental hurdle of winning the Sun Belt tournament.”

This year’s team theme, as set by Tomic, is Crossing The Line, the title of a Sam Parker book about making the choices in peers, work ethic and commitment to cross the line between good and great. By the time the Sun Belt tournament comes around, we’ll know whether FIU’s crossed the line going forward or backwards.

August 24, 2011

Wednesday football practice, volleyball poll, new baseball coach

Notes from Wednesday's football practice in the sun, then rain, erstwhile chewy heat that reminded coach Mario Cristobal of a practice while he played for Amsterdam in the World League of American Football:

"One day it was scorching out there," Cristobal said. "Then it started raining, then it started snowing."

Wide receiver Rockey Vann continued in non-contact work, and Cristobal said Vann, who he was worried about missing half or even the whole season, could be back in a week and a half. Offensive lineman Ceedrick Davis participated in practice Tuesday and Wednesday. They're easing him back in after he's missed time with a back problem.

During the hitch/wide receiver screen blocking drills, wide receiver Glenn Coleman had the most impressive block, taking his cornerback into the pursuit path of the other corner then dumping him. Sam Miller had the best rep among the defensive backs, eluding his block so quickly, he jumped the route.

Practice began with the "board drill" or "hamburger drill." I think the offense won overall because running back Robert Boswell got semi-carried out of the end zone by several celebratory offensive players like Leon Taylor at the end of the last Playmakers game.

I asked about defensive end Tourek Williams last few days of practice. I had the sense that , last week, Paul Crawford might've pulled ahead of Williams, of whom the coaching stafff expects a great deal. Cristobal complimented Williams last few days, then went on to talk about the entire defensive end rotation.

"Tourek, Paul (Crawford), Greg Hickman, James Jones and the two young cats we've brought in, Denzel Perine and Giovani Francois, we're really trying to find out what's the best combination when we're facing certain personnel groups," he said. "So, we're mixing and matching those guys, so they can play both defensive end positions without a hiccup."

Long snapper Brandon Taylor, the freshman transfer from LSU, has begun practicing with the team. Keep your money on Mitch McCluggage as the long snapper.


As anticipated for the last couple of weeks, the baseball team hired Drew French, who has spendt the last four years at Alabama, as pitching coach. French had been at Bama four years.


FIU was picked to finish third in the Sun Belt's East Division behind conference powers Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky, in the preseason coaches' poll. Andrea Lakovic and Jovana Bjelica were named to the preseason All-Sun Belt team. The volleyball season opens Friday against Fairfield in the Cal Molten Classic at Berkeley. I'll have a longer preseason post on the volleyball team tomorrow.

Sorry about a no-post day yesterday. Even though it was technically my day off, I was cranking up a late night blog when listening to my visiting mother yammer about people and relatives I don't know slowed me down. The fatigue I've been outrunning for three weeks like I'm in the Mod Squad opening credits caught me. Sack, loss of blog.


FIU athletes, I'm only going to write this once: when you're on Twitter, especially if you have FIU in your handle, you're representing yourself, your team, your university, your mother, father, sisters, brothers, your whole family and your friends. You might want to remember that.

Speaking of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers....


August 22, 2011

James at 19. Or 20

Here's what I'm hearing on former Delray Beach Atlantic wide receiver James Louis, who is transferring from Ohio State:

Louis has chosen FIU as his landing spot. All bureaucratic hurdles have not been cleared. Like Babu's citizenship, the wheels are in motion.


When will he be able to play? Normal NCAA transfer rules would say Louis would have to sit out a year. That would leave him three years on his five year clock after redshirting last year.

But once the talk began about Louis transferring, the reason that kept popping up in reports was to be closer to home because of family issues, not because of his disappointing spring following a redshirt season. Several players in similar circumstances -- or, rather, claiming similar circumstances -- have applied for an exception to the transfer year sit down under the NCAA's hardship rule. If Louis files a hardship waiver and the NCAA approves it, he can be immediately eligible.

What kind of football shape would he be in at the start of the season without an organized training camp? Not the best. But that's something that can be remedied by midseason.





All (Dade, American) kinds of additions for football

This time of year, FIU's updating its roster like it's a bingo card at the Miccosukee joint.

The message boards and Twitter have been warm over the last 24 hours with the possibility that former Delray Beach Atlantic High All-American wide receiver James Louis, who redshirted last year at Ohio State, will announce today that he's transferring to FIU. It's not a lock -- Louis is also considering UM -- but FIU's the favorite.

Sources near the Modesto "Mitch" Madique Campus (Camp Mitch) tell The Herald that not only is Louis likely, but definitely joining the team will be running back Daquan Hargrett, a Miami Northwestern High graduate who transferred from West Virginia and freshman long-snapper Brandon Taylor.

