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27 posts from April 2013

April 05, 2013

Dani Albright gets out of the pool

Freshman swimmer Dani Albright made First Team All-Sun Belt after a conference meet in which she was part of the conference-record setting 800 freestyle relay team and conference-record tying 400 free relay team. Through the season, she produced strong times in the 100 free, 200 free and 500 free.

And, now, she's done, FIU swimming coach Randy Horner confirmed Friday.

"She said at midseason, she decided she didn't want to swim anymore," Horner said. "It's not what she wanted to do with herself all through college. She wanted to live more of a normal life."

Horner admitted it's a hard loss for the program. Albright, he felt, could've qualified for the NCAAs by her junior year. But, he said, once you lose the passion for swimming... 

Horner said sophomore Hannah Mitchell also would be transferring and leaving competitive swimming.

Perhaps more than any sport, being even a mediocre collegiate swimmer requires a delicate balance. Not a balanced life -- that's not happening. But a balance between being almost disciple devoted to the sport and getting the most out of what little remains of that irreplaceable commodity, time.

That balanced imbalance must be maintained from youth. Nobody's a latecomer to swimming at this level. There's no "I didn't start swimming until my junior year of high school" among swimmers, the way you hear in football, basketball, baseball, even track.

Albright's 18, the same age FIU sophomore Johanna Gustafsdottir was when she decided she'd had enough of competitive swimming. There's something to wanting to spend more afternoons being a normal college student, even if that involves not doing jack except arguing whether Phineas or Ferb is the true genius. Gustafsdottir got the urge back after two years. Many don't.

Maybe Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin knew what she was doing when she stayed with her longtime coach and remained a Colorado high school student as she prepped for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Franklin went back to Aurora Regis Jesuit High School after the Olympics. She swam for the school team and led them to the state title in February. The affable, giddy Franklin said she'd do the same thing 100 times over.

"She's 17 and she wanted to stay 17," her father told the Denver Post. 



Musings about basketball's house

FIU athletic director Pete Garcia fairly gushed over departing coach Richard Pitino Thursday.

“What he did with this basketball team and these players, I’ve never seen a job like that in
my 25 years,” Garcia said. “I rank him right up there as far as talented coaches, and I’ve been fortunate to be around some very good  ones, with (formerUniversity of Miami football) Coach (Butch) Davis, Greg Schiano, Rod Chudzinski, Leonard Hamilton, Chuck Pagano. He’s got it all.”

Names float around when it comes to this job. Every college assistant tired of being Spock or McCoy and want a shot at being Kirk (or, for those of you younger readers, tire of being told "Make it so" and want a chance to be Picard.) will send an application. Some veteran college coaches need to cleanse their name with a few years of peaceful penance in steerage class of D-1 hoops. And some who've been to the truly big time don't mind some lower rung time. It makes them feel like they're back to their roots. More coaching and bonding with kids who share the desperate love of a game and less handshake-and-grin with adults with whom they have only vitamins and Viagra in common.

FIU's pay, $250,000 per year for each of the last two coaches, isn't high end for the job, but allows a single coach to live comfortably in South Florida. And there's all the other issues that come with being a hoops coach at FIU. Potential coaches know at least the broad strokes of all that. Nobody confuses Camp Mitch with Kentucky or Stanford, although Stanford assistant and former FIU assistant and player Charles Payne might be interested.

The Academic Progress Rate issue could be a one-year problem or, depending on how many players transfer after this coaching change, get extended by a year or two. If FIU gets another semi-miraculous season and looks like it could qualify for postseason play, the school could petition the NCAA for relief as a program showing APR improvement in 2012-13.

A member of the Isiah Thomas administration gave me a call Thursday afternoon to say that while the APR numbers for 2010-11 being reported were accurate, the why isn't as simple as kids not going to class under Thomas, but rather two kids not going to class under Thomas.

