August 24, 2012

Men's soccer starting Friday; volleyball, too; football, see you next week

Both the soccer field and the men’s program needed a spruce up job. Friday against Bryant University, 7 p.m., will be the first showing for how far new head coach Kenny Arena is on both.

To swim down the fault stream of FIU Soccer Field just sends anyone who cares screaming for tequila, so let’s just use the old reliable “What a dump.” But Thursday morning, Arena stood at the field checking out some of the improvements being made that’ll make the field more presentable.

 “We’ve tried to make the players understand that this is a very important program with a very rich tradition,” Arena said. “We’ve tried to upgrade everything from the way we practice to our facilities, to make this an environment that not only looks very professional, but operates very professionally. It’s what this program deserves based on what the program has achieved.

The nod to that tradition comes from the replacement for the last connection to that tradition. Munga Eketebi – All-American player on the great mid-1980s FIU teams that were as good as any at any level, longtime assistant coach, then head coach – couldn’t beat NCAA sanctions and Conference USA. A 5-8-2 record last year left him at 27-51-9. Sacking Eketebi as the program finally got back to full scholarships reeked of both unfairness and an understandable desire to just start anew.

FIU showed signs of being something like what it once was last season. Against ranked teams, they went 1-0-2 and lost in overtime to perennially good SMU. But it also included a loss to Georgia state and getting smoked badly at Tulsa and Memphis.

“We definitely had a strong squad,” said senior defender Anthony Hobbs, FIU’s lone representative on the preseason All-Conference USA team. “It was whether we were going to turn out to play or not. Against the better teams we did well, we competed with them. Against teams we should beat, we just didn’t show up.”

In addition to Hobbs, FIU returns sophomore forward Quentin Albrecht, who lead the team in goals, and senior midfielder Lucas Di Croce, third on the team in scoring. Freshmen outnumber seniors, 8-5.

Perhaps it’s a good thing, then that Hobbs notes Arena brings a more positive vibe. Positivewavesbutton

When I asked Arena about his emphasis on the postive, he covered more ground than grass in an interesting answer:

“There’s going to be times you have to critique, but if you do it in the right way, everybody enjoys learning. So, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they want to come to work every day. That they enjoy this experience. But also that the experience is very challenging.

“I respect the fact that they have a lot of responsibility, being student/athletes and playing. We demand a lot out of them as an athletic department to serve in the community. Being a student-athlete today is one of the hardest jobs. When we’re done as an athlete, I don’t think the first couple of years when we have careers that it’s as hard as it is when we’re here. These guys train from 8 to 10 in the morning. that means they’re up at 6 eating breakfast. Then they have treatment, weights, they have classes, they have community service. Then they have to study, they have games. It’s a very exhausting, but very rewarding experience.

“If you’re asking them to do that much, then it’s our job to make it a positive environment so that you keep them going.”

Just as men’s hoop coach Richard Pitino clearly got his half his chromosomes from Rick Pitino, Kenny Arena couldn’t be more recognizable as the son of former U.S. National Team coach and current Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. I asked Arena, 33 hours ahead of his first game as a college head coach, to name the one or two biggest things he’s learned from each coach he’s worked under.

“Bob Bradley was very disciplined. He made sure everyone was held accountable all the time,” Kenny Arena said. “My father, he treated each player with an incredible amount of respect and gave them their freedom, but found a way to have a culture that every time they stepped on the field, they gave it everything they had.

“The last coach I worked with, (UCLA’s) Jorge Salcedo, he was very organized,” Arena said. “He found a way to make life easier for the players, whether it was during practice or traveling. From the details of the hotel to what they’re eating to the timing of all that stuff, he made sure everything was organized so all operations ran smoothly and I found that helped the overall psyche of athletes. When everything’s organized and thought of ahead of time, they can just concentrate on playing.”


Last week, Mario Cristobal declared Jeremiah Harden "1A," close to Kedrick Rhodes at running back. I asked the pecking order and if Harden and Rhodes were even going into the season. 

"Ked is No. 1. Ked's going into the game first," Cristobal said. "Those other guys have earned playing time. Both Harden and Mallary have pushed really hard. They've got to play. theyr'e smart, they're tough, they've made good plays in practice. Shane Coleman, he's getting better. He's not at the level of Harden and Mallary yet, but he's a guy you feel comfortable putting in the game as well."

Just throwing out there: don't sleep on freshman defensive lineman Fadol Brown. Brown and Darrian Dyson might have some problems early in the season as they get used to dealing with pushing and shoving against nearly grown men for 60 minutes. But both possess the size and athleticism that'll eventually get you a few plays a game if they're rotating off the bench.

Tonight's the free food, drink, stuff meet the Panthers event at The Stadium Club in FIU Stadium.  


As change marks the men’s soccer program, so does the volleyball program head into its Friday night season opener at the Campus USA Credit Union Invite in Gainesville against Florida handling grand metamorphoses.

And we do mean grand – big group of newcomers containing bigger young women playing a vastly different style for a very different head coach.

Daniela Tomic rolled up a .721 winning percentage in seven seasons, easily the best by any FIU volleyball coach, before leaving for Bowling Green last winter. Former Tomic assistant and Trinidad and Tobago national team coach Trevor Theroulde took over, then added assistant Travers Green.

Redshirt sophomore setter Jessica Egan said, “The coaching staff is more in sync, which is vital.”

One consistency left from Daniela Tomic’s seven years as head coach: Jovana Bjelica making the preseason All-Sun Belt team. The senior outside hitter’s third such honor was announced Thursday morning. Bjelica led The Belt in kills last year and realizes as the established best player on the team as well as being a senior

“In a playing sense, I’m playing the same, but I think it’s harder now,” she said. “there’s a lot of younger girls who need some kind of role model and we older ones, upperclassmen, we need to be more of a role model. So, I have to talk more, which I don’t like.” Bjelica laughed at her shyness. “We need to talk a lot because many of them are still shy and don’t feel the freedom to talk.”

In a 2011 blog post about Bjelica, I noted that on the eye test, you’d pick her as FIU volleyball’s best pentathlete. On this year’s team, that athleticism blends almost as much as her height (5-10) does among the team’s 10 players 6-foot or over (last year’s team had seven).

“We’ve added a lot of height and we’re very stacked in positions, you could say,” Egan said. “Last year, we kind of ran into an issue where ran out of people with injuries. This year, we’re not going to have that problem. There’s competition at every position.”

Egan's playing time increased after 6-3 Renele Forde suffered a season-ending injury. Forde is back as a fifth-year senior.

Four or five of the new players walked through the Graham Center two weeks ago while I was working there around lunch time. You never saw that place get so quiet. Palpable awe.

“We are much bigger than before,” Theroulde said. “We are playing way above the net. We are much more athletic. We could be big and slow, but we’re not big and slow. We’re big, quick, athletic. We’re more aggressive.

“My style of coaching, we’re going to be more aggressive. We’re really going after the opponent.” Theroulde laughed, “I prefer to be the predator than the prey. I want to be the real Panther.”

Which brings us to FIU’s nemeses, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, picked to finish first and second in the Sun Belt’s East Division. FIU’s picked to finish where they have the last two years, third.

“We’ve been changing our style,” Egan said. “There’s still some kinks to it. It’s a powerful style we’re going for. Western and Middle have really different styles. Middle Tennessee is very fast. The way we’re playing, we’ll be able to handle that, no problem. Western Kentucky, they’re simple, but they’re good at what they do. It’s just a matter of zoning in on those players and executing our side of the court.”

Theroulde said the team must play up to its ability, but getting that out of them is his job.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I said, ‘if we do not do it this year, we have to analyze ourselves as a coaching staff,’” he said. “We have all the pieces. We need to put those pieces together. And make sure they’re able to function effectively. Then, we’ll see that beautiful picture. We’re trying to play a different style of volleyball. It’s faster, it’s powerful.

They’re strong teams, too. They’ve added parts, too. It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with us. It’s a totally different team than we had in previous years.”

Wednesday, Theroulde watched video of FIU’s 32-4 2009 team.

He estimated, “In key positions, we’re way better. We’re still trying to develop that mental toughness that last team had. If we’re able to get that and a level of consistency, nothing is impossible.”


