July 24, 2013

July 01, 2013

The Herald's Welcome to Conference USA Primer

Today is FIU's first day as a member of Conference USA.

Everybody seems to be doing “getting to know you” little intros as C-USA remakes itself today. FIU, FAU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, North Carolina-Charlotte, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio officially join the league as Central Florida, Houston, SMU leave. Next year, Old Dominion comes in with football while East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa leave. Charlotte's football team, which begins play this season in FCS, will join C-USA in 2015

Let's be real -- Southern Mississippi brings no more sexy to FIU fans than Arkansas State. The only way Rice draws at Camp Mitch is with Chicken as a travel partner. To Marshall’s “We…Are…Marshall!” FIU could give a sullen “We…Are…Ambivalent.”

With that in mind, here’s my Getting to Know Conference USA primer:

FAU, North Texas, Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky: They’ve been in the same conference with FIU for a decade. Don’t be afraid to pay attention. As Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes sang...


East Carolina, Tulsa, Tulane: What do you care? They’re leaving next year.

Alabama-Birmingham (UAB)

Where: Birmingham, Alabama (DUH).

Nickname: Blazers.

Nearest major city: We’ll count Birmingham even though it’s been the home of exactly one major league professional team (the World Hockey Association’s Birmingham
Bulls, which included the “Baby Bulls,” a group of good young players that had future Hall of Famer Michel Goulet).

Known for: Getting research money. UAB consistently ranks among the top one percent of schools nationally in federal research money received. 

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Softball. Four consecutive NCAA touranment appearances and just made the Super Regional for the first time.

Why you should hate them: Because they get to have a cool name like “Blazers,” while
FIU’s perfectly cool original nickname “Sunblazers” got ditched for the dumb, pedestrian “Golden Panthers” now shortened to the even-more pedestrian “Panthers.”

Alums you’ve heard of: Roddy White, NFL wide receiver; Graeme McDowell, 2010 U.S. Open champion; Dr. Deidre Downs, Miss America and OB-GYN.

Alums you haven’t heard of: Melissa Springer, photographer; James DeLucas, biochemist who flew on the space shuttle.

Charlotte (University of North Carolina-Charlotte)

Where: Charlotte, North Carolina (again…DUH).

Nickname: 49ers.

Nearest major city: If you have to think about it, please leave now.

Known for: The school claims it produces more start-up businesses than any college or university in the nation. Doesn’t say what percentage succeed.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Women's basketball. Charlotte made the third round of the Women's NIT last season and adds Ciara Gregory, the only Parade All-American coming into C-USA. 

Why you should hate them: The tobacco industry. Duke Energy (nee Duke Power). All the money injected into that state from the nefarious actions of those two industries and you really need more reasons to despise anything from North Carolina?

Alums you’ve heard of: Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, who led UNC-Charlotte to the 1977 Final Four, then became a Boston Celtics player and color commentator; singer Clay Aiken; sportswriter Joe Posanski.

Alums you haven’t heard of: Robert A. Niblock, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Lowe’s; David Hauser, failed CEO of Fairpoint Communications and former CFO of Duke Power; Roger Canaff, national advocate to eradicate violence against women and children.

Louisiana Tech

Where: Ruston, La.

Nickname: Bulldogs.

Nearest major city: Little Rock, Arkansas. That’s over three hours away. Jackson, Miss. is an hour closer, but Jackson’s metro area population undercuts some music festivals. Unless you’re ready to say Yazgur’s Farm was a major city during Woodstock, Jackson’s not a major city.

Known for: being an oasis of research in Louisiana, which isn’t exactly the Bay Area when it comes to higher education.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: men's basketball. They return their top two scorers from a 27-7 team.

Why you should hate them: Lose a Jonesboro, Ark., gain a Ruston, La.

Techsters you’ve heard of: Hall of Fame NFLers Terry Bradshaw, Fred Dean, Willie Roaf, basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone.

Techsters you haven’t heard of: Charles and Sam Wyly, entrepreneur billionaire brothers; Will Wright, creator of The Sims; Congressman Joe Waggonner, influential U.S. Congressman and founder of Louisiana’s White Citizens Council.