Hargrett was a First Team All-Dade back at The West, which won the 2007 Class 6A state championship (and mythical national championship) and was 2008 6A state runner-up during his last two years. Hargrett's height is listed anywhere from 5-6 to 5-10. Let's take off the high end, subtract another inch or two to account for the "short man's add" and say 5-7 or 5-8. He was considered perhaps the fastest back at West Virginia. Still, he couldn't climb the depth chart there, so, heading into his redshirt sophomore season, transferred out. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, in announcing Hargrett's departure from West Virginia after a recent practice, reportedly said, "He's a good kid, he's done everything we've asked him to."

Taylor seems to have a capricious heart. He committed to Kentucky, then switched to LSU. He's from Slidell (La.) Northshore High.

And in futbol news, the women's soccer team opened the season 0-2, following their heartbreaking season opening 2-1 loss at Stetson with a 2-0 home loss to No. 9 Florida Sunday night.

Let's go to the videotape! (but put on the mute -- I don't vouch for the lyrics in the music used in these highlights, mainly because I can't understand them)



Now, take off the mute...originally written by Stevie for guitar great Jeff Beck.



August 21, 2011

Saturday Morning Fever & Saturday Evening Live (w/UM thoughts)

The football team did its 8 a.m. thing again Saturday. Storms herded them under the bleachers for a good chunk of practice, during which time practice turned into WalkThrough Fest '11. In the No Touchee jerseys, but accessorized with pads were running back Torrence Seymour and defensive back Sam Gervais. Wearing No Touchees and no pads were wide receivers Rockey Vann and Mike Jean-Louis; defensive linemen Jason Fitch and Andrew Mattox, offensive linemen Ceedrick Davis and James Wiggins; and safety Cain Eliot. 

Once the Michael Schumacher weather cleared, the men's soccer team won its preseason game with Barry, 2-1, Saturday morning.

Friday night, former FIU wide receiver Greg Ellingson caught both passes thrown his way Friday night for Jacksonville against Atlanta, for a 3-yard gain and a 20-yard gain. The latter, from Luke McCown, converted a third and 16 from the Jaguars' 4 with 2:34 left and allowed Jacksonville to run out the clock on a 15-13 win. Yeah, big deal on the W -- heck, it's preseason, so, it's not even a W, but a w -- but preseason's the one time coaches like to see the parts and construction more than the final building. But if Ellingson's catching passes from the third-string quarterback, he's going to need some injuries or special teams flashes to make the Jags' roster.

OK, settling in with some coffee (Senseo, 10% Kona Blend, double pod), Coca-Cola, Publix Popcorn Shrimp and the Jazz channel on the dish to discuss "What Does Nevin Shapiro Mean to FIU?"

1. Will it help FIU if the University of Miami football program gets an NCAA death penalty? -- Would it help Winn-Dixie if Publix went out of business for two years? That's about as likely to happen, however, as the NCAA Wormer's dropping the big one. The damage of the punishment at SMU in the 1980s exceeded the damage of the violations (and those violations ran deep, wide and high). Beyond ruining SMU's program until the roster was filled with players born when the penalties were handed down, it started the funeral march for the Southwest Conference. Nobody's too keen on seeing anything close to that collateral damage again.

The NCAA, in a bizarre way, actually knows Miami’s good for business. I know high schools that bring more fans on the road. The University of Miami alumni base? Relatively puny.   

But UM draws a national, visceral reaction. The rest of the Pac-10 hates USC. Michigan and those of us who grew up in other parts of Big Ten country during the Big Two, Little Eight era despise Ohio State. Even in the early 2000s, with a team of solid citizens who destroyed with style but without swagger, college football fans around the nation loved or loved to hate UM. That 1983-94 era still rings loudly to Generation X and older. The NCAA and member schools don’t care whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em as long as you’re watchin’ ‘em. Neutrality sucks when it comes to TV ratings.

So, no death penalty is coming, no matter how the NCAA puffs and postures.

2. Will FIU benefit after the NCAA levies whatever sanctions it does on UM?  DUH!

3. Well, how much will FIU benefit? Much less if they don’t build on last year’s momentum.

Most college-affiliated football games get won in recruiting. Some kids aren’t coming to Camp Mitch unless it’s the only scholarship offer they get. And many five-star prospects get starry-eyed only over programs that get annual visits from College Football GameDay and make annual visits to BCS bowls. Just because the alpha male letterman gets his car and allowance taken away doesn’t automatically mean the Chess Club president’s next in line for the homeroom hottie they both want.