July 19, 2012

Details on Cristobal extension

Some highlights from FIU football coach Mario Cristobal's contract extension (sorry we didn't get these things last night, but, hey...):

Cristobal's base salary stays the same in the added year, 453,183. He got another $50,000 bonus, to be paid in two installments, from a $100,000 annual program operating cost bump. The other $50,000 of that money will go to assistant coaches base salaries. So in the last two Cristobal extensions, the assistants have gotten an increase of approximately $160,000 from program operating cost increases.

While this keeps Cristobal in the middle of the pack as far as Sun Belt coaches base salary, almost all of whom live in places with cheap costs of living, sources say he didn't think it would be right to ask for much more money with the state education system so economically troubled.

Cristobal did get performance bonus raises: bowl game bonus to $20,000 from $10,000; 940 APR bonus from $10,000 to $15,000; 2.5 team GPA average up from $10,000 to $15,000; new bonuses for finishing in final USA Today Coaches Poll Top 25 of $15,000; and $20,000 for an unshared conference championship.

The buyout clauses remain the same.

Not in the contract, but apparently a leading concern at the negotiating table when this all was first being discussed last winter was the completion of the north side enclosure. Both for stature among other schools -- remember, when all this started, it wasn't a lock FIU would be wanted by Conference USA -- and recruits, it was felt FIU Stadium needed to look like an actual stadium.


July 09, 2012

June 07, 2012

TV Football, Futbol Things, Pool, Phil & Phildrick

Louisville's Sept. 22 visit to FIU will be a 7 p.m. game, as decreed by college-affiliated football's four-letter television masters from Bristol. Now an ESPN3 game, it could move to ESPNU. That would be FIU's third ESPNU game of the season, as they'll already be on against Arkansas State and FAU. The Oct. 20 game at Troy also is now a 3:30 start, in case you were planning any birthday parties around it.

Of course, the big question is whether the gap pictured below will be filled in exactly three months from Friday...

South Westside-20120607-00533


Gulliver and FIU alumnus Jean Camere will be an assistant coach and FIU alum Phillip Lamarre will be a volunteer goalkeeper coach under first-year men's soccer head coach Kenny Arena.

Over on the XX side, FIU's defending Sun Belt Conference champions will open the season Aug. 17 at home against Stetson. Two more home games, Aug. 19 vs. Jacksonville and Aug. 26 vs. Morehead State. The first two home games will be Parents Weekend, a good move to get some folks in the stands at a time few folks are around campus.

Then, comes the toughest part of the schedule -- a hat trick of road games against Florida Gulf Coast, Florida and LSU, a combined record of 44-21-3 last season among the three NCAA tournament teams.

Prediction on men's soccer: Arena continues to build on the rebuiliding Munga Eketebi tried to do under the yoke of NCAA sanctions, but playing in still-tough Conference USA keeps FIU under .500.

Prediction on women's soccer: Sun Belt Conference regular season champions. If they come out of the first three-game road stretch with only one loss, they might get into the NCAA tournament without winning the conference tournament.


The 2011-12 College Swimming & Diving Honors named FIU as one of its nine Female Break Out Teams for the Sun Belt Conference meet performance; one of nine top Championship Performances (by a) Female for sweeping the Sun Belt swimmer (Johanna Gustafsdottir), diver (Sabrina Beaupre), head coach (Randy Horner) and assistant coach (diving coach Chris Mantilla) of the year awards at the conference meet; and Mantilla was named one of the top nine assistant coaches of the year.

A little June Jamiroquai break... back to news.


Phil Haig, who led FIU with nine wins, 72 strikeouts, 99.1 innings pitched and 16 starts in 2011, announced he'll be the new pitching coach at Sam Houston State.

Lake Worth Trinity Christian catcher Phildrick Llewellyn, an FIU commit who became the highest drafted Phildrick when taken by Arizona on Tuesday, told the Palm Beach Post he'll sign with the Diamondbacks organization soon.

March 21, 2012

Hilton Pro Day Video (belatedly) & groundbreaking stuff

Sorry I've been away in Dolphinland since returning from Tampa, where I thought the FIU-South Florida Women's NIT game at the Campus Recreation Center would be preceded by a gym class playing Dodge Ball, Pinball or Prisoner's All. Much anger and dysfunction up in Davie.

I also just regained my camera, thus allowing me to post the video of T.Y. Hilton's Pro Day, albeit 12 days after I intended. 





This Friday at 3:15, the school will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the new north side of Alonso Field at FIU Stadium. Knowing how construction projects often go in Dade County, if they get this thing done on time, I think they should hold a serious party with hours of Afro-Cuban bongos, booty shaking and enough pork to beach the Steelers.


October 01, 2011

Football Gameday V & other balls, including ticket info on Wade, LeBron, Bosh game

The first part of this is a rerun from Friday afternoon's blog post. If you saw that, feel free to skip past this to the football, volleyball, futbol or whatever ball-type thing gets you groovin'.


The NBA put an All-Star Game in Miami in the second year of the Heat and Miami Arena, a building that was outdated about 15 minutes after it opened. Why the NBA hasn't brought it's winter showcase back to Miami, despite American Airlines Arena downtown on the bay and South Beach nearby (maybe that's the reason), is a mystery. Which makes it all the more ironic that the next time a near all-star game gets played in Miami, it's at a small college arena in the suburbs.

Tickets for that game, "LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh present the South Florida All-Star Classic" at FIU's U.S. Century Bank Arena, 7 p.m., Oct. 8 will go on sale Monday at noon at the University Credit Union Box Office on the first floor of the Fieldhouse adjacent to at FIU Stadium. No phone or online orders will be taken. Tickets will cost $50 for upper bowl general admission, $100 for lower bowl reserved. Fans can buy two tickets per person until 3 p.m., four tickets per person after that.

The game, which Wade billed on Twitter as DWade vs. King James, will include the Heat's Big Three, the Knicks Carmelo Anthony and A'mare Stoudemire, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, New Orleans' Chris Paul, and many other stars.

Proceeds will go to Mary's Court Foundation, a foundation established by FIU coach Isiah Thomas in honor of his strong-willed mother, the late Mary Thomas


This is going to look like a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book version of my usual pregame posts. I’m tired, have a stuffy nose, a Long Island waiting and a dissatisfaction with how much I’ve seen of Duke.

This is the kind of wacked team that drives fans and coaches crazy, makes prognosticators look stupid and keeps bettors away from like the team came Chernobyl-dipped. Losing to Richmond (what?), drilled by Stanford (expected), then punking Boston College (everybody’s doing it) in a comeback win, then blowing Tulane off the field.

Take that BC game. Duke allowed BC only three first downs on the ground, but trailed BC 19-7 in the third quarter. They came back to win 20-19 after a last second BC field goal attempt went awry.

When a line finally came up for this game after FIU coach Mario Cristobal said quarterback Wesley Carroll would play, it was FIU by 3. That’s moved to 3.5 to 4, depending on where you look. Translation: some money on FIU, probably not much, and even less on Duke. Bettors are staying away from this one.

Duke lost defensive end Kenny Anuike, their best pass rusher, to injury early against Tulane. FIU will be without free safety Chuck Grace (right knee) and wide receiver Glenn Coleman (shoulder).

Duke undoubtedly saw the trouble Louisiana-Lafayette caused FIU with the quick wide receiver screen. FIU’s defensive backs couldn’t get off the Lou-La wide receivers’ blocks, thus allowing at least 5 to 7 yards before ball carrier contact. Eventually, they’ll draw FIU up, fake a hitch and throw the go. Until you prove you're not a fool, you'll get played for one.

FIU failed in both ends of its pass defense last week, but the pass rush gets the bigger they pass/you fail grade because that grew into a given after three weeks. When it didn’t get there last week, even by blitz, the secondary couldn’t maintain coverage. FIU coach Mario Cristobal uses “big” to describe every offensive line the Panthers face. But for Duke’s, he also used “long.” Long arms…that’s what scouts look for when searching for linemen that’ll keep the quarterback from being treated like a piñata at Westchester triplets birthday party. Cristobal’s worried about the pass rush getting erased for a second consecutive week.

One thing Lou-La did to loosen up FIU that the Dukies will do just because it’s their wont is throw on first down.

