As the kid and I came back from our quickie Race Weekend trip to Indianapolis, I could tell I'd already hit summer mode -- I saw a college football preseason publication and didn't think, "Oh, please. Already?"
I scooped up Lindy's Sports national preview and waded through to the back where I found these projections (for what it's worth):
*FIU, ranked No. 73 in the nation, to win the Sun Belt.
*FIU with three of the top four, four of the top six and five overall of their Top 10 NFL Talent rankings from the Sun Belt. Senior defensive end Tourek Williams, their projection for Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year was No. 1 followed by senior safety Jonathan Cyprien (No. 3), linebacker Jordan Hunt (No. 4), offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann (No. 6) and kicker Jack Griffin (No. 8).
*Three FIU players on their First Team All-Sun Belt offense (Hauptmann, Griffin and running back Kedrick Rhodes) and five on the first team defense (Williams, Cyprien, Hunt, sophomore defensive tackle Isame Faciane and senior linebacker Winston Fraser).
As I said, for what it's worth. Last year, everyone had FIU and Troy fighting it out for the Sun Belt and neither finished in the top three.
A back of the mag article on college fantasy football ranked Rhodes as the 37th best running back to take, Griffin as the 16th best kicker and FIU's defense as the ninth best fantasy defense.
Four quarters, four tires, four corners offense, Bobby Orr (the greatest No. 4), four-legged zoo,
four All-Sun Belt baseball players for FIU and a fourth All-Sun Belt honor for senior Mike Martinez.
Third baseman Martinez and junior outfielder Jabari Henry made First Team All-Conference, senior outfielder Pablo Bermudez and junior DH Adam Kirsch got named to the Second Team. Martinez, the Sun Belt's leading hitter, is the first FIU player with four All-Conference awards. This is Bermudez's second consecutive All-Sun Belt selection, the second for Henry and the first for Kirsch.
FIU starts the Sun Belt Conference tournament Thursday at noon against Troy.
FIU will be the No. 3 overall seed, the second highest seed in Pool B, for the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament.
FIU faces No. 6 seed Troy Thursday noon, No. 7 Middle Tennessee State Friday noon and No. 2 Arkansas State 4 p.m. on Saturday. The best record in the pool plays the team with the best record in Pool A for the championship next Sunday.
FIU swept Troy in West Dade, scoring 20 runs in the three games; took two of three from Middle at home, although they got mercy ruled, 13-3 in the one loss; and took two of three, including a 16-5 mercy rule KO win, at Arkansas State last week.
Boca Raton Olympic Heights cornerback Degaulle Sama says he's received an offer from FIU.
The Stadium Club was the site of a celebration and send off for T.Y. Hilton Saturday night. As Hilton highlights from Miami Springs High and FIU played on eight flat screen TVs around the room, various speakers, including FIU President Mark Rosenberg, spoke of Hilton as a person, player and what he's meant to FIU.
President Rosenberg said he showed a 1981 graduate film of the 2010 19-14 loss to Rutgers in which Hilton had 110 all-purpose yards and the alumnus said, "Mark, I have never seen anybody cheer for FIU before."
Hilton himself wasn't able to be present, having to remain in Indianapolis.
This was what greeted folks on the right as they entered.
Last week, FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas likened his team to a football team that couldn't stop anybody when their offense is clicking, couldn't score when the defense is clicking or special teams failed badly enough to upend the whole mix. To use Thomas' metaphor, Thursday and Friday, FIU couldn't stop the early bombing, then coulnd't stop FAU in the two-minute drill.
And it could cost FIU the No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Friday, reliever Michael Gomez took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth and left with a 4-3 loss that gave FAU the Sun Belt regular season title. The collapse wasted a fine start by Mike Ellis, which was an improvement on Thursday. Eddy Pidermann got pummeled for six runs in the first inning of a 12-2 blowout.
Statistical oddity: Oscar Aguirre came into this series with zero home runs on the season. He has two solo shots in the first two games.
The two losses leave FIU at 15-14 in Sun Belt play, the same as South Alabama, which took two of three from FIU up there this season. FIU ends the regular season this afternoon at FAU hours before South Alabama hosts Troy in its regular season closer.