Where: Huntinton, West Va.

Nickname: Thundering Herd

Nearest major city: Columbus, Ohio. That's two hours, 35 minutes or so.

Known for: Being named after John Marshall, the Supreme Court Chief Justice who made judicial review an important part of the Supreme Court’s role; the 1970 plane crash that killed the entire football team and coaches.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Football. Their defense can't be that bad again -- second-most points per game allowed in the nation -- and they still have Rakeem Cato directing a dynamic offense. Several projections have them as the East Division winner this year.

Why you should hate them: They snatched quarterback Rakeem Cato from FIU’s clutches. They beat FIU in the 2011 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.

Marshall alums you’ve heard of: NFL quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich; NFL star wide receiver Randy Moss; 1960s TV star Soupy Sales; longtime U.S. Senator Robert Byrd.

Marshall alums you haven’t heard of: Verna LeMasters Gibson, first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company; Pulitzer Prize winners Julia Keller and Jack Maurice.

Old Dominion

Where: Norfolk, Va.

Nickname: Monarchs

Nearest major city: Did you know 1.6 million people live in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area?

Known for: MBAs in maritime, Transportation and Port Logistics Management and a really big ROTC program.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: nothing FIU actually plays above a club level.

Why you should hate them: That name. First, it’s a nickname for Virginia used by a British king. Second, the school’s kind of fronting by using it. The name makes the school sound like some extremely old 13 Colonies Era institution when it’s really a William & Mary spinoff that didn’t award its first degree until 1956.

ODU alums you’ve heard of: FIU women’s basketball coach Cindy Russo; FIU women’s basketball assistant coach Inge Nissen; Hall of Fame basketball player Nancy Lieberman; The Tonight Show band member Tommy Newsom (if you’re old enough to have watched The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson had the desk).

ODU alums you haven’t heard of: Brigadier General Martin P. Schweitzer; Four-star General Ben Griffin; Admiral William J. Fallon, Commander of the U.S. Central Command.


Where: Houston


Nearest major city: See above.

Known for: Being to the old Southwest Conference and the state of Texas now what Vanderbilt is to the SEC and Northwestern is to the Big Ten.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Baseball. Swimming, women's soccer and women's tennis also possible, but we'll stick with baseball. Rice has made going to the NCAA tournament a tradition and just had two pitchers get All-America designation.

Why you should hate them: Their enrollment doesn’t exceed G. Holmes Braddock High and even the school tools haven’t seen anything under an A since explaining spitwad physics in first grade. So losing to them brings on a true inferiority complex.

Rice alums you’ve heard of: Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (Harvard Law ’82, same class as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Fern Watts); Former Secretary of State James Baker; baseball player Lance Berkman.

Rice alums you haven’t heard of: Robert Woodrow Wilson, Nobel Prize Laureate who helped discover cosmic microwave background radiation; Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Oscar-winning screenplay writer; a whole bunch of astronauts with more degrees than a circle.

Southern Mississippi

Where: Hattiesburg, Miss.

Nickname: Golden Eagles

Nearest major city: New Orleans, just short of two hours away.

Known for: being one of the top schools as far as number of students studying abroad. Apparently, the sophistication of Hattiesburg fails to magnetize the inquisitive mind.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Baseball. Southern Miss actually tied Rice for the C-USA regular season title in 2013.

Why you should hate them: Look at the first alum you’ve heard of.  

Southern Miss alums you’ve heard of: future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre; musician Jimmy Buffett; Iron Chef Cat Cora.

Southern Miss alums you haven’t heard of: Reggie Collier, the first quarterback in NCAA Division I history to run and pass for over 1,000 yards each in a season; Ralph
Dunagin, syndicated editorial cartoonist whose single panel comic strip ran for 30 years; Major General William H. Yates, owner of a Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and several other medals.

Texas-El Paso (UTEP)

Where: El Paso, Texas (come on, try to keep up…)

Nickname: Miners

Nearest major city: Juarez, Mexico is 10 minutes away.

