Time for FIU to get its house in order. Texas A&M's waiting to join the SEC harem, the Pac 12's talking with other schools and holes will be created that conferences will want to fill.
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said today after this football season, FIU Stadium's north side bleachers will be demolished and replaced by seating that fully encloses the stadium. The project will begin No. 13, the day after FIU's final regular season game, against FAU, and will be finished in time for the 2012 season. There will be north side suites and second Stadium Club.
The full expansion to 45,000 seats with a second deck is a few years down the road.
"This is needed right now," Garcia said. "We need to finish out our stadium."
"A huge step. The parallels of the program, the facilities, our university are remarkable," head football coach Mario Cristobal said. "Everything is continually going forward at 100 mph. It's a very strong statement by our administration, one that we're very thankful and privileged to have, that football and this university, building that camaraderie, that tradition are very very important to this university community. As a football coach, I'm as fired up as you can imagine. That was the final piece of the stadium for now."
Garcia said of making the stands ring the field completely, "This will be an important recruiting tool for Coach Cristobal," but what he didn't mention was the bigger picture recruiting tool -- making FIU a more attractive school to recruit to a conference as the puzzle squares shift with conference realignment. The actual number of seats won't change much, but the aesthetic and feel will. It'll look like a college stadium instead of a Texas-sized high school stadium.
Though rain ruined the season opener crowd, FIU's got over 11,000 season ticket holders now and the Central Florida game is nearly sold out. That game's expected to be FIU's largest home crowd in the program's 10-season history.
T.Y. Hilton won the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week award after rolling up a national best 283 yards of all-purpose yards against North Texas. Middle Tennessee State's Eric Russell got the Defensive Player of the Week nod after 13 tackles, 11 solo, a sack and an intercetion that he returned 34 yards in MTSU's choke againt (ugh) Purdue. Western Kentucky punter Hendrix Brakefield was the Special Teams Player of the Week. He averaged 44.6 yards per punt on eight punts against Kentucky and had two downed inside Kentucky's 10. FIU's nominees were Hilton, linebacker Winston Fraser (11 tackles) and kicker Jack Griffin. I voted for Hilton, Russell and Brakefield, although I almost went for Fraser over Russell.
The situation with free safety Chuck Grace lingers, as of right now. Some resolution might come in the next two days. Expect Terrance Taylor, who had four tackles Thursday, to play for Grace when Grace's fourth quarter head shot against North Texas costs him game time against Louisville this Friday. Grace will get some punishment from the Sun Belt. They can't give him a pass, not with the pressure on the authorities at all levels of football to address hits to the head and the ever increasing knowlege of the damage those hits can do.
FIU came through Thursday healthy. Louisville quarterback Will Stein's left ankle had him in a walking boot, but he should play Friday. Center Mario Benavides and defensive end B.J. Butler are out. Defensive tackle Brandon Dunn didn't dress in Louisville's 21-9 win against Murray State and is questionable for Friday.
Up in that part of the country, they think of Florida International as one of those schools you see advertising on Judge Judy or Judge Joe Brown. So Eric Crawford of The Courier-Journal, Louisville's newspaper of record since the days when jockeys in The Kentucky Derby were black, is taking some guff for picking FIU by 7. He's being accused of being a Kentucky homer. Loyalties are so divided between Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana in the C-J's coverage area -- The Hoosier State is across the Ohio River from downtown -- and so emotional that the paper actually used to make sure each school received the same number of inches of coverage to insulate itself against favoritism charges.
The volleyball team went 2-2 over the weekend at The Blue Raider Bash at Middle Tennessee State, beating Austin Peay and East Tennessee State and losing to Auburn and Missouri. Individually, Jovana Bjelica racked up 76 kills in 15 sets, 35 digs and nine blocks, good enough to be named to the All-Tournament Team and the Sun Belt's Player of the Week.