But this is South Florida, home of the most parochial kids I’ve seen outside of New York (most worldly people in America…as long as they don’t cross the Hudson). I don’t know what it is. It used to be cultural, especially among Cuban-Americans and the black community. But whether it’s weather, comfort with community mindset or lack of educational preparation, too many South Florida kids don’t travel well. So many boomeranged back home over the years, it prompted activist Wesley Frater to start programs to teach our young men how to hack it in schools outside this tip of the country. Frater’s still doing those programs, 21 years later.

Anyway, there are going to be good recruits from down here who have no desire to venture more than a bus transfer from their neighborhood. And if “The U” runs out of scholarships and those young men see FIU sending players to the NFL, suddenly FIU’s looking like a viable option. Even more so if FIU stays a winner, doubly so if they stay a winner and move to a better conference.

As for recruiting outside South Florida, the Shapiro tales don’t necessarily help FIU across the board. They fit our national image -- glamorous, sexy, shady -- but parents tend to look askance at those kinds of parties and those kinds of slimy characters. It’s one thing to envision your son Edwin doing Red Bull and vodka shots at a frat party in Tuscaloosa. It’s another to envision Edwin being treated like the pole by a stripper during a boat party on the Intercoastal. “Hey, Edwin, I hear Iowa City can be a happening place…”

Unless a parent realizes most big time programs have at least one Nevin Shapiro hanging around, this is a minus for FIU.

More than one FIU sports coach has lamented over the years, sometimes, it’s easier to recruit outside South Florida than here. UM’s not the only school that can use South Beach and The Grove for recruiting. Again, all it takes is a few more NFL products from FIU. Coaches talk education and good citizenship to the media and some parents. To the recruits and the parents who can be seduced by dreams, they talk NFL. It’s why the college-affiliated football talent now is as spread as the offensive schemes. Kids have started to realize the NFL can find you anywhere, but you have to be on the field to get their notice.

Once your recruiting improves for a few years, it becomes cyclical. The same goes for recruiting on the slide.

UM’s already got a recruiting problem that’s also been faced by despised rival Notre Dame: fading tradition. The last cool UM superteam was the 2002 bunch that won the national championship against Ohio State. Or, rather, they did for the several seconds between that incomplete fourth down Ohio State pass and that iffy, incredibly late pass interference flag. To someone turning 18 or 19 in 2012, that’s the dark ages, back when people still bought CDs. And names like Craig Erickson, Melvin Bratton, Michael Barrow, the Blades Brothers, Jerome Brown, Randall Hill? Nevermind. Prehistoric.

The days the Orange Bowl rocked and roared recede into the past with increasing speed. The Orange Bowl’s not even there anymore to bring a see-and-remember as a kid drives by with his parents. UM plays in the Dolphins home, a place increasingly associated with football disappointment for South Florida. As it is, the Hurricanes fill their rented home only if Florida State or Florida visits. Otherwise, the crowd count is “blah.” Imagine what the crowds will be like with another year outside the national elite, then probably probation spinning them out for another few years.

What’ll be the difference in atmosphere between 25,000 in a 75,000-seat stadium and 18,000 in a 20,000-seat stadium? Neither is 88,000 in The Swamp, but only one of them looks pathetic.

As far as media attention, it takes even longer for media mindsets to change than fan mindsets. That won’t change while UM’s on probation.

I’m sure by focusing on recruiting I’ve forgotten some of the other aspects of this case that’ll touch FIU. Remind me and perhaps we’ll discuss. To quote Weekend Update, good night and have a pleasant tomorrow…



August 19, 2011

Stetson steals one from FIU, 2-1, in women's soccer

Alexis Hermosa scored her second goal of the match with 1:37 remaining to give Stetson a 2-1 win over FIU in the season opener for both women's soccer teams.

As described by FIU coach Thomas Chestnutt by phone from DeLand, Hermosa had the ball in the area, then saw her pass blocked. But the ball came right back to her and she buried the game-winner. Hermosa had tied the game on a penalty kick in the 64th minute.

FIU outshot Stetson 22-8, had a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks and, much of the match, a 1-0 lead on a Kelly Hutchinson goal in the fifth minute.

"The team did some very good things that created a couple of opportunities for ourselves," Chestnutt said. "We just didn't finish. If we finish a couple of those chances, especially in the first half, it doesn't come down to the end."

FIU's home opener is Sunday night, 7 p.m. against No. 9 Florida.

The men's soccer team has a preseason game at home against Barry Saturday morning at 10 a.m.