(The low APR under Thomas surprised me. Though Thomas left Indiana University for the NBA after his sophomore season, he came back each summer until he finished his bachelor's degree in 1987. I spent that summer in Bloomington and saw him passionately speak to incoming minority freshmen on not blowing this great chance they had. He was taking University of California graduate classes while coaching at FIU. So why would a Hall of Fame player who values his own education and played his college ball under a coach who benched or booted key players just for missing a few classes be lax about his own players going to class? That made about as much sense as the Chewbacca Defense.)

Anyway, this former staffer said Eric Frederick, FIU's second leading scorer at the time and a junior college transfer, got jettisoned by Thomas for refusing to be a student in 2010-11. Frederick transferred to Texas Wesleyan. Antoine Watson crashed academically in 2009-10, but had remained in school. Thomas gave him a year to get his grades together. When Watson failed to do so and was gone by the holidays, the staffer said, that and Frederick kneecapped the APR for 2010-11. 

FIU knew that would happen, he claimed, just as they've known the 2011-12 APR would stink after a number of players transferred following the Thomas firing. Nobody at FIU can dispute that Pitino knew the likelihood of a 2014 postseason ban when he got hired. As the new triage officer of the program, however, that got low worry priority behind just finding players to put on the floor for 2012-13. (Then, the obvious question: how much did Pitino tell the players he was bringing in who would have only one or two years at FIU?)

Word around FIU doesn't argue the 2011-12 APR, once official, will be low less because of absenteeism because of players transferring after one or two years. But the talk in certain halls is Thomas encouraged players to transfer after his firing, so it's still his doing. A couple of players definitely kamikaze'd themselves academically over the last month last spring, but not at Thomas' urging.

Scholarship athletes transferring or getting booted after one or two years slashes at your APR. It's part of Ron Turner's dilemna over at football. Turner's too old for headaches, but can't just wish the leftover headache players into the cornfield without crippling the APR. Football doesn't have much wiggle room with its APR this year after an 897 2010-11 and one of the worst fall semesters in years in 2012.

April 04, 2013

Pete speaks: the highlights

FIU athletic director Pete Garcia spoke to the media Thursday morning on the status of the FIU basketball program.

On a 2014 postseason ban because of subpar APR in 2010-11 and 2011-12, the last two Isiah Thomas years: FIU doesn't know yet, but it's likely.

On future Pitino games: Louisville's still on for next year and Richard Pitino has talked about an FIU-Minnesota game next year.

How soon: Garcia hopes to have a hire within seven to 10 days. He says he wants the best coach possible and is "intrigued by the type of basketball we played this year."

April 03, 2013

"What now?" asked the boxer...

Unlike Marcellus, we can't exactly tell you what now.

Raymond Taylor, the guard sitting out this season after transferring from FAU, summed FIU's dilemna up when he Tweeted Wednesday afternoon, "Wow!!!! What's my next move!??"

Nobody saw Richard Pitino staying at FIU until his face possesed the topography of age etched into his father's. He'd learn the head coaching craft here in the minor leagues of major college basketball, learn how to get players to come to college basketball's Congo and keep them eligible, how to compete with very limited resources and the nuances of being a program's face.

Then, either Billy Donovan would leave Florida or Rick Pitino would retire from Louisville and Richard the Second would get called up.

Nobody anticipated an 18-14 season. Nobody thought a major conference would even look at a first-year FIU coach, even if his last name has been attacted to national championships. Now, though, FIU's almost back to where it was a year ago, if more talented and athletic on the court. They might be in an even worse situation -- if the 2011-12 APR is as bad as I've heard it is, FIU could be banned from postseason play. No conference tournament, no shot at the NCAA Tournament.

Junior guard Malik Smith, a junior college transfer and team leader who ranked 16th in the nation with 3.0 three-pointers per game, posted on Instagram Wednesday night, "Thanks to FIU for the opportunity to do something special and help turn a program around. With that being said, I'll be asking for my release some time next week and taking my talents to a different university. Coach Pitino helped show me what hard work was and I'll forever appreciate it. With him and the rest of my teammates the best in the future. Everything happens for a reason." 

So here's what Pete Garcia gets for making a hire that worked better than anybody had a right to expect: the chance to do it again. And he might need to in the worst way.

