As we all know, three is a magic number. But it's two that's the operational number for FIU baseball in the preseason Conference USA coaches' rankings and all-conference team.
Two Panthers, sophomore pitcher Chris Mourelle and senior infielder Josh Anderson, made the preseason all-conference team. And FIU sits No. 2 in the preseason team rankings behind defending conference champion Rice, a unanimous pick to repeat.
Rice swept the preseason Player of the Year (senior catcher John Clay) and Pitcher of the Year (junior lefty Blake Fox) awards.
FIU opens the season Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. with the first of a three-game weekend series against Tennessee.
Needing an FCS punching bag to fill out the 2015 home schedule, FIU will bring in North Carolina-Central, which went 7-5 last year, 6-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, 0-1 vs. FBS (52-7 loss to East Carolina) and 0-1 vs. transitional FBS (40-28 loss to Charlotte).
NC-Central will be the only non-conference home game, a stark contrast to the four non-conference home games that opened the 2014 season. The four Conference USA home games will be decided once the league finishes the realignment caused by Alabama-Birmingham football's demise.
FIU will move its Saturday games back to 6 p.m. from 4 p.m. Smart move. It gives families time to finish their Saturday activities and errands and cuts the roasting time in the stands on sunny days.
Men's basketball, vs. Marshall, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Men's basketball, vs. Western Kentucky, Saturday 6 p.m.
A Camp Mitch source says The Miguel Cabrera Foundation -- yes, the foundation of the future Triple Crown winner the Marlins traded away back in their more penurious days -- will sponsor the 2015 Diamond Dinner fund-raiser for the baseball and softball programs. Cabrera himself tentatively is scheduled to attend.
The Diamond Dinner, at the Graham Center Ballroom, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., will include Brooks Robinson as the this year's keynote speaker.
The athletic department's letting everyone know about their sponsorship deals these days. The latest is JuiceBlendz, a 10-year deal worth $345,000 according to the school (that's $34,500 per year, for those of you bad at moving decimal points).
Now, before you think that's straight cash, homey, it's signs online, at FIU Stadium, at Still Unsponsored FIU Arena; sample table space at some events; and in-game promotions.
Which reminds me, the $2.6 million five-year Adidas deal...
That breaks down to $520,000 per year. Talking with some folks who've lived with these numbers at the mid-major level, Adidas will devote about $155,000 per year to just the football team. And the FIU Stadium suite costs about $40,000.
So that's $195,000 right there, or about 37.5 percent of the yearly deal, leaving $325,000. There's also signs around Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium, Lime Court at Originally Sunblazer Arena and FIU Baseball Stadium as well as online advertising. Not exactly sure what that's worth, but after you subtract that, you get what's left over yearly for the other 17 sports.
Even with nine full time assistant coaches and some graduate assistants, even with a full reporting staff devoted only to chronicling football recruiting in a region where talent runs thicker than a Snickers, guys can get missed. Coaches tend to follow the best teams. Recruiting trackers tend to follow the coaches and the best teams.
That's how Edison safety Robert Knowles came into Thursday morning with no rating on any of the recruiting sites. Soon after 247Sports.com announced Knowles verbal commitment to FIU -- an actual BREAKING story as opposed to the BREAKING one that "announced" Central's Fermin Silva committed to FIU long after that had been reported -- a rating of three stars went up on the site. One of the sites ratings czars got around to looking at Knowles highlights.
I asked one of our guys about him. What I got back was that he hasn't seen Edison in two years because they don't play in many big games, but heard good things about Knowles.
If FIU gets Central's Anthony Jones, I wonder if they'd give him his first looks at wide receiver or running back. Jones starred at running back this year, but his recruiting position was wide receiver when Central stampeded people with Joe Yearby and one of Jones' cousins, Dalvin Cook.
For what it's worth, despite using different ways of ranking recruiting classes, the three sites I quote often all have FIU around the same place. Rivals.com has FIU fifth in Conference USA and 247Sports.com has FIU sixth. Scout.com has FIU eighth but does aggregate points total and is missing several verbal commits. All three sites rank FAU as C-USA's No. 1 2015 recruiting class based on commitments.
Kendall Rogers, now of D1baseball.com, reports that redshirt freshman lefthanded pitcher Chris Pelaez will transfer from LSU to FIU. Pelaez graduated from Florida Christian High.