Known for: Dzong architecture and being advocates for minorities in engineering.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Track and cross country. Nobody mines Africa for runners like the Miners, who've been doing it since current athletes' parents played "Kung Fu Fighting" on 8-track. 

Why you should hate them: Because that Miners’ Pickaxe hand signal looks more like a person with arthritis trying to do the Hook ‘Em, Horns gesture.

UTEP alums you’ve heard of: former Heat player Tim Hardaway; Sam Donaldson, ABC News anchor and correspondent; NFL referee Ed Hochuli; NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Don Maynard.

UTEP alums you haven’t heard of: Charles A Dean, geologist; Jack Handey, Saturday Night Live writer; Robert Windham, professional wrestler known as Blackjack Mulligan.

Texas-San Antonio

Where: San Antonio.

Nickname: Roadrunners (no "Speedipus Rex" though).

Nearest major city: They’re soaking in it.

Known for: growing like Bruce Banner having a gamma radiation rush. They grew by 39 percent to 30,000 students in the 2000s.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Women's golf. UTSA's women's golf team has gone to three straight NCAA Regionals. It's a reach considering FIU's conference champions made the Regional last year and have most of the team back, incluging No. 1 Meghan MacLaren.

Why you should hate them:  Former University of Miami football coach Larry Coker wound up there.

UTSA alums you’ve heard of: Kim Spradlin, Survivor winner; Dayna Devon, Extra co-host.

UTSA alums you haven’t heard of: Roxanne Austin, former head of DirectTV; Deanna Raybourn, mystery writer.


March 14, 2012

After Stetson at home, where? When?...Mike Martinez: he's very good

Should FIU knock off Stetson Thursday in the first round of the Women's NIT, the second round game will be...well, either Saturday, Sunday or Monday, at South Florida, FIU, maybe FAU.

The NITs are the Second City of tournaments in that way -- very big on the improvisation.

FIU's got some experience with adjusting on the fly. Team X at the start of the season, unknown quantities even to themselves because of no many new players, they produced the school's best season in at least six years.

"I think this team is peaking at the right time," head coach Cindy Russo said. "They're starting to peak. I think some teams in our conference have already peaked. I enjoy watching them practice. They do some nice things out there. We went to the Sun Belt Conference (tournament) and played three good games. We didn't just get through. We played really nice basketball."

They lost to Middle Tennessee as Jerica Coley got held under double figures in scoring for the first time all season. Two key stats: Coley went 1 for 10 from three-point range and 0 free throws by FIU. That's right, Middle played 40 minutes of defense against a driving guard and somehow never sent FIU to the line. 0 free throws by FIU. Yeah.

In the last five of her school-record number of games with FIU, senior swingwoman Fanni Hutlassa's averaged 16.8 points per game, well over her season average of 13.1.

"This is the first time since I've been here that we've gone to the postseason or anything," Hutlassa said. "I don't want to be done yet."

Russo said, "She went to another level and that helped us a lot. She really wanted to make this tournament. She realized she had some unfinished business she had to take care of before she left here and certainly, she's doing that."


Third baseman Mike Martinez, after 11 games, has a .487 batting average with a .615 slugging percentage and .577 on-base percentage.  And he's playing very good defense at third base


November 05, 2011

GAMEDAY UPDATES: Western Kentucky 10, FIU 9 FINAL

Hey there, FIU fans.

Andre Fernandez here live at Houchens Industries - L.T. Smith Stadium at Western Kentucky Univrsity. I'll be filling in for David J. Neal for today's pivotal game between FIU and the Hilltoppers.

I'll be posting some scoring updates and key plays here. Feel free to comment if you wish. But I will mainly be tweeting so if you wanna follow me @AndreMHSports, that's where I'll be posting most of my updates.

FIU (5-3, 2-2 SBC) needs this one to stay near the top of the Sun Belt Standings and in realistic contention for a bowl berth. Western Kentucky (4-4, 4-1) comes in riding a 4-game winning streak.

Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State, the other two Sun Belt teams FIU is chasing are also in action this afternoon. I'll keep you posted on those games.



FIU drives into WKU territory, but settles for a Jack Griffin 40-yard FG. 3-0 FIU 11:36 left. Drive: 9 plays, 72 yards, 3:12.