So Old Dominion joins Conference USA, putting the league at 14 members. My first thought was "Oh, cool, Cindy Russo and Inge Nissen coaching against their alma mater twice a year now!" Russo and Nissen played for ODU back when it ruled the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the NCAA barely acknowleged women's sports. (young fans or participants in women's sports who want a historical perspective where we are now versus where we used to be should check out Sports Illustrated's recent issue on the 40th anniversary of Title IX and the story that discusses the AIAW).
It also means one more school FIU should own in football for a while. ODU just restarted its program in 2009 and will go FBS (Division I in any other sports' language) in 2015.
Senior outfielder Ashley McClain got named to the All-South Second Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. McClain, a First Team All-South honree in 2010 and 2011, is the first FIU player to be All-South three times.
FIU officially announced the signings of forward Jerome Frink, guard Malik Smith and center Ivan Jurkovic Wednesday.
Frink and Smith were covered in a previous post on this blog. Jurkovic is a 7-0, 265-pound hoops nomad from Croatia. He did a season at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri ("SAL-LOOT!"), then one season at Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas. During the latter season, he averaged 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Outfielder Pablo Bermudez got named National Hitter of the Week by CollegeBaseballInsider.com after hitting .588 last week with two homers and 7 RBI.
A few things from the perusal of Isiah Thomas' file and Richard Pitino's contract for the above story:
1. Under "Termination by University for Just Cause" there are nine ways this can happen that are spelled out in Thomas' contract. There are 19 in Pitino's. The phrase "win-loss record is not considered "just cause"" appears in subsection (a) of Thomas' deal. It doesn't appear at all in Pitino's, although his (a) is otherwise identical to Thomas': "failure to perform Head Basketball Coach's duties as set forth in this Agreement or refusal or unwillingness to perform such duties as set forth in this Agreement."
2. The performance bonuses show Thomas' people knew they were negotiating from strength. Pitino gets only $10,000 for winning the conference tournament or getting an at-large NCAA bid while Thomas would've gotten $20,000. Conference Coach of the Year and each NCAA round bonuses each had the same 10-20 disparity. Thomas also would've gotten $10,000 for each postseeason NIT win. Pitino gets a handshake and another road trip. But Pitino does get $100,000 should FIU make the Final Four and $250,000 for winning the national title. Thomas got nothing for the Final Four and $100,000 for winning the title. Pitino gets roster bonuses. Thomas didn't.
3. In an amazing coincidence, FIU's individual game ticket sales were identical in 2009-10 and 2010-11. According to sales reports in Thomas' file (he got half the ticket revenue over $1,000), in each season, FIU sold 16 of the $60 Floor Seats; 846 of the $10 reserved seats; 353 of the Upper Bowl Adult tickets; and 187 of the $5 Upper Bowl Junior or Senior tickets. They also sold 36 season tickets for the Floor Seats each season and 65 Family Plan season tickets.
Most remarkable numeric coincidence since Rams NFL title game appearances after the 1951, 1979 and 1999 seasons all ended with the NFL's No. 1 offense getting the winning touchdown on a 73-yard pass. Or Henry Aaron, No. 44, hitting his 715th career home run in the fourth inning of the fourth game of the 1974 season, in the fourth month of the year, in a game that had seen four runs scored already.
The volleyball team announced four signees Tuesday.
Lucia Castro, 6-1, is a member of Puerto Rico's National Team
Maryna Samoday, a 6-1 outside hitter from the Ukraine by way of Seminole State College, will play both regular and sand volleyball.
Kimberly Smith, a 6-3 middle blocker from Zionsville, Indiana (a now-bustling suburb just on the other side of the northern county line from Indianapolis), spent two seasons at Robert Morris University-Illinois. Last season, she was in the NAIA's top 35 in hitting percentage, blocks and blocks per game.
Brittany Spencer, a 6-2 middle blocker, did one year at Miami-Dade and comes from Chesterfield, Virginia.
A Hallandale High coach announced that FIU offered linebacker Jeremy Derrick Tuesday. An FIU coach also was at Tallahassee Godby High visiting defensive back Lester Thomas and wide receiver Earl Calloway.
A .588 hitting week -- which included two home runs and seven RBI -- got senior outfielder Pablo Bermudez the Sun Belt Player of the Week award.
