April 22, 2011

Coming Monday: FIU Draft preview

Had a chance to check out Anthony Gaitor's Friday morning workout, in preparation for next weekend's draft.

Gaitor, who works with local trainer James Bush IV, looks fit.

But don't take my word for it. As part of the FIU draft preview coverge, which rolls out Monday, I shot video of Gaitor's routine.

Video, along with a full story on Gaitor's chances -- not to mention those of Greg Ellingson, Cedric Mack and Brad Serini -- will be up Monday.

In the meantime, follow Gaitor on Twitter @A_Gaitor.

April 20, 2011

FIU Tennis rolls into Sun Belt tourney as No. 1 seed

The FIU Women's Tennis team vies for its fifth conference title in seven years when the Sun Belt tournament opens in Mobile, Ala., Thursday.

By virtue of the Golden Panthers' No. 1 seeding, FIU (10-6) will have a first-round bye, and will face the winner of Middle Tennessee-Denver on Friday.

The Panthers, who have reached the conference final six straight years, are led by Liset Brito, who is 12-4 on the year, and has won nine of her last 10 matches.

For more information on this weekend's tournament, check out FIUSports.com, where you can find the game notes.

April 18, 2011

Odds and ends from FIU Baseball

Couple of quick hitters ...

First, FIU's home game against Florida Memorial Tuesday has been scrapped in favor of a May 11 date with Stetson. For the Panthers' postseason hopes, this is huge, considering FlaMo isn't a D-I school, while Stetson (29-7, RPI of  21), is a likely Regional team.

Also, here's the game story from Sunday's 11-5 victory over ULL.

Finally, when we hear any news from Garrett Wittels' preliminary hearing over in the Bahamas, we'll pass along the update.

April 17, 2011

ULL-FIU Game 3 -- Live Blog

Time for the rubber match between the Panthers and Cajuns here at FIU Baseball Stadium, where first pitch has been moved up to noon to dodge the pending lightning bolts.

FIU's Daniel DeSimone (4-2, 3.58) faces off against Louisiana's T.J. Geith (3-2, 4.42).

Follow along here or on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.


April 15, 2011

FIU-Louisiana-Lafayette Live Blog

Back at FIU Baseball Stadium as the Golden Panthers (20-15, 5-7 Sun Belt) host Louisiana-Lafayette (19-14, 7-5) in a crucial three-game set.

Phil Haig (4-2, 4.10 ERA) takes the mound for FIU, facing ULL's Taylor Hubbell (3-3, 3,40). First pitch is 7 p.m.

Follow along here on on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.


April 12, 2011

Nebraska-Omaha lineman transfers to FIU

Competition for the two vacant starting spots on FIU's offensive line got a bit tougher Tuesday when Nebraska at Omaha offensive lineman Shae Smith signed transfer papers to join the Golden Panthers.

Smith, a 6-foot-4, 281-pound redshirt junior, will be able to play this fall since the school he's leaving -- a Division II program with 100 years of tradition -- dropped its football team last month so its other sports could make the move to Division I.

He's expected to immediately compete for playing time on an offensive line that loses Brad Serini and Cedric Mack to graduation -- and possibly the NFL.

Countdown to basketball signing day, D. Harris expected to sign

Putting together a run down of possible FIU recruits. Signing day starts tomorrow and runs through May 18.

Curtis Davis, SG, 5-11, 160LB, Woodrow Wilson, TX- NOT EXPECTED TO SIGN

According to his coach at Woodrow Wilson, Davis is picking between Florida State and George Washington.

Tanner Wozniak, SG, 6-4, 185LB, Keswick Christian, FL - CONFIRMED HE WILL SIGN WITH FIU

SG/PG Wozniak confirmed to me this afternoon that he will indeed be signing with FIU sometime this week. "I'm going to sign with them tomorrow or Thursday," he said.

Wozniak points to coach Thomas as being one of his main reasons for picking FIU.

"I think he is going to lead us," he said. "He knows basketball. He’s going to help me get to the next level." Wozniak said the Panthers have been interested in his services since he was sophomore.

Darnell Harris - EXPECTED TO SIGN

According to Christian Life Center Academy coach Carlos Wilson, "FIU is still the place for [Harris] to be," he said. "Yes, he's committed to FIU and is trying to get is academics in order."

Wilson went on to say that Harris has been working very hard in the classroom and has improved academically.

CLCA will have a signing ceremony tomorrow morning at 9:15 am (EST).

Chris Coleman, Christian Life Center Academy, TX. - STATUS UNKNOWN

Wilson said Coleman has not been at CLCA since the summer and is not sure where he will end up.

"I don't know the situation as well as Chris is concerned," he said.

Joe de la Rosa, C, 6-210, 200LB, Montverde Academy, FL - EXPECTED TO SIGN

Add de la Rosa's name to the list of players expected to sign with the Panthers. According to Monteverde assistant coach Alton Clark, "Joe is really focused on becoming part of the FIU family," he said.

