I haven't spoken to a single football player on the record about the firing aside from safety Jonathan Cyprien on the day he was invited to the Senior Bowl and went through graduation. As far as the players still in school, it's against FIU's policy to conduct on the record interviews outside the oversight of the media relations department or a coach.
To me, this policy treats these athletes, some of whom are grown men and women, some of whom have and support children, like second-graders needing to be coached through a Christmas assembly. I do, however, respect said policy because I don't want to get any athlete or media relations person in the doghouse or the unemployment line. Some coaches can be a little control freaky.
Now that doesn't mean some football players haven't stopped by wherever I happen to be working and informally chatted, asking what I think and letting me know what they think. Because I don't want athletes to feel that whatever they say to me when we're just yakking without notebooks and recorders out is going to wind up here, I'll just say the consensus is about what you'd expect: they liked Mario Cristobal and his staff, not thrilled about the firing, but are open-minded about the new coaching staff.
It's not as if these young men just found out about Santa Claus, The Great Pumpkin and Te'o's girlfriend. They've been at high schools during coaching changes and they know FIU can be Wackyland. I don't sense an exodus certainly not on a percentage level with what Richard Pitino had to overcome after taking over the men's basketball program after the Isiah Thomas firing.
A bigger concern than transfers might be academic eligibility. That's where the "stop work" orders of December for the assistant coaches and support staff could boomerang right onto FIU's butt. Those folks, more so than at schools with bigger budgets and better organizational infrastructure, needed to ride some kids to academic eligibility the way Eddie Arcaro rode horses to the wire. Without that jockeying, don't be suprised if some kids don't make it.
As some coaches note, being a student-athlete isn't a skate these days, especially at a school without an army of, ahem, "tutors." While talking to women's basketball coach Cindy Russo for Saturday's article on Jerica Coley (read it at your own risk), she said she thought her team with four Dean's List students was "stressed out." They'd missed the first week of classes on the road, were back home for the second week, then will be on the road next week for games at Louisiana-Lafayette Tuesday and at South Alabama on Saturday.
"Their tanks are empty and minds are full," Russo said.
I just spent my Friday night going through the last six days of blog posts and logging IP numbers (yeah, I live on South Beach, but I'm also in my 40s avec kid, who I'm up and getting ready for school daily).Those of you with multiple names to one IP number, all comments by all names in the last six days will be deleted. You can repost them again under one name. That's fine. This isn't about the content of your post. Clearly, my standards for "offensive" are pretty idiosyncratic.
I just want the electronic Fletch act out of this Comments section.