FIU's Sam Miller recovers a fumble, but Panthers turn it back when Wesley Carecroll throws an INT. His fourth consecutive game with an INT.

WKU Kadeem Jones 2 yard run for TD. WKU 7-3. 5:08 left.

 FIU Jack Griffin 34 yard FG. 7-6 WKU 0:38 left.

Teams have gone scoreless through second and third quarters.

WKU missed a field goal and FIU saw a promising drive come up short.

FIU driving as third quarter ends.


Jack Griffin 43 yard FG. 9-7 FIU 14:56 left.

Casey Tinius wins it for WKU with a 34-yard Field goal 10-9 WKU

September 01, 2011

Live blog FIU-UNT

August 16, 2011

Media day video blog

I teamed up with Miami Herald video reporter GiGi Diaz for some media day interviews. GiGi was able to speak with WR T.Y. Hilton, QB Wes Carroll, LT Caylin Hauptmann and S Jonathan Cyprien.

Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton

Quarterback Wesley Carroll

Offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann

Defensive back Jonathan Cyprien

Justin Azpiazu

August 05, 2011

Friday practice report

Day 3 of fall camp kicked off at 9:15 am Friday morning. The players went through their usual stretching and individual work before coming together for some team practice. According to Panthers coach Mario Cristobal, the team continued splitting half the field and using two units at a time to get some early looks a number of the players both on offense and defense. Day 3 marked the first day the Acristo players were in shoulder pads so far in fall camp. 

"The upper pads were on today. We call it thud tempo. It is live, we just aren't going to the ground," Cristobal said. "Years of recruiting have allowed us to obtain the types of athletes that can practice at a very high tempo but can stay off the ground to prevent injuries."

"We continue to go two sets of teams, meaning two sets of offense and two sets of defense going at the same time to increase the amount of reps we can get," he added.

New and Notes


Early in practice, all five quarterbacks worked on passing drills simultaneously. The five stood shoulder to shoulder, throwing passes to five receivers that were each running a different route. Of the three freshmen QBs, Akil Dan-Fodio showed he has the speed to run the ball of the pocket. Dan-Fodio, from Stone Mountain, Ga., was able to run past the defense during one of the drills.

"They are all doing a good job. Every single one is a student of the game," Cristobal said after practice on Thursday. "They are getting significant reps as well which they have to take advantage of. There is going to be a point in camp where we'll have to trim it down to who are those two or three guys that are going to get the bulk of the reps. With the first two getting 80 percent of the reps."

Barring some unforeseen development, it is a good bet that Wesley Carroll (right) will start again. Carroll, who FIUfootball 03 Seven PAB is a senior this year, should take a step forward this season with an added season of experience in Cristobal's spread offense. Jake Medlock, a red-shirt freshman, will most likely be the back up.

"We are looking at guys that are either going help us win this year or can develop into good players to help us be a better program in the future," Cristobal added.


Cristobal spoke little about losing Anthony Gaitor and what he brought to the team.

"It's football. Everyone has to do it every year. You have good players and they move on. A guy like that was here for four years so he knew us inside and out. He represented and epitomized what the program was about. Hard work and becoming a champion. What you do is throughout the course of Anthony's career he's constantly grooming those kids behind him. He's constantly teaching them. He still texts and calls these guys all the time to let them understand what they have to uphold," Cristobal said. 

Cristobal feels there is enough depth in the secondary to help cushion the effect of losing Gaitor.

"There are enough guys back there that collectively we will and must come up with a solution," he added.

Jonathan Cyprien, who led the team with 113 tackles last season, is wearing Gaitor's #7 this season.


Offensive linemen Ceedrick Davis and James Wiggins wore the orange injury jersey on Friday.


Saturday's practice will be at 8:30 a.m.

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on twitter @JustinAzpiazu

August 04, 2011

Defensive position battles Day 2

Line backer

There is still no word on who will replace former line backer Toronto Smith

“It’s tough. Obliviously not only what [Smith] does as a football player but also his leadership qualities,” Cristobal said.

