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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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