Freshman Shelby Graves got lauded with a spot on the All-Tournament team though the Panthers got dismissed from the Suun Belt tournament in three games. Graves went five for eight and made an appearance as a relief pitcher.
I've momentarily escaped the official play-for-pay land of Dolphins and Heat that keeps Death Star Tractor Beaming me away to discuss the major acquisition of the last two days.
My daughter's bunk beds got delivered!
While I was throwing Barbie's cocktail glasses in her dream house -- thank goodness it has an elevator, no way that bony lush makes it up three floors of stairs -- to prepare for delivery over the last two days, FIU basketball coach Richard Pitino was landing Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony's forward Jerome Frink and junior college shooter Malik Smith, originally out of the Boston area.
Frink, 6-6 or 6-7, was a First Team All-New Jersey player this season. He averaged 10 points and 5.8 rebounds per game during the regular season and 16.2 and 6.5 per game in the playoffs. He and Kyle Anderson, who'll be heading for UCLA, were the only two starters on both St. Anthony teams that won a combined 65 consecutive games over the last two seasons and two New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament of Champions titles.
The 6-2 Smith averaged 13.9 points per game for Jacksonville College. He's a shooter, not a slasher -- he put up over 11 shots per game, but shot only 36 percent from the field, got to the line an average of only three times per game, but sank 84 percent of his free throws.
South Alabama was giving FIU the what for, 5-1, in the fifth inning of Thursday evening 's Sun Belt tournament play when lightning halted play. Before things resumed, the rains came and shut the party down for the night. Play will restart tomorrow.
YOU MAKE THE CALL
Actually, they make the call. "They" being the folks in stripes, a design formerly associated with prison, which is where some fans inevitably feel officials should wind up for stealing a game from their fair team.
Alas, about 90 high school, Division II and Division III officials won't be in jail, but will be attending the 2012 South Florida Officiating Clinic Friday and Saturday at FIU. The event put together by Miami-living nine-year NFL official Alberto Riveron and former NFL zebra Gerald Austin, officials coordinator for Conference USA, will bring in 45 active NFL and Division I officials from C-USA and the ACC for one-on-one tutoring of the 90.
But what's a ref without action to judge? Those passing by FIU Stadium or the soccer field over the next two days might notice football games inside. Thirty-six local high school teams will give the practicing refs actual 11-on-11 action to call.
They'll leave with their games on DVD and a detailed critique. The heads of offficiating for the ACC, Sun Belt, SWAC and others all have decided to drop by this weekend to observe and check out whether anyone might be ready for a bump up in level. Also, scheduled to be present is NFL vice president Carl Johnson.
Riveron says he would like to do this annually, if it goes well.
With Mariah Dawson pitching, FIU dumped Troy 4-1 and will face the winner of No. 2 seed South Alabama vs. No. 7 Louisiana-Monroe Thursday.
So, let's just say they'll be facing South Alabama tomorrow.
In talking to Turtle Thomas for the story that ran in The Herald today on Mike Martinez, I asked him if the team missed Martinez in the season opening series against top 10 ranked Rice. Martinez, for a violation of team rules, didn't play in the series.
Thomas nodded that he thought Martinez would've made a difference in the extra innings loss, which FIU led 4-3 late in the game. Having Martinez's bat could've meant an extra run, thus giving FIU a big early season win.
Thomas figures the only way back to the NCAA Regionals is to win the Sun Belt tournament. He thinks only one Sun Belt team will make it and he's probably right -- FAU has the conference's best RPI at No. 78 in the nation. FIU is No. 118
Senior outfielder Ashley McClain now has a hat trick of First Team All-Sun Belt honors and sophomore pitcher Mariah Dawson has a Second Team notice after the teams were announced Tuesday, the day before the Sun Belt tournament starts at FAU.
FIU opens against Troy at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Race cars and teams with new coaches usually don’t fly right out of the box. Adjustments must be made, tinkering. It’s not until later in the week or the race that you’ll get the best runs.
Such was the case this year with FIU softball (27-25, 15-9), which begins the Sun Belt tournament Wednesday morning against Troy at FAU.
Beth Torina jumped to LSU after four years at FIU and Jake Schumann took over.
“Whenever a team has to adjust to a new coaching staff, it’s the team that has to do the most adjusting,” Schumann said. “Coach Torina did a great job. We coached differently. I’m sure it was a culture shock to them.”