I talked with head football coach Ron Turner for about 45 minutes Thursday about the 2014 season and 2015 prospects. Nothing that'll register on the Richter Scale in the manner of 1964 Anchorage, Mike Richter or Pat Richter, but a few tidbits:
*Turner expects cornerback Richard Leonard to forgo the NFL Draft to return as a fifth-year senior. He said if Leonard got analyzed as a third-rounder or better, he'd encourage Leonard to enter the draft.
*Turner talked with Alabama-Birmingham coach Bill Clark Thursday morning. He said FIU might try to pick up some of the UAB players left without a program after UAB football's death on Tuesday, particuarly if there are any offensive or defensive linemen he feels can help FIU.
*There won't be any coaching staff changes initiated by him.
*He's happy with FIU's facilities, although he would like a grass practice field and he thinks that's in the works.
I'll transcribe everything over the next couple of days and post it here.
FIU gets to find out about itself quickly, hosting Tennessee Feb. 13-15 in a three-game set to open the season. The Volunteers went 31-23, 12-18 in the Southeastern Conference last season.
Other schedule highlights include a three-game series at FAU, April 10-12; a season-closing three-game series at defending Conference USA champion Rice; a first home conference series against Charlotte Mar. 20-22.
Collegiate Baseball says FIU has the nation's No. 29 recruiting class. Among its Conference USA peers, that puts FIU second to Rice (No. 23).
If you click on the truck picture from two posts ago that shows the replacement floor being brought in, you can expand it to where "ANAHEIM" is easily visible along the side of the truck. Apparently, the floor got trucked all the way across the country from the home of the Anaheim Ducks, the Honda Center, or, colloquially, The Pond.
Miami's athletic Cold War thaws. South Florida sports Sadat will shake hands with Begin.
FIU and the University of Miami officially announce resumption of their muscular rivalry Friday morning. Football draws the most attention, of course. There's mutual benefit -- UM gets a home opponent other than Florida State or Virginia Tech that should draw something other than heat to Sun Life Stadium. FIU gets a guaranteed excellent crowd with a home game against UM, wherever the game's played. Both get a road game without all the road game travel expenses.
But extending the hugfest to other sports also can give everyone the warm streudel feeling.
Basketball: anything that puts a charge in college-affailiated basketball in South Florida should be pursued. The difference in the ACC and Conference USA matters none. You can put the UM in the ACC but you can't take the Hurricanes out of South Florida. Neither gender fills The Branch in Coral Gables. FIU improved its atmosphere and crowd last year, but still needs opponents with buzz included. I never understood UM's aversion to coming west.
Baseball: They recruit the same high talent area. The coaches don't like each other. Who's up first?
Women's soccer: No travel, a few bucks better at the gate, maybe a litle nastiness. The usual reasons...
Track & field/Swimming & Diving: Little in college sports provide the sustained sizzle with periodic intense jolts than a rivalry dual meet in these sports.
Sort of like the US vs. USSR on the track during The Cold War.
Conference USA awarded junior catcher Aramis Garcia its Player of the Year honor. Tuesday, Garcia completed a sweet sweep, being named Conference USA's Scholar Athlete of the Year for Baseball. C-USA names one for each sport.
In the spring, Garcia also received the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award and was on the conference's All-Academic baseball team.
Here's two different ways to rank athletic programs' on the field/court performances.
The first is the National Association of College Directors of Athletics Director's Cup, which takes into account 20 different sports. It's sort of like The Herald's All-Sports Award we do for high schools, except no greater significance is given to the more promiment sports. It's designed for the broadest-based athletic programs to reach the standings' penthouse.
In that ranking, 2013-14 FIU came in 257th out of 298 schools.
The other way is the CBSSports.com way, in which you consider only the marquee sports -- football, men's and women's basketballs, baseball and the most successful that season among the other sports at the school (for FIU in 2013-14, that probably would be swimming & diving -- second in Conference USA, scoring a few points at the NCAA meet). Heaviest weight given to football, second heaviest to men's basketball. nly schools with FBS football programs were considered.
Looking at things this way, FIU finished tied with Miami of Ohio, Nevada and Temple for 123rd. Or, last.
Stanford finished first, no matter which ranking was used.