Duke allowed only eight rushing first downs against Tulane and BC. Take away the sacks and they allowed a combined 161 rushing yards on 43 carries, 3.7 per carry. Not overly permissive, but not The Great Wall of Durham, either. Richmond ran for 95 on 31 carries (no sacks). Duke coach David Cutliffe felt Tulane and BC were more straight ahead, physical teams. Cristobal called defensive tackle Charlie Hatcher “as good as we’ve faced” and, remember, Duke lost defensive end Anuike.

Add it up and I see another game where the shifty Kedrick Rhodes gets the bulk of the carries for FIU.  

Wesley Carroll’s back at quarterback for FIU. Despite an ankle that might still be bothering him, he needs to be a better passer than the Wesley Carroll who played against Central Florida and Louisiana-Lafayette. Against UCF, he was just a bit scattershot. Though the play calling got stale against Louisiana-Lafayette after the opening drive, Carroll’s decision-making wasn’t exactly Manning-esque before his injury. Carroll takes too many Ken O’Brien sacks/hits, where he holds onto the ball too long. By contrast, one play last week, he threw a panicky pass with the nearest upright Lou-La player pondering Kierkegaard on the sideline.

As well as Jake Medlock – the name just sounds like it should be followed by “A Quinn Martin production” – played against Lou-La, there were moments when Carroll would’ve made better reads. Against Duke, FIU needs to put more of the game in Carroll’s hands and he needs to be the senior leader in performance he can be. The plays -- small, medium, large and T.Y. Hilton – were there against Louisville and should be there against Duke.

Richmond’s Tre Grey got Duke for eight catches and 129 yards. That’s a secondary that should fear Hilton, even at 80 percent Hilton, or Wayne Times.

Let’s say both teams move the ball well. There’s been a defensive score in every FIU game so far, so figure on one here by FIU – a jumped route, a post-reception fumble, something along those lines. That score could wind up being the difference in a game where the punters should be able to spend the game arguing with the cheerleaders over who's the better athlete.

FIU 38, Duke 35.

But that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong (and have been the last two weeks).


In less time than it took my daughter to finish two bowls of matzoh ball soup, Western Kentucky swept FIU out of U.S. Century Bank Arena 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-19). Jovana Bjelica had 13 kills and Chanel Araujo had 14 digs as Western left the former Sunblazer Arena with a win for the second consecutive season.

Defending Sun Belt champion Middle Tennessee State visits Sunday at noon.


Since the humiliation by Oregon State two weeks ago, the women footballers have run off four in a row, the latest a 3-0 spanking of Troy Friday that gets them to 3-0 in the conference. They’re also 6-5 overall, their first time above .500 this season.

Chelsea Leiva and April Perry, striking early and late, each got her second goal of the season. In the middle, sub Deana Rossi sent FIU into halftime with a 2-0 lead off an assist from Kelly Ann Hutchinson. Hutchinson and Nicole DiPerna, who set up Leiva’s goal, are tied for the team lead with three assists.

South Alabama’s up next, at 2 p.m., Sunday.

September 24, 2011

Women Win, Men Lose, Football Gameday IV

Not to be confused with The Carter IV, referenced in today’s game advance now up at

Bad enough for FIU that Sun Belt teams don’t win out of conference. Friday night, Central Florida failed against BYU. That little bit of BCS-ing out of the way, let’s get to FIU vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.

All week, this game reminded me of the gag at 3:06 in Stop, Look and Hasten (1954), the best of the early Roadrunner cartoons. (Gee Whiz-z-z (1956) is the best of them all, although Chuck Jones himself showed a special affinity for Zoom and Bored (1957).)


FIU’s shown excellent resiliency at key points each of the last two weeks. This game will test their focus.  

After getting the kid to bed each night this week, I’d settle into a long-ago present from the wife, a sleek German-designed recliner, and watch Louisiana-Lafayette Square against Oklahoma State in the season opener.

That was Lou-La’s first game under head coach Mark Hudspeth and against a program now ranked in the top 10.  Actually, what impressed me factored in all that.

Even as T. Boone Pickens State took the switch to Lou-La, 61-34, you could see the talent on the losing side, such as wide receiver/kick returner Darryl Surgent easing up field on a 31-yard punt return. On a per capita basis, Louisiana’s about as good as it gets for producing football talent. There’s more NFL players from Florida, California and Texas, but also a whole lot more electoral votes.

Louisiana-Lafayette’s offensive line gets bigger as you go left to right: 296, 300, 305, 324, 330. That’s a 311 average Both Louisville and Central Florida, got some push early before those big bodies wore down as the games wore on in the late summer swelter. September heat and humidity, particularly the South Florida brand, turned those offensive lines into a Deuce-and-a-Quarter getting started on a 15-degree morning by late in the second quarter. Will Louisiana-Lafayette Jeff, from a pretty dehydrating part of the U.S. itself, wilt the same way?

Despite size and talent, Lou-La can’t get it together on offense. In their other game against a Division I opponent thus far, Kent State, they managed only 159 total yards. That’s an acceptable showing only if the Kent defense lined up 11 Jack Lamberts coordinated by Nick Saban. Against Division I-AA Nicholls State, they moved only 280 yards.

Hudspeth blamed some of their offensive problems on an inability to settle on a starting quarterback between Blaine Gauthier and Chris Masson. He also said he’d like to let Blaine Gauthier throw the ball a little more. That would seem logical, especially on first or second down. FIU’s been beating up quarterbacks on third and long after beating up running backs on first and second down. 

I see no reason for FIU to play T.Y. Hilton and his strained right hamstring more than 15 snaps. If Hilton does play – and he’s expected to -- I’m not sure FIU will use him often in much more than a decoy capacity. Besides, Wesley Carroll’s been erratic the last two weeks and Louisiana-Lafayette Road Drive-In sustains itself on interceptions and pick sixes. Lionel Stokes should’ve had two more interceptions early against Oklahoma State.

From what I saw, the kind of runner who succeeds against this defense possesses vision and quickness, more a Kedrick Rhodes-type runner. Lou-La’s cornerbacks come down very low to help in run support. Expect FIU to try to back off the cornerbacks early with some stuff downfield, then move the ball with an implacable running game.

I don’t see many points for Louisiana-Lafayette unless FIU scores at such warp speed, Lou-La gets as many possessions as it could ever want.  I’m not sure about FIU. Overall, that is. Here, I’m sure they’re better than Louisiana-Lafayette and they’ll slowly pull away as the game huffs and puff toward its finish.

FIU 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 10.

Then again, that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be very much in the wrong.


This is a reversal  for the start of the conference season -- FIU got outshot by Arkansas-Little Rock 15-9, yet won 2-1 on goals by freshman Ashleigh Shim and Crystal McNamara.

It's the second consecutive game with a goal for Shim, who was set up by sophomore Nicole DiPerna. It's also the second consecutive win for FIU (4-5, 1-0).


A male freshman, Arnthor Kristinsson, also has a two-game goal scoring streak working for FIU. Unfortunately, the team has a two-match losing streak after falling 2-1 in double overtime to Marshall at FIU Soccer Stadium. Marshall's Anthony Vigara struck both in regulation and in the 102nd minute. The men are now 3-4 and 0-1 in Conference USA.


In Denton, Texas, FIU took four sets to defeat North Texas 3-1 (25-15, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19). Renele Forde piled up 36 assists and 19 digs, both team highs. Jovana Bjelica had 17 kills and Marija Prsa had 12. FIU (9-3, 1-0) now heads for the University of Denver for a match Sunday.


September 17, 2011

Football GameDay III; Futbol Friday.

Three is a magic number. Yes, it is.


We'll discuss three teams in this blog post. It’s in Game 3 of this FIU season that we get a Saturday game in a sold out stadium, tailgaters of all ages free of job or class tethers, alumni in school-toned dorkwear, a classic college-affiliated football scene whether at The Big House or a shotgun shack stadium in Iowa.