Cristobal mentioned he expects junior line backer Markeith Russell “to take a step up.”

“There is a lot of good young talent that was sitting behind [Smith] waiting for their turn and learning,” Cristobal said.


In the defensive back field, new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has several options to replace safety Ash Parker. Orlando mentioned he is pleased with the way senior Chuck Grace has progressed.

 “Chuck has done a real solid job for us. He’s a guy that knows our packages,” Orlando said. “We have the flexibility to move Cyp [Jonathan Cyprien] if we need to. We have the flexibility to move a couple other defensive backs that have some skill sets at safety.”

Orlando went on to say that it is still early in camp to decide on starters and that the coaching staff needs to see the players in pads to get a clearer picture. 

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on twitter @JustinAzpiazu

Line backer


There is still no word on who will replace former line backer Toronto Smith. 


“It’s tough. Obliviously not only what [Smith] does as a football player but also his leadership qualities,” Cristobal said.


Cristobal mentioned he expects junior line backer Markeith Russell “to take a step up.”


“There is a lot of good young talent that was sitting behind [Smith] waiting for their turn and learning,” Cristobal said.




In the defensive back field, new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has several options to replace safety Ash Parker. Orlando mentioned he is pleased with the way senior Chuck Grace has progressed.


“Chuck has done a real solid job for us. He’s a guy that knows our packages,” Orlando said. “We have the flexibility to move Cyp [Jonathan Cyprien] if we need to. We have the flexibility to move a couple other defensive backs that have some skill sets at safety.”


Orlando went on to say that it is still early in camp to decide on starters and that the coaching staff needs to see the players in pads to get a clearer picture. 

Fall camp day 2 quick blast

Going to keep this morning's post relatively short. I spoke with Panthers' coach Mario Cristobal about Pooh Bear Mars and recruit Corey Tindal.

Pooh Bear is listed on the roster but has not participated in practice yet. Freshman defensive back Richard Leonard is currently wearing  #3 on the field, which was Mars' number last season.

"[Pooh Bear is] doing OK. He has some things he has to take care of. He has to take care of some academic work as well. It's a work in progress. His injury was obviously very significant. Pooh Bear is a great kid," Cristobal said.

On the Corey Tindal front

I was surprised when I was looking over the roster last night that Corey Tindal's name was missing. I asked the FIU information staff if he had been over looked but they assured me the roster was accurate. I spoke with Cristobal about Tindal this morning and learning that he is having some issues with eligibility.

"Still waiting [for Tindal]. Cristobal said. "NCAA eligibility center issues, which is typical this time of year with some of the signees. We are waiting, hopefully things will get worked out."

Crisotbal could not comment further on the matter and there is no time table for Tindal joining the team.

Check back later tonight for a full camp report.

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on Twitter @JustinAzpiazu

August 03, 2011

First day of fall camp report

Practice began a little bit earlier then the scheduled 3:30 p.m. start time due to some nasty looking clouds that were hovering over FIU Stadium. Players started their warm ups around 2:40 Wednesday, but practice was cut short when the lightning alarms sounded. The coaches took the players off the field and under the bleachers for cover. For obvious reasons, the players and coaches have to clear the field for at least 30 minutes when an alarm sounds.

Practice continued under the bleachers for nearly an hour until the all clear was given. The Panthers briefly made it back to the field when a second lightning alarm sent the team back under the bleachers. It looked like practice would be cancelled but the weather cleared enough for a short hour-long practice after the delay. Due to the shortened day, practice will started tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. at FIU Stadium (Practice is not open to the public.)

News and notes from day 1


Panthers coach Mario Cirstobal (right) feels the team injury wise is starting fall camp "pretty good." 

Senior offensive lineman James Wiggins is recovering from offseason surgery.

Senior offensive lineman Kevin Van Kirk has healed well from knee surgery and was not limited in practice.

Sophomore line backer Larvez "Pooh Bear" Mars participated in practice and was not limited.

I need to double check the Pooh Bear item, I was almost positive I saw him out on the field but I might be wrong.