The mantle in Casa Garcia might need an addition. In addition to the honors he's already received, including Conference USA Player of the Year, FIU catcher Aramis Garcia received the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award for combining community service with excellent academics and athletic performance.
Garcia volunteered at the 9/11 Day of Service, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Arthritis Walk and during the MLK Day of Service.
As I put in a recent post, Garcia, like women's basketball star Jerica Coley, is a billboard/brochure athlete, the kind schools thrust out front as an ideal example.
Tweeted this Monday, but guess I didn't post it here.
FIU pitcher Chris Mourelle was named a Second Team Freshman All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, adding to a postseason awards list that includes Conference USA Freshman of the Year.
Former FIU soccer star player, assistant coach and head coach Munga Ekatebi will be the new head soccer coach at Broward Colletge. Ekatebi was in the house for the Ghana-South Korea friendly at Sun Life Stadium Monday.
Always wanted to use the old-time headline word "Chisox" in a headline.
Anyway, FIU's 2014 ace Mike Franco got selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball draft Friday. FIU's all-time saves leader Mike Gomez went in the 13th round to the Chicago White Sox.
Later Saturday, with pick No. 978, the White Sox took outfielder Louis Silverio.
With catcher Aramis Garcia's second round selection by San Francisco, that makes four FIU players gone so far in the draft.
I thought I did some nice breaking down of the way FIU coaching pay didn't seem to match up the experience or success of the coach involved. But reader Cory Jarrell, with a blog, some free time and the kind of pretty graphs modern media outlets encourage, really went to town.
The second of two Conference USA players selected in the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball draft, FIU catcher and Conference USA Player of the Year Aramis Garcia went No. 52 overall to San Francisco.
That's the second highest an FIU player has been drafted. Toronto took Josh Banks with the No. 50 pick in 2003.
More than just a player, FIU lost a showcase athlete, the kind of student-athlete schools like to put on billboards and put in front of the Athletics Committee as the epitome of what a student-athlete can be: well-comported, good on the field and the classroom. Garcia and Jerica Coley fit that role perfectly. Who's next?
First, the Fifth Annual FIU Athletic Department Golf Tournament is June 27. $375 per person, $1,500 per foursome, which is no savings for a foursome so really just $375 per person. This fundraiser for the entire athletic department includes an auction boosted by over 100 items that were supposed to be sold at the Diamond Dinner, the big fund raiser for the baseball and softball programs.
The baseball program saw its operating budget cut by around $5,000 this year, one of several programs whose budget remained stagnant or got cut as FIU moved up in overall quality with the jump to Conference USA. They didn't fly to the Conference USA tournament in Hattiesburg, but bused what's 11 hours, 38 minutes if you go 70 mph with no stops. Clearly, this is a program that can use all the financial help it can get.
Instead, baseball and softball must throw a large amount of the goods and services donated for their event into an event that raises money for the entire athletic department. That's other programs, administration, facilities, etc. I'm all for sharing, but that doesn't seem quite fair.
Oh, in an answer to a question posed a while back in the Comments about the athletic director's salary and bonus: it comes out of the athletic department pocket.
Freshman right hander Chris Mourelle, Conference USA's Freshman of the Year, also was named to the Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America team. Conference USA accounted for three members of the team, the other two coming from FAU (second baseman Stephen Kerr) and Old Dominion (outfielder Nick Walker).
Junior pitcher Mike Franco, in his second season after having Tommy John surgery, finished the season 9-3 with a 1.09 ERA, 112 strikeouts and 27 walks. And he's one of 36 semifinalists for the Gregg Olson Award, given to college baseball's breakout player by Toolshed Sports.
FIU didn't get the Ghana-South Korea men's soccer friendly on June 9, which will be played at Sun Life Stadium. But the women's soccer team definitely gets back fifth-year senior Chelsea Leiva, granted an injury redshirt for 2013 after a knee injury before the opener eliminated FIU's best player for the entire season.
Junior catcher Aramis Garcia, named Conference USA Player of the Year last week, was named Third Team All-America on the Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-American team.
Garcia hit .368 with eight home runs and 37 RBI. In addition to leading Conference USA in hitting, his .626 slugging percentage was the conference's best.
Whether 2014 FIU football evolves as a drama, parody, spoof or farce, it'll be televised entertainment at least four times.