Unfortunately missing from the overall atmosphere will be FIU's radio broadcast. There's a conflict with 1080 WHIM, which will be broadcasting another game tonight. So, no FIU radio for the biggest home game in the program's 10 seasons. That's not big time. Very tiny, in fact. UPDATE: after about an hour of uproar over this from FIU fans, the scheduling overlap is no more and the game will be on 1080 with FIU's radio team. Chips lay all over the table in this battle of state schools with enrollments that soon will make them the Seoul and Sao Paulo of American universities. There’s neighborhood rivalries, friend rivalries betwen the players. Both teams claim they’re taking it one game at a time, especially FIU under the pre-interview coaching of Mario Cristobal. Yeah, yeah, but the ultimate goal is to take it one game at a time until you win them all, just like FIU left tackle Caylin Hauptmann said at media day. If Central Florida takes out FIU and BYU, they’ve got a shot as well as an outside shot at getting into a major BCS bowl game. If FIU gets past Central Florida, they’ll have beaten what looks like the best, most talented team on their schedule to get to 3-0.

Then, there’s recruiting. Can one game make a huge recruiting difference? Coaches try to get away from that idea publicly because they privately often hope it isn’t true. That’s too much on riding on one game. Ever notice how fast most coaches in the macho-preaching sports, football and hockey, turn tail to skedaddle away from risky situations if they can? Alas, they can’t run from this idea here. If…

UCF goes UWC on FIU: this result says whatever level to which FIU’s risen, it’s still a step or two below football involving those with chest hair. Recruiting advantage: UCF.

UCF wins solidly, but not in a rout: says UCF’s a better team now, and FIU’s still trailing, which is the consensus opinion. No change in current status.

UCF wins close: You can almost hear  “How many other (my position) are you recruiting?” Recruiting advantage: whichever school is closer to the prospect

FIU wins, by decision or Liston-over-Patterson first round KO: they’re on UCF’s level, they’re rising faster than UCF and might soon be beyond them. Recruiting advantage: FIU.  

Preseason predictions: It’s the third game of the season. We’ve got an actual small sample size. Who gives two clucks to a duck what a bunch of scribes thought in the spring when the preseason publications were actually written? 

The game: I didn’t like this matchup for FIU in the preseason. After watching two FIU wins and UCF beating the stew, as my late grandmother used to say, out of Boston College, I still don’t like it.

What you heard all week from FIU about UCF’s defense were variations on “disciplined. They play assignment football.”

Translation: they don’t put themselves out of position, this increasing their vulnerability to the okeydokes – counters, misdirections, end arounds, reverses. You get an athletic, fast defense that doesn’t let its strength become its weakness, that’s when you get a defense that gives up one touchdown in the last 16 quarters.

UCF got pressure on Boston College’s quarterback rushing only four, blitzing only to break up the boredom. A repeat here means FIU quarterback Wesley Carroll better be Peyton Manning on his reads against a seven-man drop off on obvious passing downs. But a plus for FIU: only two sacks allowed in two games, both of which should’ve been Carroll throwaways. One was that strange play against Louisville when three players moved before the snap, the play continued and everybody hesitated for a beat while Carroll took a sack.

T.Y. Hilton doesn’t think there’s a secondary that can cover FIU’s wide receivers man-to-man. He better be right tonight, for FIU’s sake. If he isn’t, it’s going to be a long night of short possessions for the FIU offense. I don’t see them running on UCF, which is more talented up front than Louisville.

FIU kept trying to work the run last week even as Louisville’s defensive front did to the interior line what Interstate 95 did to Overtown. The called play breakdown, 24 runs and 22 passes, certainly didn’t reflect that the Cardinals’ defensive problems clearly were greater in pass defense against FIU than run defense. FIU likes offensive balance, albeit with more official snaps than 46. I’m more a guy who likes teams that go with what’s working, ditch what’s not.

Darriet Perry spent the early part of the week dealing with a family tragedy back in Valdosta, Ga. Perry’s FIU’s best power runner for yards after contact. There might be a lot of early contact here.

As good as UCF’s defense looked against BC, there were plays to be made against the Knights. They gave up a couple of 8-to-10-yard runs that a Kedrick Rhodes or Jeremiah Harden or Darian Mallary would turn into 15-to-25 yarders. They blew some coverages in the flat, too. BC just didn’t have the skill people to take advantage of it. FIU will if they can create the same chances.

When UCF has the ball, they’re body punchers. A line whose starters average exactly 299 pounds across the front moved Boston College around like patio furniture, especially in the second half. I’ve got a glider that puts up more of a fight when I bring it in off the north balcony for hurricanes than some of those battered, drained BC guys did in the fourth quarter.  

Battered, FIU might be, but they won’t be drained. Or, rather, they shouldn’t be. As with Louisville, I can see UCF having ground success early, but as the game goes on, those big men start to flag a bit and FIU’s quickness again comes into play.

Maintaining rush lanes and solid pursuit lines never again will be so important. If they don’t, UCF quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey will squirt through for first down after heartbreaking first down. FIU needs to keep him in the pocket – Godfrey’s accurate on the move. FIU’s secondary didn’t have the massive blown coverages of Week 1 last week against Louisville, but still gave up some plays it seemed they shouldn't.

So how does this all play out?

Nobody’s ever hurt themselves by coming out screaming like James Brown opening “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” And it would do FIU some good.


FIU needs a couple of big plays early – a long run or catch, maybe a huge kickoff return or interception return – to keep the party going in the stands, create an atmosphere that says the fates have decreed an FIU victory.  Everyone has nights like that.

What’s more likely to happen? UCF muscles its way to an early 10-point lead. FIU gets used to UCF’s size, just as it did Louisville’s, in the second quarter. From there, the two slug it out with punts and field goals until Wesley Carroll finds someone doing a Russian kick dance through the UCF secondary for a score. Three possessions later, UCF’s Godfrey hits on two third down throws and leads them to the first of two late touchdowns. The second comes on a fumble return by UCF.

UCF 31, FIU 16.

To paraphrase an ex, that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could very well be wrong.


Senior Lucas Di Croce's two first half goals stood up for a 2-1 win against North Florida Friday night at FIU Soccer Stadium, getting the team over .500 at 3-2-2 overall and keeping them unbeaten at home: 3-0-2.

The 7th Annual Alumni Golf Tournament will be held at The Country Club at Coral Springs Sept. 30. Registration's at 7 a.m. and there will be an 8 a.m. shotgun start. In addition to raffle and a live auction of licensed, autographed memorabilia, there will be a closest-to-the-pin contest and hole-in-one contest that could give the winner at 2012 Dodge Ram truck. Registration is $175. For more information, call David Lister (954_594-5763).


The women's soccer season began with Stetson burying a last minute scoring chance (skill) off a deflected pass (luck) for the win after FIU dominated statistically. In some ways, that set the tone for the season. When a team has several games like that, as FIU has, then suffers a 7-0 loss, as FIU (2-5) did to Oregon State in the Nike Invitational Friday night, the concern usually is preventing the psychological collapse.

"I don't think we're in danger of that," head coach Thomas Chestnutt said around 1 a.m. Eastern time Saturday. "Our team has self belief."

Chestnutt believes FIU just ran into a good team on a night when it was terribly hot, realized it and rode that feeling for all it was worth. FIU has a day off before facing Oregon Sunday.

"Since I've been here, I've not seen a team that played with that level of aggression and committment on the field," head coach Thomas Chestnutt said. "Still, it's embarrassing to be beaten 7-0."

This season, senior Kelly Ann Hutchinson has been FIU's only semi-consistent finisher, potting a team high three goals on 11 shots.

"Kelly and Vicky (Miliucci) have played strong game in, game out," Chestnutt said. "They've been the cornerstones of our team. Even tonight, they played well. Sara Stewart as a freshman has done a great job, very consistent. Usually, freshman are up and down."

Next week starts the conference portion of the schedule, with a road trip to Arkansas State for a Sunday afternoon game.

"We're not where we want to be as a team, but we're certainly capable of beating anyone on our schedule for the rest of the season," Chestnutt said.

September 05, 2011

Enclosed (Not Domed) Stadium in 2012, T.Y., Bjelica POWs, Grace Under Fire

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.


August 31, 2011

Football Game Day I, 2011

As opposed to Football I Game Day, 2011, which would mean you've downloaded the original Mattel Electronics game onto your iPad and you're either playing or waiting for someone else to run across the screen several times to score a touchdown, prompting that electronic tune that seemed to be a TD dance unto itself.

Could see a lot of that tonight.

FIU vs. North Texas on Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium.