One More on ESPN3, One More Night

A couple of football notes:

ESPN3, ESPN's online streaming tentacle, has picked up the Sept. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette visit to FIU, which means a) one more night game, 6 p.m. and b) get your computer cleaned and beef up your connection speeds because The Hat Trick loves FIU. Or, rather, the Bristol Boys love to put FIU on The Hat Trick.

ESPN3 did the 2011 baseball season opener that saw the end of Garret Wittels hit streak. Now, it'll have four of the first four FIU games: Sept. 1 season opener against North Texas, Sept. 17 against Central Florida, Sept. 24, and Oct. 1 agianst Duke. There's still the possibility of any of the last three games -- Nov. 12 against FAU, Nov. 19 at Louisiana-Monroe and Nov. 26 at Middle Tennessee State -- could wind up on some form of broadcast.

Thursday night, Davison Colimon, a defensive back and ace hurdler in the 110 highs at Riviera Beach Suncoast being chased by several schools, Tweeted "FSU need to tightin (sic) up and offer." A follower asked, "If you had to choose one of your offers right now, where would you go?" Colimon answered, "Tie between SMU and FIU."


Check back here tonight for results from women's soccer's season opener at Stetson.

August 18, 2011

Women's soccer opens season Friday; P Chris Ayers commits.

After 17 practices in 13 days, FIU football coach Mario Cristobal decided to give his guys the day off. First, he gave them a schedule for a long day of practice, then surprised them by loading them onto two buses and taking them over to South Beach for fun and frolic. They won't be on the field Friday, either, instead going for film study and off-the-field conditioning.

As it was, the football team ranked only No. 3 among large muscular groups on the beach behind South Beach Residents Between Workouts and the jellyfish. See the story on http://www.miamiherald.com on how South Beach has become Jellyfish Fields lately. Photos by Peter Andrew Bosch.

Also somewhere on the sand Thursday morning was FIU's women's soccer team, engaging in a little team bonding before boarding the bus to DeLand. That's where they'll open the season against Stetson and Stetson's coach, former FIU player Julie Orlowski.

Often, when a coach says “team unity” is his or her team’s greatest strength, you can smell trouble at the door. An intangible as your lead superpower, especially when it’s the sports team version of “he’s a nice guy” or “she’s got a great personality?”

Usually, I can almost hear a Margo Channing-like voice murmuring, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy season.”

Not the case with the women’s soccer team, where head coach Thomas Chestnutt unhesitatingly lists “team unity and willingness to work for one another” as their No. 1 asset and the Sun Belt coaches expect FIU to be a major player in the league. They voted FIU the conference’s second best team in the preseason poll and Chelsea Leiva as preseason Player of the Year.

Besides, they really are a cohesive bunch, at least off the field, i.e., even by the standards of college athletes, there’s a heavy amount of Twitter camaraderie among the players.

“We pretty much spend 24 hours together all the time,” sophomore midfielder Nicole DiPerna said. “We do a lot of team building activities.”

They’ll find out about themselves quickly. After the opener, they come home to face No. 9 Florida on Sunday. They host Akron Aug. 27 before the late-add Aug. 29 game against Florida Tech, a Division II Final Four team last year.

Check back here Friday night for results from upstate. Though I’ll be part of The Herald army at the Dolphins preseason game, I’ll try to get the score and some details up here as soon as possible.

Compared to last year, “I think we’re looking for consistency in our performance and a higher level of aggression in our play overall,” Chestnutt said.”We’re more technical than we’ve ever been, fitter than we’ve ever been. Now, it’s about consistency in performance. Also, just being more aggressive all over the field…Always looking to unbalance the other team and be able to attack the goal. Defensively, being aggressive to win the ball back as soon as the chance shows itself.”

To soccer fans of my ilk, it’s entertaining to watch that high pressure style for 90 minutes. It’s exhausting to face it and to play it. So, Chestnutt better be right about the conditioning.

“As a whole, we came in way better shape,” said senior midfielder Victoria Miliucci, who was voted team captain. “Expectations were higher in the summer leading into preseason, so everyone takes it way more seriously.

“I think it started last year, when her freshman class came in in really good shape,” she said, pointing at DiPerna. “It just goes through the whole team. Everyone’s competitive with each other. Nobody wants to be the one not pulling their weight.”

As for the technical improvement, Miliucci points to what Chestnutt calls “the strongest recruiting class” he’s had at FIU. Eight freshmen are on the roster.

“The new players who came in definitely have a lot of technical skill, individually,” Miliucci said. “We have a lot more players on the field that are really good with their feet, where before maybe we had a couple.”

Chestnutt also lauds Miliucci’s class.

“This class is the class that’s been through it for four years with me," he said. "Six to eight of them started as freshmen. They’ve been a big part of where this team has been. They’ve continued to bring it in.”

