Wednesday morning, the Board of Trustees' Athletics Committee heard regularly scheduled reports from the athletic department on various goings on and issues.
It's still early on the possibility of a love connection between David Beckham's future Major League Soccer franchise and FIU Stadium. Beckham and the school are still at the fast dance stage. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia told the board last weekend's tour came about quickly and there's hot competition from seven other cities. Should Beckham choose Miami, expect the Miami Beckhams to have offices at FIU and use all the training facilities already there. I woudn't be surprised if there was an upgrade.
Garcia also said FIU has a hand in trying to bring a bowl game involving the American Athletic Conference (the former Big East's football schools that hadn't jumped elsewhere) to Marlins Park. Garcia didn't say this, but it doesn't take a cyclotron operator to figure out that if that happens, don't be surprised if the other conference that gets a tie-in is Conference USA.
Football's season opener will be at Maryland, Aug. 31, at 12:30 on the ACC Network (you know how much those announcers love South Florida...). The home opener against Central Florida has been moved to Friday night, Sept. 6, at 8 p.m. and will be on the CBS Sports Network. The home game against Bethune-Cookman, it was announced later in the day, will be 6 p.m.
Slides of the court at The Branch were shown. Garcia described the whole beach feel, including cabanas and sections of the stands named after South Florida beach geography, that he had planned for the court. He said he already had $280,000 worth of commitments from businesses that wanted their names on the court.
Women's basketball Jerica Coley is exalted as the department's gold standard, golden child, golden nugget, golden calf, you name it.
Coley got brought in to speak to the committee in the November meeting on her experience as an FIU student-athlete. No Coley in person this time. Instead, Garcia showed the CBS 4 report on her from late in the regular season. And, of course, mentioning that Coley's this year's Sun Belt Student-Athlete of the Year.
Garcia also showed off a crystal-looking vase-like thing from FIU got from the Sun Belt for having a student-athlete graduation rate higher than the general student body graduation rate. Garcia said the count was 51 percent to 43 percent.
Which brings us to academics. In general, FIU's student athletes get it done in the classroom. As far as individual teams, the football and men's basketball teams don't. Garcia said men's basketball definitely will be prohibited from playing in any postseason action in 2013-14 and, if football doesn't get it turned around, faces bowl bans and $300,000 fines from the NCAA in the future.
Student-Athlete Academic Center director Phil Moses had the unenviable task of presenting the numbers. Overall, they weren't bad. The 414 athletes had a 2.76 grade point average this past semeester, a tick below the 21,897 full-time students' 2.81.
But for the two highest profile sports...from what I could read from the big screen, football had a 2.06 grade point average in the fall and 2.14 in the spring. Men's basketball came in with a 2.18 and 2.00. That's actually under the 2.18 and 2.16 from the 2011-12 school year for basketball.
CORRECTION FROM JUNE 18: The 2011-12 GPAs for men's basketball were 2.16 and 2.48. Lousy glasses...
Also, Moses said, a breakdown of the most recent Academic Progress Rates for those sports showed a reversal from every normal trend. More APR points were being lost by FIU's elders, juniors and up, than by freshmen and sophomores.
Both new coaches, football's Ron Turner and men's basketball's Anthony Evans, vowed change from their athletes. Moses said improved technology and staffing would help on his end, along with a multi-point approach he detailed for the committee. Trustee Robert Barlick Jr. said he wanted to see more reporting on student-athlete progress, both more often and more data. Committee chair Jorge Arrizurieta said while Moses inherited a mess and his position has been hampered with instability -- Moses was the fourth director in five years when he took over in January 2012 -- it's time to start fixing it before it starts being a blight on FIU's name.
Later in the day, the NCAA announced its Public Recognition Awards for teams with multiyear APRs in the top 10 percent of their sport. Last year, FIU's women's tennis team got recognized. This year, no FIU team made the cut.