Preseason projections: The Sporting News picks FIU as the outright Sun Belt winner. Sports Illustrated says FIU, Troy and Louisiana-Monroe all hit the line 8-4 overall and 7-1 in the conference. Lindy's and Athlon both take Troy with FIU second, Athlon's predicting FIU with a 6-2 conference record and 7-5 record overall. Conversely, North Texas is picked as high as third (Sporting News) and as low as eighth (Lindy's) with SI and Athlon's both putting them sixth at 4-8 overall and 4-4 in conference.

The game: The first 4,000 in the house get a free football schedule magnet to hold those pizza coupons on the door until late the first weekend night after they expire, when you rediscover them because you've got the munchies and Triscuits aren't getting it done.

The significant number for the North Texas offense is 299.6. That's the average poundage of their offensive line starters, a number dragged down by 275-pound center J.J. Johnson and left tackle Matt Tomlinson, 6-5, 298, who might be their best lineman. The Mean Green will keep handing the ball to 5-9, 209-pound Lance Dunbar and try to punk FIU with power and bulk. If this results in long drives that suck the life out of The Cage, well, that's the point, now isn't it? With 6-4 Derek Thompson at quarterback, expect North Texas to make a few plays off the scramble as well as the play action pass. FIU's defensive speed won't be tested as much as the quickness of the front seven. North Texas will put up more than the 10 points of last year's 34-10 FIU win.

But it won't be enough.

North Texas' new defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was the DC at Western Kentucky last year, where an OK Sun Belt defense held FIU to 28 points in a 28-21 FIU win. Tonight, like a stud poker player slowly pulling cards from his sleeve, FIU reveals what they've learned of this expanded version of the offense over the last year. Once the Golden Panthers get the Mean Green going with runs at the defensive ends, look for them to occasionally go back the other way with quick, play action hitches and screens. Don't bet against them, from there, setting up a hitch-and-go bomb.

"21 (North Texas cornerback Royce Hill), I know he's a great cover guy," FIU's T.Y. Hilton said. "He loves bump-and-run. He's got great speed."

So do FIU's receivers. Wesley Carroll completes only 13-to-15 passes, but he averages around 18 yards per completion. A kickoff return touchdown ignites pandemonium late, but an interception return for a touchdown not long after puts North Texas next to Glass Joe. FIU gallops to a 47-24 win that's not as easy as the score makes it look.


To paraphrase an ex-girlfriend, that's one black man's opinion. I surely could be wrong.


The NCAA approved two hardship waivers in two days earlier this week. The second one allowed Salt Lake City native Lewis Walker, who played in 24 games over two seasons with Hawaii, to play this season after transferring to Utah. The first one put tight end Mike McFarland, from the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area, closer to the field for South Florida after leaving Gainesville. According to the St. Pete Times, McFarland cited a family illness as why he wanted to be closer to home.

Does this mean the NCAA's feeling like Don Corleone on his daughter's wedding day and be willing to let running back Daquan Hargrett and/or wide receiver James Louis do their thing for FIU this year?


Don't know, but Hargrett's one more of what FIU already has -- a short, fast back you use as part of a rotation. Louis, on the other hand, is a true talent. That he didn't play at Ohio State -- kind of a good football school with a tradition of tremendous college wide receivers -- as a freshman doesn't dim that he would be a dynamic addition, once he gets into football shape and hold of the offense.


A few recruits will be floating around The Cage at Camp Mitch on unofficial visits Thursday. Look for the official visits to start with the Saturday night games. No word on any more early commits -- yet.

The Herald's preseason football sections came out today. Please realize the deadlines on those were over a week ago, thus affecting the prognastications and the accuracy of several other details. Writers rarely get excited about what they scribble for the special sections and this is no exception as far as me and what I wrote. OK Apple Jacks reading, not up to Real Reading Room standards.


August 13, 2011

Playing dominoes in West Miami-Dade...

There's not much from Saturday morning's practice to report other than the plethora of orange no-contact jerseys.

Among those who weren't hurt before Friday's scrimmage, safety Cain Elliot was still on crutches, of course, with a left ankle sprained Friday; Safety Justin Halley, who had an interception in the scrimmage, took a shot to the head and sat out Saturday's practice; wide receiver Mike Jean-Louis still couldn't seem to bend his left leg, on which the thigh was tightly wrapped; defensive lineman Andrew Mattox had a left thigh wrapped; defensive tackle Isame Faciane also was on the sidelines.

Butch Davis dropped by again with AD Pete Garcia. Mario Cristobal started coaching as a graduate assistant under Davis at the University of Miami. They exchanged much friendly yakkety-yak after practice, along with quarterbacks Wesley Carroll and Jake Medlock.

"Certainly so many things from his blueprint we have applied here," Cristobal said. "Obviously, a person I'm very grateful to and thankful for. It's awesome to see him. He's as good as it gets." 

Davis' presence and the way he recruited South Florida while at the University of Miami brings up the irresistable question, what if FIU has an eight-win or better season? Cristobal's contract buyout isn't so onerous as to keep a big-time school serious about him -- or, rather, that school's boosters -- from ponying up the $453,000 emancipation fee. There's something boosters and money can't buy, however.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Cristobals have two very young children, Daddy Cristobal puts in the marathon days of most college coaches (paranoid control freaks by nature) and Mama Cristobal's very active in the community. For such parents, the extended family support system can be a serious factor in deciding whether or not the grass is greener elsewhere, even if there's more of the long green involved. Yeah, money can buy you a parent support system of nannies, but not everybody's comfortable with that. You can build a parent support system of trusted friends. But, there really isn't anything like having the grandparents who love to spoil the kids, the aunts and uncles who'll turn a mall trip into as much fun as an afternoon at Disney or the cousins who are like siblings. That's raising the kids and, when we're talking coaches, the wife's doing the lion's share of that.

I'm not saying they'll never go anywhere because of that. I'm saying don't discount it as having weight. Current Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, an NFL coach who was raised the son of longtime NFL coach Dick Nolan, as quoted by John Feinstein's "Next Man Up:"

"I tell young coaches that they better be sure when they take a new job that their wife can be happy. See, the coaches have it easy. We get someplace and we're spending all our time doing what we love: coaching...We're not the ones who have to find new schools and new doctors and a new place to shop and send out change-of-address stuff and get phones hooked up. Your wife is doing all the work, so you better be sure she's comfortable with whereever you're going, because if she's not, everyone is going to be miserable."

Ye who have had to live with an unhappy wife know whereof he speaks.

If Cristobal does go, nothing that happened at North Carolina would deter FIU from hiring Davis, whose career surely will restart somewhere in a couple of years. FIU would be a much more inviting place to Davis if it were in a better conference.

And that leads us to the dominoes game.

Texas A&M's trying to move from the Big 12 (which isn't 12 anymore) to the Southeastern Conference. As one college football suit said Friday, "they'll need a partner." The early reports had Florida State, Clemson and Missouri all making the move to the SEC with the Aggies. Outside of A&M, everybody is playing the denial game like those guys who take the lie detector tests on The Maury Show. Some of them are telling the truth, but somebody's lying. Let's say A&M heads for the SEC with Florida State, a strong football-good enough basketball school that's in SEC country more than ACC country.

If it's FSU and/or Clemson, the ACC will start looking for another school. The ACC actually cares about academics, so they're not just going to grab any revenue sport powerhouse or big TV market school feeling like they need to make a move. They might go Big East courting (UConn? Rutgers?).

If the Big East gets nicked as the dominoes fall, don't expect FIU to get a "How do you do?" from that conference. FIU Stadium needs to be enclosed. Going on experience gained by watching 21 years of venue construction in South Florida, I'd put that project at 18 months from now. For the Big East, it probably needs to be enlarged with a second deck. FIU's athletic department has other beefing up and straightening up to do before thinking Big East. 

The Big 12's already going to lose A&M. They lost Nebraska. Oklahoma and Texas can hold that conference together. If they do, Houston's already being talked about as a strong possibility for replacing A&M. I think Texas and their $300 million Longhorn Network that they can't take with them to the Pac-10 or Big Ten will start thinking about life as an independent.

Houston's in Conference USA. So is Central Florida, which the Big East might want for the Orlando market if it goes hunting for a replacement school.