Now, it’s time to see what they and their younger teammates can bring home.

A punter with a highlight video? It's new FIU commit Chris Ayers, out of Hollywood South Broward.  

Off to finish my preseason football section stuff. Wish me caffeine.


Blogging After Dark: Football, Soccer, Baseball

Got the caffeine to push me through another hour or two, got the sugar rush from apple streudel, got the Brazilian club jazz going as my rhythm section, got a winning Lotto ticket ($5) so let's start covering more ground than grass with...


Mario Cristobal said Tuesday night's full contact scrimmage was a draw. Offense galloped through the first scrimmage, nine days ago; defense gangsta slapped around the offense Friday night and, as described by Cristobal (it was a closed practice scrimmage), Tuesday night was a microcosm of the first two scrimmages combined.

"Even means winning games, when your team can beat each other each down." defensive end Gregory Hickman said. "Hopefully, we'll be pretty good." Hickman quickly corrected himself, "not pretty good. Really good. Better than last year."

Player on the rise for now: defensive end Paul Crawford. The 6-8 sophomore apparently had a second consecutive strong scrimmage and looked impressive during the open part of Wednesday night's practice.  Defensive coaches love length and Crawford's all length, but he's also got speed. In the practice closing wind sprints, Crawford led the way in his group, seemingly almost eased up.

After the last of those wind sprints, new arriving cornerback DeMarkus Perkins fell to one knee and took his helmet off. He didn't know how many there were for the rest of the team, but he'd made up his mind this was his last.

Cornerback Chuck Grace walked over and in an encouraging tone, said, "Come on, Perk. We've got to get in shape."

Perkins said, "I can't go, man. I can't go for real." The 5-9 Grace ignored Perkins, helped the latter to a standing slump and supported him as they moved back toward the post-practice coach's speech.

Cristobal, after saying Perkins made a tackle on his first kickoff coverage during the scrimmage, admitted as far as Perkins conditioning, "He wasn't ready. Six plays, he was over here fertilizing the, ah, artificial turf. He's got a ways to go."

It should be said, though, in hitch pass blocking drills, Perkins was one of the few defensive backs who consistently shed his blocker and made the play on the wide receiver attempting to fly past. On the other side, wide receiver Jairus Williams was making defensive back pancakes like his middle name was "Bisquick." until Jonathan Cyprien stepped in to prevent the drill from turning into Williams' personal IHOP.

Rivals.com is reporting that South Broward punter Chris Ayers has committed to FIU for 2012. We'll try to get that confirmed.

(Apparently, not enough caffeine -- just made a dumb mistake that cost me the next section. Take two...)

The women's soccer advance on the first game will appear on this blog Thursday night or Friday morning. The Sun Belt coaches picked Chelsea Leiva as their preseason Player of the Year and FIU as the No. 2 team in the conference behind the University of Denver. Though I'll be part of The Herald army at the Dolphins preseason game Friday night against the visiting Cam Newtons, check the blog Friday night for results and coaches comments on the Stetson game.


The baseball team announced its 2012 recruiting class late Wednesday afternoon:

C Aramis Garcia, 6-2, 200, R/R out of Pines Charter in Pembroke Pines. He was a Herald First Team All-Broward pick and was a .414 hitter in his high school career with 15 home runs. But it was his defensive quickness that's considered major league level. The Cardinals drafted him in the 20th round in June.

SS Julius Gaines, 6-0, 160, R/R Locust Grove (Ga) Luella. FIU recruiting coordinator Frank Damas calls Gaines, ranked among Baseball America's top 100 high school players mainly on his defensive skills, "the most athletic recruit we have."

P Jose Lazaro, 6-3, 180, R/R North Broward Prep. The Yankees took Lazaro in the 28th round in June. He had 101 strikeouts in 58.1 innings as a senior as he compiled a 2.52 ERA and 7-0 record. He brings a 4.3 GPA, too, so he'll surely help the team average in that regard.

P John Costa, 6-2, 200, R/R  West Palm Beach Summit Christian. The Class 3A-2A-1A State Player of the Year went 9-1 with a 2.52 ERA and struck out 97 in 69.1 innings.

OF Nathan Burns, 6-4, 220, L/L Howard College. Burns hit .419 with 12 homers and stole 32 bases (nice to see that coming back into style).

INF Adam Kirsch, 6-0, 200, R/R North Central Texas College. In a statement, Damas calls Kirsch "the best pure hitter that we are bringing in this year." Kirsch is coming off a .466 season with 12 homers, 12 stolen bases.