For the Sept. 13 home game against Pitt on Fox Sports 1, all the university's marketing heads should attempt a Vulcan mind meld to maximize their idea intellect for herding a decent crowd into the stadium for a noon Saturday kickoff. Between the probable heat, the near-dawn (to most Miami residents) kickoff and the usual FIU following, this blasts POTENTIAL EMBARRASSMENT in blinding lights that recall the opening credits of ABC TV movies back when we relied on ABC, NBC & CBS because few had HBO or VHS (DVD was in big Cro-Magnon form called Laserdisc).
Official attendance for the only other noon kickoff at FIU Stadium: 8,593 for FIU beating Louisiana-Lafayette on Halloween in 2009. That being the official attendance, you can estimate for yourself how many folks actually were there.
The following week, at a time to be dictated by FS1 or FSN, Louisville comes to FIU. On Oct. 2, The Shula Bowl, FAU at FIU at 7 p.m., gets a Fox Sports Net broadcast. And, on Fox College Sports, 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, FIU faces rapidly rising Texas-San Antonio.
Some of you closer to my age might remember an ABC TV movie opening that manages to be both more understated and more spectacular.
With FIU's baseball season on the line Thursday, ace junior Mike Franco pitched. Aramis Garcia hit. Alas, Garcia's two two-baggers, bringing in two runs, couldn't overcome another two -- the three times Old Dominion turned two, leading to FIU's 3-2 loss and elimination from the Conference USA tournament.
Franco went three and a third, gave up four hits, no runs, struck out five and walked two. Fifth-year senior Albert Cardenas took the ball and gave up three runs in the fifth, two on a double by freshman Joseph Guaranga.
You can't fault Aramis Garcia's follow-through. Preseason Conference USA Co-Player of the Year to Conference USA Player of the Year for FIU's junior catcher/first baseman despite missing 12 games iwth a right oblique injury. Garcia led C-USA in slugging percentage (.588), was second in batting average (.355) and homers (seven) and third in on-base percentage (.428).
Pitcher Mike Franco and his conference-low 1.13 earned run average joined Garcia as First Team All-C-USA selections. Pitcher Chris Mourelle, 9-2 with a 1.70 ERA, got named Second Team All-C-USA and C-C-USA All-Freshman and C-USA Freshman of the Year.
I asked Turtle Thomas the difference between the Sun Belt and Conference USA. Thomas said he thought the pitching depth was better in the latter. Nobody's got a top three starter you can assume you'll knock around. He also said he thought the Sun Belt was better than C-USA for the 2013 season when The Belt sent three teams and conference tournament winner FAU to the NCAA tournament.
A few things before I scratch out 15 inches for Wednesday's paper on FIU baseball headed for the Conference USA tournament...
Give it up to junior catcher/first baseman Aramis Garcia and senior closer Mike Gomez, members of the Conference USA's Baseball All-Academic Team. No other school put more than one player on the team. Both are sports and fitness majors. Gomez has a 3.79 grade point average and Garcia has a 3.78.
FIU plans to have Garcia behind the plate Wednesday against Rice. He missed 12 games with a right oblique injury and returned to play first base at the end of the season-closing series at Tulane.
At the other end of the battery, FIU plans to throw freshman Chris Mourelle at Rice, according to Turtle Thomas. They didn't throw Mourelle last week against Tulane once the staff felt the chance for an at-large NCAA bid was gone and don't want to throw ace Mike Franco twice on short rest in a conference tournament they now need to win to make the NCAA tournament.
Also, Rice saw Mourelle only for three innings after Robby Kalaf took a shot off his right hand in the first inning in the third game of Rice's sweep earlier this year. Mourelle faced 16 batters, gave up five hits and only one run (it was earned).
FIU fifth-year senior Donald Senat made the 64-player spring watch list for the Dave Rimington Award, given annually to the best center in college football.
Dave Rimington was the best center of his era, a dominating player on Nebraska's 1981 and 1982 teams, seasons that saw him become the first two-time winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding interior lineman. Rimington didn't make All-Decade teams. He made All-Century teams. Though he was part of the 1983 NFL Draft's first round, generally considered the greatest first round ever, his seven-season NFL career never quite lived up to the hype. That hype existed for a center should tell you something by itself.