If you've got to replace one or two big schools, the No. 10 and/or No. 19 TV market, who do you do it with? With another big enrollment school that gets the vast majority of its students from an area that combines two TV markets (Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce) into a top 10 market.

That's when the Conference USA folks call the Mitch Madique Campus.


July 01, 2011

News and notes: Interview with AD Pete Garcia

I had a chance to catch up with FIU athletic director Pete Garcia Friday afternoon. We touched a on  number of different subjects during our chat. I posted a few notes below.


What are a few things FIU fans can look forward to this coming athletic year?

"We are very excited No. 1 with what’s happened with the foundation built by our coaches and our student athletes. Going into this year we are excited about our football program. First time we are playing six games at home. With teams like UCF and Duke coming in it should be an exciting season."

What are some of the plans to continue increasing attendance at football games?

"Attendance went up dramatically last year. We are bringing in higher quality teams. A UCF team that won the conference and an ACC team in Duke. Our student body is getting more involved in the program. ESPN networks are carrying 6 out of our first 8 games. That’s unheard of for our conference."

Ticket sales?

"It’s going to be safe to say we are going to have over 10,000 season tickets sold this year."

Any word on when the next phase of stadium construction will begin?

"We are stating to have discussions in regard about closing off the north side of the stadium," Garcia said.

Garcia was clear that the talks were just beginning and that plans should become more clear in about "six months."

Is the plan to continue using the arena and the stadium for outside events?

"The Arena is used about 95 percent of the time. A lot of it is outside events that bring in money for the athletic department. The Gold Cup is a perfect example. Those revenues also go into the athletic department.We keep increasing it every year. We could still use the stadium more. We have a number of high school games at the stadium including Belen and Columbus."

Men's basketball

Work on the 2011-12 basketball schedule is underway. According to Garcia, the Panthers will be traveling to Maryland and Dayton next season. Dates will be announced sometime this month.

With much speculation in the national media about the future of basketball coach Isiah Thomas, I figured I'd ask Garcia about the possibility of Thomas taking a head coaching job in the association next year.

"[Thomas] is here and he’s working and recruiting. He’s very excited about his upcoming year," Garcia said.

What are some the changes coming to the basketball arena?

 "New lockers. Brand new entrance with suits. Multipurpose rooms that will be used for suits on game day and other University functions when we are not playing."


How is the search for a new softball coaching coming along?

"We are doing a national search for the softball coach. We are confident we can find someone that can build on what Beth did and take the program to the next level."

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on twitter @JustinAzpiazu

April 02, 2011

FIU's football field has a new name: Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium

Here's a bit of good financial news for FIU in these tough times: The school has secured a naming rights deal for its football field.

For the next five years, Panthers home games will be played at Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium, named after Panthers alum David F. Alfonso, who has provided an undisclosed gift to the athletic department.

Alfonso is chairman and CEO of Empire Investment Holdings, a Miami-based private investment firm.

"We're thrilled that one of our very own grads is so excited that he is now giving back to our athletics program," said FIU president Mark Rosenberg.

February 14, 2011

Q&A with FIU President Mark Rosenberg

Chatted with FIU prez Mark Rosenberg last week, and although he declined to discuss the touchy Garrett Wittels situation, which Clark Spencer and I explore in today’s Herald, he did talk more broadly about the direction of the university, and its impact on athletics.

With all the attention you all received with the football season, have you seen a spike in applications?

 “Not yet, is the best way to answer that. It probably would be premature to identify a spike, because there are all types so things pushing applications. I’d say in another two three months, we’d be in a better position to know, but not right now.”

 You’re anticipating growing the size of enrollment in the next few years, right?

“We’ll go 10,000 in the next five, and in the 10, it will be another 10. Twenty thousand in total. We’ll go from 42,000 to 62,000.”

Mark-Rosenberg-official-photo What exactly will the impact be on athletics?

“I think the impact on athletics is three-fold. First, that growth will expand the fan base. Clearly, the students are critical for a fan base, particular with a high-quality stadium and a basketball arena, and softball field and a soccer field on our campus. We will have a lot more opportunities to have students attend a range of games.

“The second thing is, obviously, as the student population increases, the pool of available funds will increase. The most important thing about the growth in the student enrollment is that we’ll be able to hire, over the next 10 years, at least 800 new faculty. That’s over and above what we would have hired. And we’ll be able to able hundreds of new advisors and counselors. That’s critical if we’re to improve our graduation rate, and then we’ll be able to offer a lot more courses. To our students.

“And the third point, as we enroll more students, we will graduate more students, building a much stronger alumni base within this community. Within the next 10 years, we will graduate 100,000 students. That’s 100,000 alums, alums who have great jobs in the community, and who will be presumably supportive of their alma mater.”

The school had some cuts a few years back. Will this money go to restoring some of those jobs?

“You can’t put toothpaste back into the tube. We will have created new jobs, but they will not necessarily be the same jobs in the same positions, because the cuts decisions were based upon a very disciplined approach to assessing what was good and could get better, and where we could built excellence. There was a disciplined cut agenda. I don’t think we’ll replace with the same programs necessarily. We’re trying to be responsive in the marketplace. We’ll be hiring faculty in programs that are much more sensitive to demand and market demand jobs. We’ll be offering more courses. And with that, of course, there will be additional student fee money that will go to a range of different areas – our health clinics, our athletics, our student activities. That will obviously help us in providing a fuller range of opportunities for our students. I’m essentially giving you a long, complicated answer to what was a very focused question. Truthfully, I look at this holistically, and I know your focus is on athletics, but enrollment growth is about hiring new faculty, maintaining student-faculty ratios, offering more courses, and providing much better advise and guidance for our students.”

It seems to me, the missing piece to building a successful athletic program is to grow the fan base – to pack the football stadium, to travel to bowl games. That’s the sign of a healthy program, when you have people in the seats, correct?

“No question. No doubt that we must do a better job of consistently of getting our fans back to follow our teams. Whether or it’s football or basketball or baseball. Clearly, as the number of students grow, the number of alumni grow, and as the number of alumni will grow, the amount of support that they will bring back to FIU – emotional, financial – will grow. But ultimately, I want to reinforce that notion, in terms of our admissions, we know there are academically qualified students. There’s a demand for access for FIU. It’s not that we’re going to be open admissions. Not at all. This is for academically qualified students around which we will build our institution.”

Are there plans in the near future to start renovating the stadium again?

“Obviously, there’s a context for everything, and the economic downturn has forced us to re-evaluate our timetables. I can’t give you a specific timetable. I can tell you our planners are thinking about when we could initiate that process. We’re looking at other ways to improve stadium. We finally start to improve the press boxes. That’s very important. We’re doing gradual improvements to Landon Fieldhouse. It’s spectacular. We put a wrap around the stadium to advertise more the university. We’re making constant improvements, but we still don’t have a specific timetable for the north end. There are a lot of options we are looking at, but right now, we don’t have a specific timetable.”

February 07, 2011

FIU's stadium manager takes MLS gig

FIU stadium manager Anthony Mozzicato, who oversaw many of the upgrades made to The Cage, has accepted a job with the Sporting Kansas City, and will run the team's new facility, set to open in June 2011. His exact title will be manager of operations for Sporting KC Stadium.

"I would like to thank FIU Athletic Director Pete Garcia and Senior Associate AD Julie Berg for giving me the opportunity to manage FIU Stadium over the last several years as Stadium Manager." Mozzicato said in a statement.  "I am also very appreciative of the working relationship and friendship that I have gained with FIU Football Head Coach Mario Cristobal and I look forward to watching him continue to build FIU Football into a nationally recognized program.  I will always be an FIU Golden Panther."

FIU has not yet named a successor, but it is believed the school will consider external candidates.

November 26, 2010

Quotes left out of Friday's Herald story on FIU football

In case you missed it, here's my takeout piece on the signficance of this year's football season -- and this Saturday's game, in particular -- on the growth of Florida International.

It's pretty exhaustive, but Of course, space isn't infinite in print. But it is here in the lands of 0s and 1s.

So here's a couple of interesting tidbits that were left out.

Athletic director Pete Garcia on a possible contract extension for Mario Cristobal: "I'm very happy with the job Mario has done. This is what I envisioned when I hired him."