UTL Oscar Aguirre, 6-2, 200, S/B Homestead South Dade. I admire anyone who is truly ambidextrous as Aguirre is.

OF Roche Woodard, 5-9, 170, R/R Tampa Hillsborough. A 5A FACA All-State selection, Woodard hit .351 with four home runs and 12 stolen bases.

P Anthony Coletti, 6-1, 175, L/L Hollywood South Broward by way of Palm Beach College. Coletti was a reliever at PBC. Damas claimed in the statement that his fastball is between 89-92 mph.

OK, it's 2  a.m. Time to put it down. Later today, folks.



August 17, 2011

So Happy Together -- FIU extends Turtle Thomas' deal

FIU has given baseball coach Henry "Turtle" Thomas a new five-year deal that'll run out after the 2016 season. Thomas was working on a contract that ran out after the 2014 season.

"We're just being proactive," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. "We're trying to keep good coaches and he's done a great job here. I still feel he's the best college baseball coach in America. I think he's going to take us to the College World Series and championships. He knows how to do the whole package."

Garcia lauded Thomas' success on the field (130-104-1, 2010 Sun Belt title, NCAA Regional appearances each of the last two years) and off (the 2011 Academic Progress Report score was 990, the program's highest ever).

By the way, if 2016 sounds familiar, that's also when football coach Mario Cristobal's deal runs out and, as Garcia himself pointed out, his own.

"Somebody could swoop in and pay a buyout and get your coach, but I want to make sure the valuable pieces here stay here as long as possible," he said.

What he didn't say is if all three are still around in 2016 -- an IF the size of the national debt -- this creates a nice situation for them if they choose to act as an informal unit, notwithstanding Garcia being theoretically Cristobal and Thomas' direct superior.

More after this moment from the WABAC machine:


Another newsy tidbit: Garcia also said the school already has sold over 10,000 season tickets for football and has surpassed last year's final number.

Futbol news: an Aug. 29 home game against Florida Tech was added to the FIU women's soccer schedule Monday. That season starts Friday at Stetson, and we'll be giving that team some blog love in the next couple of days.


August 16, 2011

Tuesday practice update & Thomas confirms DeJuan Wright injury

Theoretically, this is a day off. So while I'm working on other things, especially preseason section stuff, The Herald sent our intrepid intern, Matt Forman, out to keep an eye on practice.

Matt observed what's become the usual orange jerseyed crew joined by wide receiver Willis Wright. Safety Justin Halley, held out of practice as a precaution Saturday while he was tested for a concussion, according to head coach Mario Cristobal, was in helmet and shoulder pads but still in Wet Paint orange. Cristobal said he should be cleared in a couple of days.

Young Forman also reports that Cristobal said this evening's closed practice will contain a scrimmage during which they'll "open up the playbook on both sides of the ball, so it's not just about blocking the base stuff and defending against the base stuff." 

As I stopped to get the wife's caffeine (Starbucks iced tea) this morning, FIU XY's basketball coach Isiah Thomas confirmed this morning DeJuan Wright's partial MCL tear, otherwise called a sprained knee. He said Wright should be down four to six weeks.

"We'll take a very conservative approach with it," Thomas said. "He should be ready to go for the first day of practice."

Thomas wasn't entirely sure how it happened, but thought Wright was working out, tweaked the knee, then kept working out on it or worked out again on it.

Oh, and thanks to you blog readers for the cafe suggestions over the past couple of weeks. I didn't know the Latin American Cafe or whatever that place at 107th and Coral Way is called was a 24-hour joint until that last 6 a.m. practice. And I saw the Cafe Bustelo Monday as I was on my way out. From the way I entered, the CB was obscured by the Burger King construction. Such was the rhythm of the day.

For various reasons, Al Green is heavy on my August playlist. Now, this is a family website and some of you might be at work, so I don't feel comfortable linking to Brother Al's version of "I Can't Get Next To You," which I'm sure got banned in some homes for causing instant He'n-And-She'n. So...



Media day video blog

I teamed up with Miami Herald video reporter GiGi Diaz for some media day interviews. GiGi was able to speak with WR T.Y. Hilton, QB Wes Carroll, LT Caylin Hauptmann and S Jonathan Cyprien.

Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton

Quarterback Wesley Carroll

Offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann

Defensive back Jonathan Cyprien

Justin Azpiazu

DeJuan Wright Tweets that he suffered a knee injury

Just as I filed the below football portion of this blog and cut off my computer to plunge into REM sleep, FIU's leading scorer and rebounder last season, DeJuan Wright, tweeted this on his Twitter account, @JustWright14, just after midnight:

"Partial tear in my MCL..." followed by a three-letter acronym usually written in disbelief or anger that translates, loosely, as "what the heck?"