Clark expects de la Rosa to sign with the Panthers tomorrow. Clark also said de la Rosa has been working to get his academics in order. Monteverde will not have a signing day ceremony.

Yvan Ngirabakunzi, C, 6-9, 205LB, The Piney Woods School, MS. -STATUS UNKNOWN

I had a chance to catch up with Piney Woods coach Lemuel Jones this morning. Jones is not sure where Ngirabakunzi is going to end up.

"We haven't sat down and talked about it anymore," Jones said. "[He's] not going to sign on the first day."

Piney Woods is not planning on having a signing day ceremony tomorrow. According to Rivals.com, Ngirabakunzi is projected to pick between Marquette, Arkansas and Tulane and Miami. Ngirabakunzi had previously committed to the Hurricanes but withdrew his verbal commitment some time ago.

Austin Keel, SG, 6-3, 190LB, Winter Springs - VERBALLY COMMITMENT TO CENTRAL MICH.

Verbally committed to Central Michigan on March 26, 2011.


ESPN will air a live signing day special on ESPN3.com from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. and on ESPNU from 2 p.m.-4 p.m.


ESPN lists 5 players as potential signees:

UPDATED ABOVE - Darnell Harris, SF, 6-8, 210LB Christian Life Center Academy, TX. - EXPECTED TO SIGN 

Chris Coleman, C, 6-10, 270LB, Christian Life Center Academy, TX. - STATUS UNKNOWN

Joe de la Rosa, C, 6-210, 200LB, Montverde Academy, FL - EXPECTED TO SIGN

Yvan Ngirabakunzi, C, 6-9, 205LB, The Piney Woods School, MS. -STATUS UNKNOWN

Tanner Wozniak, SG, 6-4, 185LB, Keswick Christian, FL - EXPECTED TO SIGN

ScoutFIU.com lists 5 also with a couple exceptions

Austin Keel, SG, 6-3, 190LB, Winter Springs - VERBALLY COMMITMENT TO CENTRAL MICH.

Curtis Davis, SG, 5-11, 160LB, Woodrow Wilson, TX -STATUS UNKNOWN

Like ESPN, Scout has both Harris and Wozniak listed a verbal commitments. They do not list Coleman.

As was discussed on GPP a few months ago, Scout has Miami LaSalle's Jonathan Holton has a commitment but Holton signed with Rhode Island.

Pantherrage (Rivals.com) lists 4 players

Myron Dempsey, PF, 6-5, 220LB, El Reno, OK.

Coleman, Harris and Wozniak


Still waiting to hear back from Dempsey. Check back soon.


Follow me on Twitter @JustinAzpiazu

Report: Bayside QB to walk on at FIU

Florida Today is reporting the paper's 2010 Offensive Player of the Year, Bayside quarterback Richard Burrows, will enroll at FIU as a preferred walk-on.

Burrows threw for 2,310 yards, ran for 950 more and had 34 all-purpose touchdowns as a senior. He earned an academic scholarship to attend FIU, the story states.

Burrows will join Jake Medlock, Blaine Dalton and incoming freshman Loranzo Hammonds on the Panthers' depth chart behind starter Wes Carroll this fall -- if the Panthers move him to another position.

April 08, 2011

Herald Exclusive: FIU AD Garcia signs five-year extension

Over on MiamiHerald.com, we broke this pretty significant piece of news about the future of FIU athletics (contrary to what you may have read on message boards):

    While the University of Miami’s six-week-old search for a new athletic director continues to drag on,     cross-town FIU has taken steps to keep its department’s leader in place for years to come.

    Last week, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia signed a five-year extension to a contract that would     have expired in October, providing the Miami native with stability, more money – and a new title.

    Garcia is now FIU’s executive director of sports and entertainment, putting him in charge of far more     than just the school’s intercollegiate athletics program.

What do you think about the deal? Good for the university? Feel free to comment below.

Big weekend for FIU baseball

If the Golden Panthers ultimately make the NCAA Regionals for the second straight year -- and this time, as an at-large -- this might be the weekend that turned the tide.

As it currently stands, FIU would likely be on the outside looking in, should the season end today. The Panthers currently stand at 19-13 (including a win against non-Division I opponent St. Thomas), with an RPI of 45. FIU is 8-11 against RPI Top 100 teams, but just 2-6 against those in the Top 50.

In short, the Panthers need a few signature wins.

Enter the Troy Trojans, who clearly have been the class of the Sun Belt in 2011.

Troy (22-5) is ranked No. 22 in the latest CBN poll, ahead of traditional powers Rice and LSU, and has an RPI also of 22. Short of a late-season swoon, the Trojans are Regional-bound.

But, so might the Panthers, should they win at least two games in Alabama this weekend. After an 11-2 start, FIU has lost 11 of its last 18 games, and hasn't been able to string together more than three wins in succession.