Checked up on Pooh Bear this morning, seems he did in fact miss yesterday's practice. No word yet on why Pooh has been out. Both Pooh Bear and Richard Leonard are sharing number #3 on defense.

"There are some guys that are nicked up that we'll have to ease back into camp but I don't see anything really holding anybody back for more than a week or two," Cristobal said.

Incoming freshmen class

"They're talented. Even today, we went two groups at a time just to get double the reps to make sure we get on film and can identify the guys that currently possess the skill set, the body and the maturity to compete right now," Cristobal said. "We feel very good about the majority of the class being able to contribute right now.  Tomorrow again we'll really crank it up on them."

Adade09 11 MHS CM One guy who stood out to me was former Northwestern receiver Dominique Rhymes (left, preparing to catch a pass against Central at FIU Stadium). Rhymes is a big kid - listed at 6-4 on the roster - that can move quick down field. Rhymes is stepping into big shoes, wearing Greg Ellingson's #82.

Offensive line

I spoke with offensive line coach Alex Mirabal for a little while this afternoon. The Panthers have two spots to fill up front with the departures of center Brad Serini and left guard Cedric Mack.

Mirabal expects RT Rupert Bryan Jr., LT Caylin Hauptmann left tackle, RG Curtis Bryant to start.

"Our left guard and our center spots are the two spots that are open," Mirabal said. "A lot of people forget that Kevin Van Kirk (right, #67) was really our starting left guard prior to him getting injured. That opened the door for Cedric Mack to come in. I really believe we have a chance to be more athletic at both Fiufootball0309 a epf spots and nastier."

About Van Kirk, Mirabal spoke highly about his potential.

"We got great news yesterday when [Van Kirk] was granted that extra year of eligibility," Mirabal said. "He's the toughness of the group. He's a true leader. He's not afraid to tell these guys what they need to hear and not what they want to hear."

During spring practice, Giancarlo Revilla and Ceedrick Davis split time at center.

Junior college transfer Shae Smith, a junior, could also see some playing time along the line. 

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on Twitter @JustinAzpiazu

July 31, 2011

July 29, 2011

FIU hires new softball coach

FIU announced the hiring of Jake Schumann to head to it's softball program on Friday. Formerly of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Schumann brings a 120-104 career record to the Golden Panthers.

“First, I want to thank Pete Garcia and Julie Berg for this opportunity,” Schumann said in a statement released by FIU. “I’m very excited to continue to develop the program that Coach [Beth] Torina has built, and I feel as if I’m in a position to have success immediately. I’m very excited to be in South Florida and I’m looking forward to a new season of Panther softball.”

July 24, 2011

FIU women's basketball associate coach named to Hall of Fame

Longtime FIU women's associate coach Inge Nissen (right, photo courtesy FIUsports.com) will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame,Inge the WNBA announced on Saturday.

An Old Dominion graduate, Nissen was part of a six member Class of 2012 that includes coach Nancy Fahey, players Nikki McCray, Pan McGee, Dawn Staley and contributor Robin Roberts. The class was introduced during Saturday's WNBA All-Star game in San Antonio, Texas.

Nissen and FIU head coach Cindy Russo have a long relationship on the court, dating back when Russo recruited Nissen to Old Dominion. Russo was an assistant coach for the Monarchs at the time, recruiting Nissen, who was one of the top European amateurs. A native of Denmark, Nissen was part of five national championships in Europe before joining Old Dominion in 1976.

Nissen finished her career with the Monarchs as the All-Time leader in points (2,647) and rebounds (1,459), both marks have since been eclipsed.

Nissen has been with FIU for 22 years (20 as associate coach) and has been an integral part of recruiting.

July 19, 2011

Report: OL Delmar Taylor commits to FIU

According to ESPN, former University of Miami signee Delmar Taylor committed to FIU. Taylor, listed as 6 foot 4, 295 LB, signed with UM in 2010 but decided on going to Navarro Junior College in Texas to gain more experience. Taylor, a native of the Bahamas, had limited high school experience, playing in only a handful of games at Miami Beach High School before signing with Miami.

I was on hand at Beach in 2010 when Taylor signed in front of a standing room only crowd. NFLers Chad Ochocinco and Samari Rolle, both Beach high grads, were on hand to watch Taylor commit.