Wright, a 6-3 senior guard from Detroit, averaged a team-high 30.3 minutes per game; 14.5 points; 6.7 rebounds; and 1.7 steals per game last season for the 11-19 Golden Panthers. He also shot a team-high .534 from the field and his .469 shooting percentage from three-point range was the best on the team among those who attempted more than one three-pointer a game.

Now back to the less newsy, more football portion of this blog (not often you'll read that sentence in mid-August)...

This blog should've been done hours ago, while I was awaiting my Bacon Burger at the campus Chili's after somehow failing to find the Subway (which I passed as I left -- I felt like such a freshman). Instead, I surfed the 'net and combed my notes for inspiration and energy. I also wondered how a Media Day with Spanish language media, a Cuban-American head coach who works for a Cuban-American athletic director who just got Captain Cuban-American to be his radio color analyst didn't have cafe cubano.

My failure to caffeine up -- real world sucked up the time I would've used to stop at my favorite place on South Beach -- can be blamed for my lousy questions that didn't often get the players to break from their well-coached repetition of the gospel. But a few nuggets did emerge, aside from the couple I used in the choppy story on leadership already up on http://www.miamiherald.com/sports.

(If you want to read the story, that's your business. But, remember, I just told you it was there. I did not recommend it.)

Women's soccer season starts Friday in DeLand against Stetson.

Cristobal claims as far as camp injuries, "nothing really significant" that should make anyone "miss a game or two." That means either safety Jack Halley's testing came back OK and he doesn't have a concussion or Halley's testing came back saying concussion and Cristobal forgot. Because, on concussions, nobody knows anything about timetables.

T.Y. Hilton said he texted former teammate Anthony Gaitor before the latter's first preseason game, Friday night for Tampa Bay against Kansas City. "Just do you. just like college, but now it's the next level," Hilton said his text read. "You are on a different team with a different jersey. Be the Anthony Gaitor I know you can be."

Gaitor had a sack, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and a pass knocked down. Hilton also was in the text tube with wide receiver Greg Ellingson. Playing for Jacksonville, Ellingson had two passes thrown his way. Neither were completed.

Before talking to us, Hilton spent a fair amount of time with Rick Sanchez, who was present with his two sons. South Westside-20110815-00083

Asking a few pass catchers what they noticed different about Wesley Carroll this year, tight end Colt Anderson said, "Definitely see more confidence in him than last year. More leadership." Wide receiver Willis Wright added quietly, "A lot more pride." Interesting addendum...

Cristobal on Tourek Williams: "When he's on, when he's in shape, he's as good as any defensive player in the conference."

Cristobal said he wanted the offense to be a 50 percent split between run and pass. Coaches love to say that, but it always comes down to "what don't you defend well?" and "How well do we do what we do?" If you run and pass well, then it's up to the defense what you do. If the last run a school stopped was a moonshine run, pound the rock. If the defensive backs look like Urkel and Woody Allen, spend the day in the air. 

Fading to black. I'm out. We'll try to be better tomorrow.



August 14, 2011

Demarkus Perkins, a late add...

He's a late addition to the FIU roster and was supposed to be a late addition to yesterday's blog post. But I got wrapped up in doing a few other real world things and, frankly, conked out before I could blog about Demarkus Perkins.

But, first, a late add to tonight's blog from the FIU soccer world. The men's soccer team won its preseason opener against Broward College 4-1. They'll host Barry next Saturday in their second preseason game. Also, last year's women's soccer captain, defender April Perry, was named to the All-Sunshine Conference team of the Women's Premier Soccer League, a summer league focused on "the development of highly competitive amateur women's soccer teams."

Perkins, a Bradenton Southeast High and Highland (Kan.) Community College product, was all set to go to Arizona State. There's even a bio on the official football team website with a quote about how it was the only place for him. Then, he wound up at FIU. I'll try to talk to him in the next few days about why the shift. The impression out in the desert was that Perkins wanted to be closer to home, not an uncommon thing for many young men, but even more common among recruits from this state.

Here's Perkins' highlight video. There was no practice today, so, no news so far.

And thanks for the compliments in the comments. Really. I hope you feel the same way when I'm the messenger of bad news or school stupidity (and that'll happen. I'm covering a Division I school, not that high school team from Plesantville.) I also hope you feel this is a place you can come for information and analysis delivered in a fun manner.

Back to work on preseason section stuff while watching ESPN's "Playmakers." Catch you on the morrow...


August 13, 2011

Playing dominoes in West Miami-Dade...

There's not much from Saturday morning's practice to report other than the plethora of orange no-contact jerseys.