McClain, FIU’s career leader in almost everything involving bat use, agreed, saying the difference is “more of a focus, I would say.”
And, Schumann admitted, “We have to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are” something weather and schedule prevented much of in the fall.
Also, FIU didn’t exactly start the season popping open tomato cans for opponents.
The second game of the season, they faced now No. 8 Louisville and lost 4-2. The next game, they lost 3-1 to UMass, which received votes in the most recent ESPN/USA Softball Top 25 poll. Also receiving votes: FIU beaters Alabama-Birmingham (6-4) and Tulsa (4-1). At the DeMarini Invitational at Fullerton, Cal., the Panthers got drilled 8-1 by undisputed No. 1 Cal and 10-0 by Cal’s Bay Area’s private cousin/rival, No. 17 Stanford.
But in their final game in Fullerton, they beat No. 24 Oregon State, 4-1.They took one of three from No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette, accounting for 33.3 percent of the total losses suffered by the 46-3 Ragin’ Cajuns.
“We had a really tough beginning part of the season. It’s helped us out in the long run because we had tough competition and we stuck with it,” said senior pitcher Jenn Gniadek, the Sun Belt’s Pitcher of the Week for last week. “Now, we know we can stay with the tougher teams. We know we can beat the teams in our conference.
“I think our team is good at not being afraid of anybody.”
McClain termed this season “a learning experience,” but also said, “I would say it was a good season. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”
Early in the season, she had to adjust to getting the star treatment.
“Teams definitely pitched to me harder this year than any of my previous years. It was kind of tough for me at first because I had to be very selective with pitches I swung at,” she said. “They would go through the whole lineup and I’d be the only one to see a change-up. I was leadoff batter, they’d throw four straight balls to me, and they would come back to the next batter with strikes. It was definitely hard not being able to help my team out in the beginning because they weren’t pitching to me.”
McClain still led FIU with a .370 batting average, 57 hits, 37 RBI, 12 doubles and eight home runs. This season, she took the FIU career lead in RBI (161), homers (33) and total bases (415). When this season ends, she’ll try out for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch Softball League. She expects to come back to FIU as a graduate assistant.
Schumann doesn’t expect the season to end quickly in the Sun Belt tournament, though two players will finish serving two-game suspensions Wednesday for what he termed “violating team policy” on Friday night. (Schumann, no Elia Kazan, wouldn’t name names, but a check of the weekend box scores says the parties are outfielder Alex Casals, a .308 hitter who has started 40 of the 44 games she’s played, and Erika Arcuri, a .226 hitter who has started 35 of her 41).
He figures FIU takes its side of the bracket, then faces down mighty Lafayette. Though each bracket side is double elimination, the championship round is one-game.
Summer session classes require the team will be coming up and back from FAU each day. So, I'll close with my favorite May driving song. Because, especially in May, it's all about finding the right groove...
Or, rather, game times for two of the games that will be on of the ESPNs.
Arkansas State at FIU, Oct. 4, will be a 7:30 kickoff on ESPNU. What might be the last FIU-FAU Shula Bowl for a few years will be on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.
Senior Jenn Gniadek threw a complete game, four-hit, 11-strikeout shutout against FAU to give FIU a 2-0 win, its school-record 15th conference win of the season. This earned Gniadek the Sun Belt's Pitcher of the Week honor.
FIU, the No. 3 seed, begins the conference tournament Wednesday morning at 11 against Troy at FAU.
A few quick things from this afternoon's official announcement that FIU would be joining Conference USA:
*The FIU-FAU football game is up in the air after 2012 because FIU doesn't know how many conference games it'll play and has other committments to honor.
*Mario Cristobal looked terribly happy. As he said, recruits like exposure for themselves and to know their families can see them on TV if they can't make the game. C-USA's TV deals are much better than the Sun Belt's.
*Pete Garcia pointed out that despite the closest school being Alabama-Birmingham or Southern Mississippi, travel costs actually could wind up better for FIU because teams can fly into major airports instead of flying in and going for a bus ride.
*The Sun Belt issued a statement from commissioner Karl Benson that both FIU and North Texas "were cooperative and kept and open line of communication throughout the process."