Taylor moved from defensive end to the offensive line. Taylor is FIU's second commitment of the 2012 recruiting class.

Video below was done on Feb. 3, 2010. Excuse Taylor being decked out in UM gear. He's committed to being a Golden Panther now. I've been having trouble with the video playing. Click here for direct link.


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

June 28, 2011

Summer baseball update; softball coach Torina named head coach at LSU

I have been working on some projects in the office and have been away from the FIU sports world for a few weeks. A few updates on what's been going on in Panther land.

Summer baseball update

Cape Cod League

Cotuit Kettleers

Sophomore LHP Mason McVay is 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA in five game appearences. McVay has pitched 6.2 innings, giving up seven hits, four walks and a run.

Junior lefty R.J. Fondon is 1-0 in three games started. Fondon has pitched 18 innings, giving up 17 hits, six runs and recorded 13 strike outs.

 Brewster Whitecaps

Junior first baseman Mike Martinez is hitting .206 in 34 at bats with seven hits and three RBI.

Harwich Mariners

Sophomore outfielder Jabari Henry is hitting .267 in 45 at bats with 12 hits, 10 RBI and two home runs.

Orleans Firebirds

Sophomore Rudy Flores is hitting .250 in 32 at bats with eight hits, a home run and two RBI.

Coastal Plain League

Moorhead City Marlins

Junior RHP Christian Malbrough is 0-1 with a 11.05 ERA in 7.1 innings pitched.

Junior shortstop Garrett Wittells was signed to the Marlins on June 23 and is hitting .182 in 11 at bats with two RBI.

Alaskan Summer League

Sophomore infielder/outfielder T.J. Shantz is hitting .083 in 12 at bats.

Valley Baseball League

Luray Wranglers

FIU outfielder Pablo Bermudez, who was scheduled to play in the Cape Cod league this summer, was activated by the Luray Wranglers of the Valley Baseball League in Virginia on June 24. In two games started/played Bermudez is hitting .500, with five runs, two RBI and two home runs in six at bats.

Junior catcher Isomel Leon joins Bermudez on the Wranglers. Leon is hitting .250 in eight at bats.

Junior LHP D.J. Swatcheno is also on the Wranglers and has a 7.71 ERA in 4.2 innings or work. Swatcheno has had five game appearances, giving up five hits and four runs.

Haymarket Senators

Sophomore RHP Alberto Cardenas has a 2-0 record and a 3.60 ERA in five innings pitched. Cardenas has four game appearances, giving up five hits and two runs.

Freshman infielder/outfielder David Vazquez is hitting .273 in 33 at bats. Vazquez has started nine games and has nine hits, seven runs and four RBI.

Freshman catcher Jeff Kammer is hitting .209 in 43 at bats. Kammer has driving in 13 runs.

Covington Lumberjacks

Freshman RHP Eddy Pidermann is 0-0 in 0.1 innings pitched.

Staunton Braves

Junior RHP Logan Dodds is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA. in 19 innings pitched. Dodds has started three games, giving up 19 hits and six earned runs, while striking out 13.

Softball update

Former FIU softball coach Beth Torina was introduced as the new head coach for LSU softball last week. Torina compilied a 129-111 record with the Panthers in four seasons. There is still no word on who will replace Torina, a two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year recipient, next season. 

"Beth Torina has done a tremendous job building the FIU softball team into a top program," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said in a statement. "We want to thank Beth for all that she has done for FIU and wish her the best of luck with LSU. Our goal is to now bring in the best possible candidate to continue the success of Coach Torina and take FIU softball to the next level."

Justin Azpiazu

Follow me on twitter @JustinAzpiazu

June 15, 2011

Breaking news: Report: Wittels' case to be dropped

Miami Herald writer Adam H. Beasley is reporting that the case against FIU baseball player Garrett Wittels will be dropped.

Excerpt below.

Prosecutors announced in Bahamian court Wednesday that rape charges filed against Wittels, FIU’s star shortstop, and friends Robert Rothschild and Jonathan Oberti will be dropped Monday, his lawyer Richard Sharpstein told The Miami Herald.