A major reason: The Panthers just haven't been hitting like they did last year. FIU's team batting average is .295 and the team averages 6.1 runs per game -- solid, no doubt, but off last year's marks of .336 and 7.9.

The going gets no easier this weekend, as FIU faces a Troy pitching staff with a team 2.83 ERA, led by Tyler Ray (6-0, 1.45).

Game-time for tonight's opener is 7 p.m. You can listen live here.

April 07, 2011

More from Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters

WrightWaters Over at MiamiHerald.com, we broke the story late last night that the Sun Belt is strongly considering expanding to an 11th school in football, if certain criteria are met.

In the process of reporting the story, I had a chance to chat with SBC Commish Wright Waters about a wide range of conference-related issues. Here's how the conversation went:

Q: What are your thoughts on possible expansion?

WW: "Well, I think where we are, we’re not afraid to expand if there’s someone out there who will add value to the league, but we're not going expand just to reach some arbitrary number. Conferences expand for one of two reasons: Survival mode or enhancement mode. I think we’re very clearly now in enhancement mode. Ten years ago, we were in the survival mode. I think we’ve got to find people who breing value to the conference."

How would you say the league has improved over the least decade?

"You look at your own needs. I feel pretty good about football. Our attendance is growing. In 2001, the average attendance was a little over 10,000. Today it’s well over 20,000. There was no TV when we started. Roughly 50 percent of games were on some kind of TV last year. I feel good about the direction of football. Our men’s basketball, on the other hand, I have some concerns about. Our presidents have take some very direct steps to improve the quality of the league. Starting next year, teams will not be allowed to play non-Division I teams in their non-conference schedule. And your non-conference schedule has to average 150 or better from a RPI perspective. The plan is also to get more home games. Those things are important to us."

Will there be penalties for teams that defy those rules?

"It was a presidential iniative. Most of the time, when the presidents create something, you don’t need a penalty phase. So there is no penalty phase. But obviously, it’ll be reported when [violated]."

You mentioned television. What's the latest on your TV deal?

"We have 1 year left on our current agreement, and we have the opportunity to reopen rengotiations. We’re in progress of doing that. I’ve done enough TV deals that it’s not done until it’s done. We have very cordial, very collegial conversations with ESPN. It's good time to be doing it with the landscape right now."

Your conference has a bunch of Tuesday night games this year. Is there any thought to doing what the MAC did a few years back, and make a certain night -- say Wednesdays -- 'The Sun Belt Night' on ESPN?

"The problem is, it’s difficult from a national TV perspective to find out a particular day, because there’s so many conferences vying for other days. The whole midweek game, Monday throught Wednesday game creates scheduling problem, because in essence, it creates two open dates. I don’t know where we’ll end up with that."

Overall, what do you think about Sun Belt's place in college athletics?

"I think the biggest thing is this not your father’s sun Belt Conference anymore. The changes over the last 10, 12 years, with a different group of schools, a lot of good things are going on. A lot of the decisions made in the early 2000s are now coming back to help us. We’re not one of the leagues that are panicked."

April 05, 2011

Bethune-Cookman vs. FIU Live Blog -- Game 1

April 04, 2011

Behar, DeSimone nab weekly Sun Belt honors

FIU’s Jose Behar and Danny DeSimone captured the Sun Belt’s player and pitcher of the week honors after the Golden Panthers won three of four games in their Louisiana swing.

Behar hit .375 with two home runs and 5 RBI last week, as FIU beat Tulane and took two out of three from Louisiana-Monroe.

On Sunday, DeSimone scattered seven hits in a complete-game shutout of ULM, lowering his season ERA to 3.32.

The Panthers (18-12) return home Tuesday for a two-game series against Bethune-Cookman before traveling to conference-leading Troy this weekend.

First pitch Tuesday is 6 p.m. Live blog will begin at 5:50.

W. Wright sits out spring game

Rising sophomore wide receiver Willis Wright was held out of Saturday's spring game in what appears to be a undisclosed disciplinary move.

Wright, the former Miami Springs recruit who appeared in six games last year, catching two passes, was not sidelined due to injury, the Herald has learned.

Wright is expected back with the team when training camp opens in August.

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.

FIU Spring Game Live Blog

We're here at FIU Stadium for a taste of football: FIU's spring scrimmage.

The plan is a scripted practice with live hitting that should last for a good 75 minutes.

The Panthers will also receive their Sun Belt championship rings. Follow along live here or on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.


April 01, 2011

March 31, 2011

FIU recruit Wozniak named to Parade All-America Basketball Team

Sharp-shooter Tanner Wozniak -- the FIU recruit who will compete in this weekend's CBS/Maxpreps 3-point contest in Houston -- has been named fourth-team All-American in Parade's prestigious annual list.

Wozniak, a Keswick Christian senior who averaged 32 points per game as a senior, is one of just two Florida players recognized by Parade.

The other: Winter Park's Austin Rivers, the Duke-bound guard considered the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2011.

Team Stats

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