Among those who weren't hurt before Friday's scrimmage, safety Cain Elliot was still on crutches, of course, with a left ankle sprained Friday; Safety Justin Halley, who had an interception in the scrimmage, took a shot to the head and sat out Saturday's practice; wide receiver Mike Jean-Louis still couldn't seem to bend his left leg, on which the thigh was tightly wrapped; defensive lineman Andrew Mattox had a left thigh wrapped; defensive tackle Isame Faciane also was on the sidelines.

Butch Davis dropped by again with AD Pete Garcia. Mario Cristobal started coaching as a graduate assistant under Davis at the University of Miami. They exchanged much friendly yakkety-yak after practice, along with quarterbacks Wesley Carroll and Jake Medlock.

"Certainly so many things from his blueprint we have applied here," Cristobal said. "Obviously, a person I'm very grateful to and thankful for. It's awesome to see him. He's as good as it gets." 

Davis' presence and the way he recruited South Florida while at the University of Miami brings up the irresistable question, what if FIU has an eight-win or better season? Cristobal's contract buyout isn't so onerous as to keep a big-time school serious about him -- or, rather, that school's boosters -- from ponying up the $453,000 emancipation fee. There's something boosters and money can't buy, however.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Cristobals have two very young children, Daddy Cristobal puts in the marathon days of most college coaches (paranoid control freaks by nature) and Mama Cristobal's very active in the community. For such parents, the extended family support system can be a serious factor in deciding whether or not the grass is greener elsewhere, even if there's more of the long green involved. Yeah, money can buy you a parent support system of nannies, but not everybody's comfortable with that. You can build a parent support system of trusted friends. But, there really isn't anything like having the grandparents who love to spoil the kids, the aunts and uncles who'll turn a mall trip into as much fun as an afternoon at Disney or the cousins who are like siblings. That's raising the kids and, when we're talking coaches, the wife's doing the lion's share of that.

I'm not saying they'll never go anywhere because of that. I'm saying don't discount it as having weight. Current Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, an NFL coach who was raised the son of longtime NFL coach Dick Nolan, as quoted by John Feinstein's "Next Man Up:"

"I tell young coaches that they better be sure when they take a new job that their wife can be happy. See, the coaches have it easy. We get someplace and we're spending all our time doing what we love: coaching...We're not the ones who have to find new schools and new doctors and a new place to shop and send out change-of-address stuff and get phones hooked up. Your wife is doing all the work, so you better be sure she's comfortable with whereever you're going, because if she's not, everyone is going to be miserable."

Ye who have had to live with an unhappy wife know whereof he speaks.

If Cristobal does go, nothing that happened at North Carolina would deter FIU from hiring Davis, whose career surely will restart somewhere in a couple of years. FIU would be a much more inviting place to Davis if it were in a better conference.

And that leads us to the dominoes game.

Texas A&M's trying to move from the Big 12 (which isn't 12 anymore) to the Southeastern Conference. As one college football suit said Friday, "they'll need a partner." The early reports had Florida State, Clemson and Missouri all making the move to the SEC with the Aggies. Outside of A&M, everybody is playing the denial game like those guys who take the lie detector tests on The Maury Show. Some of them are telling the truth, but somebody's lying. Let's say A&M heads for the SEC with Florida State, a strong football-good enough basketball school that's in SEC country more than ACC country.

If it's FSU and/or Clemson, the ACC will start looking for another school. The ACC actually cares about academics, so they're not just going to grab any revenue sport powerhouse or big TV market school feeling like they need to make a move. They might go Big East courting (UConn? Rutgers?).

If the Big East gets nicked as the dominoes fall, don't expect FIU to get a "How do you do?" from that conference. FIU Stadium needs to be enclosed. Going on experience gained by watching 21 years of venue construction in South Florida, I'd put that project at 18 months from now. For the Big East, it probably needs to be enlarged with a second deck. FIU's athletic department has other beefing up and straightening up to do before thinking Big East. 

The Big 12's already going to lose A&M. They lost Nebraska. Oklahoma and Texas can hold that conference together. If they do, Houston's already being talked about as a strong possibility for replacing A&M. I think Texas and their $300 million Longhorn Network that they can't take with them to the Pac-10 or Big Ten will start thinking about life as an independent.

Houston's in Conference USA. So is Central Florida, which the Big East might want for the Orlando market if it goes hunting for a replacement school.

If you've got to replace one or two big schools, the No. 10 and/or No. 19 TV market, who do you do it with? With another big enrollment school that gets the vast majority of its students from an area that combines two TV markets (Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce) into a top 10 market.

That's when the Conference USA folks call the Mitch Madique Campus.


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