President Mark Rosenberg on the same: "If my son was playing football again, I'd want him to play for Mario Cristobal. I've been really impressed with him."

Garcia on the plans to expand the stadium: "This past year, obviously, we opened up the field house, the weight room. We just finished a couple of months ago, the two new press areas. We’re going to keep adding. Every year, there’s something more to it. As far as more seats, as we get the demand, the demand will dictate how much we keep adding. The final plan is 45,000 with an upper tier. But the demand will dictate how fast we will go. A 45,000-seat stadium down here in South Florida for football is all anyone needs."

New Orleans Bowl Executive Director Billy Ferrante on FIU: “Well, they’re a team that we’ve had our eye on. They’re playing very consistently right now. They, along probably with four others that are still in the mix for the outright championship in the league are ones we’re keeping a close eye on right now.” President Jerry Silverstein: "There are several pieces to the pie. We are very close with Pete Garcia down there and Dr. Rosenberg and we have spoken with they. We have spoken with Troy and Dr. Hopkins. We have spoken with different athletic programs. Sometimes it’s a relationship. Sometimes it’s star players. You’ve got No. 4 down there, Hilton, who’s a very exciting player who can help turn TV sets on. You are building that fan base, where people are traveling and doing better. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Those remain to be worked out. We worked with conference office."

October 14, 2010

North Texas breakdown

North Texas (1-5) started the season with three straight losses (@Clemson, Rice and @Army). The Mean Green's only win came at FAU last month, 21-17. The Mean Green have struggled with injuries, losing 11 starters to season ending injuries. The quarterback position has been especially hit hard, with the Mean Green down to fourth string quarterback Chase Baine. North Texas had relied on Riley Dodge at quarterback, but Dodge broke his wrist against Lafayette and will miss some time.

In North Texas' last game, the Mean Green were conservative with the pass calling, limiting Baine to 17 attempts. Baine completed nine passes for 77 yards, in a 24-19 loss at Arkansas State.The Mean Green have thrown six interceptions, most in the SBC.

North Texas Army Football Running back Lance Dunbar (left, Mike Groll, AP) has been the main driving force for North Texas, rushing for over a 100 yards five times this season. Dunbar is a 5 foot 9, 203 pound back, that can use speed or power to gain extra yards. Dunbar will be FIU's main concern on Saturday. If the Golden Panthers can stop Dunbar chances are they can win.

Against Arkansas State, Dunbar carried the ball 30 times for 104 yards and a touchdown.

The Mean Green have lost two consecutive Sun Belt games and are 1-2 in the SBC. The Mean Green will be looking to turn their season around against FIU on Saturday. The FIU defense will need to be able to stop the run if they hope to win.

Defensively, the Mean Green have a talented group that is ranked second in the SBC, behind FIU, in total defense and second in scoring defense. FIU will need to be careful on offense and protect the ball. North Texas had the ability to score on turnovers. Even though, the North Texas offense is hobbled at the moment, the team can still score. FIU will need to take them serious to win on the road.

Series: FIU leads the series 3-2.

Line: FIU -5

Weather: Sat. H83, L53, with a 7:30 kickoff the weather might be closer to the low.

 Tomorrow - FIU scouting report, prediction

September 11, 2010

Rutgers breakdown; FIU scouting report; prediction of the game

GYI0061476927LIVE BLOG

Live blog starts at 7:45 Saturday night. Tune in for MY UNFILTERED TAKE on the FIU-Rutgers contest. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

Rutgers scouting report

The Scarlet Knights ride into FIU Stadium as 17 1/2 point favorites over the Golden Panthers. Led by sophomore quarterback Tom Savage (left, Savage has to be one the best names for a college QB), the Scarlet Knights beat up Norfolk State 31-0 last week. Savage completed 10 of 19 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. Savage started the game a bit shaky completing three of his first nine passes for 43 yards. 

It is important to note that Norfolk State (a MEAC team) sacked Savage three times.

The Scarlet Knights' running game was anchored by junior running back Joe Martinek GYI0061476884 (right). Martinek finished last Thursday's contest rushing for 109 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Last season, Martinek was Rutgers' leading rusher with 967 yards on 206 carries and nine touchdowns. Martinek averaged 4.7 yards a carry. Against FIU, Martinek rushed for 126 yards on 23 carries. 

GYI0061476831 WR Mohamed Sanu (left), a preseason All-Big East pick, is a multi-talented threat that has been used at different offensive position. Sanu caught three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown against Norfolk State. Sanu also rushed the ball six times out of Rutgers' version of the "wild cat." Last season, Sanu rushed for 346 yards on 62 carries and had five touchdowns.

Scouting report FIU

After waiting all fall camp, FIU fans will finally find out who the team's new starting quarterback will be. And guess what folks? Chances are both QBs will see considerable playing time against Rutgers. Adam Beasley has a story in Saturday's paper advancing the game, here.

Wesley10 FIUfoot MHS TMC Beasley quotes offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield as saying that, "we'll probably see both guys out there." While this may not surprise some fans, I find the decision a little concerning. I expected Wesley Carroll (left) to outshine Wayne Younger during fall camp. If Carroll is not clearly the starter, then frankly, that did not happen. It will be interesting to see how Cristobal and Satterfield handle the rotation. Will each get a series? Or will he yank one at the first sign of trouble?

Another possibility is that Younger, a senior, showed something nice during fall camp and Cristobal wants to test how far he has come. (A word of caution: FIU has been so quiet about the QB situation - that I can honestly say - I do not know what is going to happen for sure.) Carroll might come out and be the starting QB after all. So, like so many things in life, I guess we will have to wait and see.

COORDINATORS Satterfield 03 Fuifoot MHS PAB

Another interesting side story in Saturday's game will be the debut of offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield (right) and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.

Satterfield, a former quarterback for Appalachian State, brings with him to FIU a variation of the Mountaineer's spread offense.

What will the new 2010 Panthers look like? That remains a mystery.

If FIU wants to get the season off on the right foot, Satterfield will need to find a way to move the ball against a tough Rutgers'  defense. The Scarlet Knights feature a talented core of defensive backs that can give any opposing offensive coordinator a tough time.

Hilton4(SL_081011_D3A2343) This is the part where it becomes tricky for Satterfield and FIU. To run a successful spread offense you need to have the right weapons. The Golden Panthers already have a rising group of wide receivers (like T.Y. Hilton, left), but do they have a quarterback that can successfully run the offense? I really hate to stress that fact. Saturday's game will say a lot about this team and where it is heading this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Collins brings his own changes100 fiu SPTS ADD to FIU. From what I have had a chance to see during fall camp, the defense seemed to be clicking quicker than the offense. Early in camp, Cristobal spoke about how the defense was indeed ahead of the offense, but after a few weeks said, both units had caught up.

FIU is going to have to hope its' defense (Toronto Smith, right; Anthony Gaitor, left) can hold down Rutgers long enough for the offense to score some  points. I have a feeling, the FIU defense is going to be much improved this year and will give Rutgers a hard time moving the ball early.

500 fiu SPTS ADD Last week, both Satterfield and Collins said they were excited about how the team will look this season. I know that a lot of Golden Panthers fans out there feel the same thing.


Rutgers injuries: Questionable: WR Phil Lewis (upper extremity), RB Casey Turner (leg). Doubtful: UT J.T. Tartacoff (leg). Out: OL Devon Watkis (ankle), WR Quron Pratt (shoulder), WR Timothy Wright (knee).

FIU injuries: Questionable: LB Larvez Mars ankle), TE Dudley LaPorte (foot).


QB: Wesley Carroll; RB: Darrian Marrary; TE: Jonatha Faucher; WR: T.Y. Hilton; Greg Ellingson; Willis Wight (why not); C: Brad Serini, LT: Caylin Hauptmann, RT Rupert Bryan Jr.,  OG: David Istanich, OG: Giancarlo Revilla.


LB: Toronto Smith, Winston Fraser, Aaron Davis; CB: Anthony Gaitor, Emmanuel Souarin; S: Ash Parker, Jonathan Cyprien; DL: Tourek Williams, James Jones, Andrew Mattox, Joshua Forney.