Full story here.


2011 womens' soccer schedule

Date                             Opponent                           Site                              Time (ET)


19 (Fri.)                         at Stetson                           DeLand, Fla.                  7:00 p.m.

21 (Sun.)                      FLORIDA                            Miami, Fla.                  7:00 p.m.

27 (Sat.)                       AKRON                               Miami, Fla.                  7:00 p.m.


2 (Fri.)                          UMKC                                 Miami, Fla.                  7:00 p.m.

9 (Fri.)                          FLORIDA GULF COAST      Miami, Fla.                  6:30 p.m.

16 (Fri.)                         at Oregon State                   Corvallis, Ore.                10:00 p.m.

18 (Sun.)                       at Oregon                            Eugene, Ore.                 2:00 p.m.

23 (Fri.)                         at UALR*                             Little Rock, Ark.             8:00 p.m.

25 (Sun.)                       at Arkansas State*               Jonesboro, Ark.             2:00 p.m.

                                    Alumni Weekend

30 (Fri.)                        TROY*                                Miami, Fla.                  7:30 p.m.


2 (Sun.)                        SOUTH ALABAMA*             Miami, Fla.                  2:00 p.m.

7 (Fri.)                           at WKU*                             Bowling Green, Ky.        7:00 p.m.

9 (Sun.)                         at Middle Tennessee*           Murfreesboro, Tenn.       2:30 p.m.

                                    Parents Weekend

14 (Fri.)                        NORTH TEXAS*                  Miami, Fla.                  7:00 p.m.

16 (Sun.)                      DENVER*                            Miami, Fla.                  12:00 p.m.

20 (Thurs.)                     at ULM*                              Monroe. La.                   5:00 p.m.

23 (Sun.)                      LOUISIANA*                       Miami, Fla.                  12:00 p.m.

28 (Fri.)                        FLORIDA ATLANTIC*          Miami, Fla.                  7:30 p.m.   


2-5 (Wed.-Sat.)              at Sun Belt Conference Tournament                          

May 30, 2011

FIU heads to UNC as No. 2 seed, plays James Madison on Friday

FIU was selected as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA baseball tournament and will travel to the University of North Carolina to face James Madison on Friday at 1 p.m.

The Panthers are making their 10th appearance in the tournament and their first back-to-back showing since 2002.

“We are excited about being in a regional again,” FIU shortstop Garrett Wittels said. “Hopefully we can keep playing good baseball. In my mind we have been one of the hottest teams in college baseball.”

The Panthers, who lost in the Sun Belt Conference final 7-6 to UALR on Sunday, are ranked No. 20 in the Baseball America top 25 and have won 21 of their last 25 24 games, including a tie.

FIU (40-18-1) will use junior lefty Phil Haig against James Madison. Haig is 9-3 this season, with a 3.27 ERA, 69 strikeouts in 93.2 innings pitched.

On the other side of the bracket, host North Carolina (No. 1 seed in the region and No. 3 overall) plays Maine.


May 29, 2011

NCAA baseball sites announced

The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee announced the 16 host sites for the baseball championship. The Panthers will have to wait till tomorrow to find out where they will be heading during the selection show on ESPN at 12:30 p.m.

Atlanta - Georgia Tech (40-19)

Austin, Texas - Texas (43-15)

Fullerton, Calif. - Cal State Fullerton (39-15)

Chapel Hill, N.C. - North Carolina (45-14)

Clemson, South Carolina - Clemson (41-18)

Charlottesville, Virginia - Virginia (48-9)

College Station, Texas - Texas A&M (41-18)

Columbia, South Carolina - South Carolina (45-14)

Corvallis, Oregon - Oregon State (38-16)

Fort Worth, Texas - TCU (42-17)

Gainesville, Fla. - Florida (44-16)

Houston - Rice (41-39)

Los Angeles - UCLA (33-21)

Nashville, Tenn. - Vanderbilt (47-9)

Tallahassee, Fla. - Florida State (42-16)

Tempe, Arizona - Arizona State (38-16)


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