Or, with the football program rebuilding also, he might lose his Camp Mitch privileges.

Pitino one-and-done; football day change

Another major conference men's basketball program has reached to a surprising Florida mid-major to get its next coach. Word out of Minnesota and the FIU athlete community is the Gophers have snagged FIU's Richard Pitino. 

Word out of FIU is, officially, silence. Pitino hasn't answered calls, texts or messages and, in fact, his voice mail box is full. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia has gone underground similarly the last few days, but will address the media Thursday morning. President Mark Rosenberg's voice mailbox is full. 

Pitino coached FIU to its first winning record in 13 years and the final of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. He accomplished this despite only six players left over from the previous season. Of those, only forward Tola Akamolafe could be called a major contributor and then for only part of the 2011-12 season before he became academically ineligible. 

Following this remarkable coaching job would've been tough, both because FIU will be moving to Conference USA next season and there might be some punishment coming from the NCAA once the 2011-12 APR comes out. Now, it'll be interesting to see which players, if any, go with Pitino to Minnesota. 


The FIU game at FAU has been moved to Nov. 29, a Friday night. Blame TV.

April 02, 2013

Coley Honorable Mention All-America again; Tuesday morning at La Cage

Junior guard Jerica Coley, the nation's leading scorer and the biggest all-around good guy since Tom Slick, was named Honarable Mention All-America by the Associated Press for the second consecutive year.

Coley scored a school record 840 points, a nation-leading 26.3 per game, this season. That as 42.9 percent of FIU's offense, a ridiculous total. She also led FIU in blocked shots and steals.


After handling birthday duties and searching for wireless access (old AT&T antenna doesn't fit new laptop), here's some tidbits from this morning's football practice:

Linebacker Leroy Owens seems back in the fold. Sources from the previous administration said Owens was suspended last season, but not booted from school. I'd heard he probably would transfer. Head coach Ron Turner said Tuesday that Owens was taking some time away from the team to "take care of personal matters" and "focus on academics." Tuesday was his first practice with the team after two weeks of conditioning. Owens might be the most talented of the linebacker recruits from 2012. Retaining him would be a big plus.

As I'm writing about for tomorrow's Herald online and print story, increasing the raw numbers of offensive linemen is a priority. Dieugot Joseph, recruited in 2012 as a defensive end, has been moved to left tackle and was taking second team reps. Other conversions might be coming.

Best catch of the day went to DeAndre Jasper's diving grab of a bomb from E.J. Hilliard behind three defenders. That prompted a yell of "Nice catch, 83! Can't wait to see you on Saturdays!" from the defensive sideline.

The number of false starts and fumbled snaps, the latter particularly between Donald Senat and Jake Medlock, more than irked Turner and prompted some afterschool work by the quarterbacks and centers.

Cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon picked off a pass that looked like a throwaway. In one of those "Yep" moments, wide receiver Rocky Vann caught a short cross, got hit, fumbled and safety Justin Halley showed his tendency for coming up with turnovers by scooping up the ball.

April 01, 2013

Welcome to Conference Sun Belt USA; Alexander Belt Pitcher of the Week; Swimming Scholars

Western Kentucky's leaving the Sun Belt for Conference USA in 2014, the school and C-USA officially announced today. So, that means FIU, FAU, North Texas, Middle Tennessee State and Western will make that move between July 2013 and July 2014.

My first thought was, "That's only one year away from Bobby Petrino." Petrino won't head up Western's football program for long, four years at the outside, more likely three. But the man can recruit and coach and his track record says he'll be a problem for the rest of his conference, whatever that conference is. That's the Sun Belt this year and Conference USA with FIU after that.


Junior Tyler Alexander's four-hit, 10-strikeout 1-0 win against Arkansas State got him named Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week, the conference announced Monday afternoon.


FIU's 3.15 GPA from the fall got them recognized as a College Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All-America Team. The honor goes to teams that achieve a 3.0 team GPA for a semester. This is FIU's fifth consecutive semester above that mark.

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