The Sun Belt announced the addition of Texas State for July 1, 2013 Wednesday. That's the same date FIU and North Texas are expected to become Conference USA members.
"If we were to lose two current members, replacing them with Georgia State and Texas State gets us back to 10 football schools with Arkansas-Little Rock as a non-football member," Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said in a Wednesday afternoon conference call. "The goal is to get to 12 members to create some geographical efficiency with members in the West vs. the East."
Benson said they hadn't been notified by North Texas or FIU that they were leaving. That's true -- officially. While all the papers haven't been signed, know that FIU is engaged to be engaged to C-USA (sort of like Otter said he was to the late Fawn Liebowitz).
In contrast to his predecessor, Wright Waters, Benson said they didn't want to get to 12 schools just for a football championship game and wasn't sure such an event was in the Sun Belt's best interest. Benson said the Sun Belt would search for FBS schools within the Sun Belt's "geographic footprint" and had been confacted by four to six FCS (what we used to call Division I-AA) schools within that footprint. If they wanted a large Florida market, they could look at Jacksonville.
Anyway, FIU's got one more season in The Belt before doing a little George-and-Weezy to C-USA. Count those players on the field or court...
The school announced the signing of guard Tymell Murphy out of Brooklyn by way of South Plains College and Mohawk Valley Community College. South Plains won the NJCAA championship this season. Murphy averaged 9.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocks. He shot 57 percent from the field, 43 percent from three-point range and 71 percent from the line.
The nomadic Murphy averaged 16.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game for Mohawk Valley in 2010-11. He shot 52 percent from the field, 33 percent from beyond the arc and 60 percent from the line.
FIU freshman-to-be Dieugot Joseph, a 6-6 defensive end, noted on Twitter that the move to Conference USA means he'll be playing games against his brother, 6-3, 289-pound Marshall freshman offensive lineman Josue Joseph.
The Brothers Joseph recalls music from other brothers J...
While trying to console a 7-year-old who somehow injured a calf in the shower and now can't go to sleep, we bring you the long awaited news projected on this blog back on August 13 and spoken of often since.
The FIU-Sun Belt marriage is about to go through the year of legal separation before D-I-V-O-R-C-E. The Other Conference waiting to walk down the aisle with FIU is, of course, Conference USA. Camp Mitch sources confirm that FIU will be joining Conference USA in 2013. FIU's already a member for men's soccer.
Official announcements likely will be made within a week. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia refused comment other than to acknowledge FIU had been in talks with C-USA for weeks.
Conference USA lost UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis to the Big East. Inviting FIU replaces the UCF with another school with the massive enrollment in a large Florida market and up-and-coming athletic program. Houston and SMU account for two large Texas markets, Houston and Dallas.
The Sun Belt's having a media conference call tomorrow to discuss the future of the conference, which also probably loses North Texas (near the Dallas TV market) to the C-USA rebuild. I thought they'd lose FAU also because smart expansions usually don't leave a team without a natural nearby potential rival or travel partner. But the Owls' Nest is a mess right now, despite the swanky new football joint.
The Conference USA-Mountain West full football merger's been put off, but C-USA does have its own football championship game. Football motivates the movement these days. Conference USA includes Marshall (FIU's conqueror in the 2011 Beef O'Brady's Bowl), Tulsa (Jerry Rhome, Dolphins Very Good Howard Twilley), Lousiana Tech (Terry Bradshaw), Southern Mississippi (Favre); UTEP. All should be better draws than Sun Belt teams and bring more folks with them.
Senior Katie Mundy, who finished second after a playoff for the individual Sun Belt title, has been invited to the NCAA East Regional at Penn State next week.
Men's basketball announced the signing of 6-3 Ocala Lake Weir High guard Diamante Lewis, who averaged 28.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.9 steals per game and was the Ocala Star-Banner's two-time Player of the Year.
For what it's worth, MaxPreps.com has him ranked as the 217th best player in Florida. He'll start at FIU in the 2012-13 season.
The first class for the sand volleyball program, which starts play next spring, includes Maryna Samoday, Emily Podschweit, Jekaterina Steponova, Ashley Prince, Elly Citron, Jessica Mendoza and Kathryn Leckinger. Samoday's on both the hardcourt and sand volleyball teams.