The Golden Panthers will have to come ready to play if they hope to stop Rutgers. Unfortunately for FIU, I see the Scarlet Knights taking an early lead and not giving it up. I look to the Rutgers defense to limit FIU's chances in the first-half. FIU will find its offensive rhythm early in the third quarter but it will prove to be in a losing effort. RU 21-14.


Coach Munga has been hard at working trying to rebuild FIU back to a contender. I have a story in today's paper about his efforts, here.


FIU plays UM in the 10th annual Hurricane Invitational Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Justin Azpiazu

August 21, 2010

Scrimmage report #2

Hey everyone, bright and earlier at FIU for the last day of fall camp and it was hot. The guys started at their usually 8 a.m. with some stretching. After individual drills, the team moved to 7 on 7s for a few plays.

7 on 7s

Wesley10 FIUfoot MHS TMC A few plays worth mentioning. LB Kenneth Dillard intercepted Wesley Carroll (left) on the line of scrimmage and rumbled forward for a gain. Carroll complete a few short passes. Carroll also had a long pass attempt, but was almost intercepted when he threw into double coverage.

Scrimmage notes

I was allowed to watch the first 25 plays of the scrimmage or so plays before practice was closed to the media.

I watched two series, one with Carroll and one with Wayne Younger.

First series

Carroll started the scrimmage working with the first-team offense. 1st play: T.Y. Hilton ran a sweep to the outside and picked up a few yards. 2nd play: Greg Ellingson faked out CB Jose Cheeseborough off the line of scrimmage and was wide-open down the sideline, but Carroll over threw what would have been an easy score. 3rd play: Carroll to Darriet Perry over the middle for about 8 yards,

Unlike Friday's scrimmage, where the defense started off in control, the offense seemed to be able to move the ball to start.

4th play: CB Emmanuel Souarin deflected Carroll's pass. 5th play: Darian Mallary runs for 4 yards and picks up a first down. 6th play: Carroll scrambles for six yards. 7th play: Punt.

Defensive starters on first play of first series. DL: Tourek Williams, Jerrico Lee, Joshua Forney, Jarvis Wilson. LB: Winston Fraser, Toronto smith. DB: Ash Parker, Anthony Gaitor, Jose Cheeseborough, Jonathan Cyprien, Emmanuel Souarun.

Second series

Younger takes over with the second-team offense. 1st play: Jeremiah Harden rushes for 2 yards. 2nd play: Younger completes to Harden for a first down. 3rd play: False start. 4th play: Harden rushes for 3 yards. 5th play: Younger to Jacob Younger for 3 yards. 

At this point, facing a third and long, the offense seemed ready to punt the ball again. 6th play: Younger fires a strike to Wayne Times for a 10-yard pick up and a first down. 7th play: Younger scrambles for 8 yards. After two more short runs, the offense stalled. Younger was sacked on a bad snap and Joshua Forney batted a ball down on the line of scrimmage.

Coach06 fiu spts da Post scrimmage interview with Mario Cristobal

On fall camp

"It went really well. We had a bad injury with Kevin Van Kirk. But aside from that, we can heal. I think we are in pretty good shape. We are still three weeks out, so technically, we have another week of camp, we just have school. Overall our players know there is work to do and they are hungry to do it."

How has the defensive adjust to the new schemes?

"Real well, real well. They had a great night [Friday] night. They did a lot of things that made it confusing and difficult for the offense and capitalized with tip balls and what not and creating turnovers. [Saturday] the offense came out and kinda of counter punted but the defense came right back out again and counter punched them right back."

On evaluating potential starters

"Its all performance based, it really is. And of course you always tie in academics and doing the right thing off the field. But it truly is on film evaluation and part of it is practice because you do create the scenarios in practice that simulates a game and of course you tie in the scrimmage."

I'll post stats when I get them in a little while.

Response to comments

@FIU FPL We need your thoughts/impressions so far. While a play by play of scrimmage is nice...what did you think? Is Carrol better or is Younger IN YOUR OPINION? Is the offense the strength or is it the defense? HOW GOOD is OL Caylin? Do the defensive schemes IMPRESS YOU or NOT?

A. I like what I see from the defense, they are quick. But I'm going to hold off on what I think 100 percent till we get closer to that first game against Rutgers. On the QB situation, Carroll will most likely start but Younger will still see the field.

Justin Azpiazu

April 06, 2010

Blue/Gold Preview

Helmet FIU will kickoff the annual Blue/Gold Spring Game on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. and while most of you will be at work -- unless you get George Peterson to call your boss for you or if your boss is Michael Scott -- don't worry the GPP has got you covered.

The GPP will channel its best Al Michaels and deliver you a play-by-play LIVE BLOG from FIU Stadium beginning with a 2-minute pre-blog show at 3:28 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

To get you ready for the spring game whether you are planning on attending or will follow through cyberspace, here's what to look for:


Like last season, the continued development of the offensive and defensive lines will determine how successful FIU will be this coming season.

This spring it's pretty much been a draw when the two lines have gone at it. If anything the D-line might haveMattox a slight edge on the O-line right now. Of course, when looking at any position this spring you have to factor in the injured players not participating and the newly-signed Panthers that won't be on campus until July.

One key cog to the O-line that has missed this spring is Rupert Bryan recovering from a knee injury. He started non-contact drills late in the spring and is expected to be 100 percent come fall camp.

Tourek Williams and Andrew Mattox (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) have carried their strong freshmen seasons over into this spring. Keep an eye on No. 97 and No. 93 on Wednesday as well as James Jones, who has recovered nicely from his two surgeries.

If you're at FIU Stadium see who controls the line of scrimmage on Wednesday.

Outside of Brad Serini and Cedric Mack, there aren't any other seniors on the O-line. Same thing goes for the D-line outside of senior Thatcher Starling.


With Dudley LaPorte sidelined this spring with a foot injury, Colt Anderson and Jonathan Faucher have taken Ty advantage of the extra reps.

As we saw last season in limited duty (1-handed TD catch vs. ULM) before he broke his foot, DLP will be a big part of the O this season. However, the emergence this spring of CA and JF have given the Panthers another pair of offensive weapons.

CA, in particular, has had a terrific spring. The two tight ends appear ready to join what is FIU's strength -- receivers. And the receivers have gotten stronger. If you haven't been out to spring practice this season, take a look at the new muscles on Wayne Times and T.Y. Hilton (left, thanks AJH photo). Times stood out in the first scrimmage.

Another receiver who has had a good spring is Ariel Martinez. The walk-on from Coral Park started making some tough catches last fall.


Some of the heralded young defensive players that didn't see much playing time last season have been getting more playing time on D this spring and have shown some of their potential.Mars

Linebacker Pooh Bear Mars (right), defensive back Emmanuel Souarin and safety Terrance Taylor have had their moments this spring. Walk-on defensive back Jose Cheseborough has also made some plays.

Aaron Davis also continued his strong finish to last season and can be a pass rushing threat this coming season. FIU needs to get more pressure on the QB this season.

I think the Panthers have really taken to new DC Geoff Collins and you'll see a new energy with the FIU defenders this season.

One area where the Panthers need more of the younger players to emerge is along the D-line to go along with Tourek and Mattox.

Quarterback Wayne Younger might be the Panther that has shown the most improvement this spring. Besides looking like he's taken to the weight room, WY has more zip on his passes and as usual can move with the ball in his hands. WY might be making the starting QB decision a lot tougher on MC and offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield later this August.


Apaw Pi Kappa Alpha and the FIU Football Team are organizing the Kendall Berry Memorial Flag Football Tournament.
The 7-on-7 tournament will be taking place at FIU Stadium at 9:00 AM on Sunday, April Kb 11. Teams will consist of 7- 10 players each. Registration costs are $10 a player, with 100% of the proceeds going to support the remembrance of Kendall Berry through a memorial and banner at FIU Stadium, and possibly an FIU scholarship.

For more information you can contact: Francis Aguilar (Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Philanthropy Chairman) at (305) 542-8343 or


Jsuarez88: Pete, can you help me undertstand why they wouldnt play this game on a fri-sun??? Why would they do it mid-week at 3pm??

PP: Because of the 30-day window each college team has to complete spring practice. Also about 28 players have classes or exams on Wednesday night so they had to move the game up to the afternoon.

Team Stats

» View more stats



Powered by TypePad