May 02, 2014

Baseball bashes East Carolina; point guard commits to FIU

FIU pitcher Mike Franco again proved better on Friday night than pizza.

The Panthers gave Franco cushion against East Carolina, starting with a Brian Portelli home run, an RBI triple by Tyler Hibbert and RBI doubles by Josh Anderson and Julius Gaines. Franco just gave the Pirates problems, scattering six hits, striking out seven and walking none in a complete game 7-1 win. FIU's now 12-10 in the conference and up to sixth and only one game behind East Carolina.  

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Tampa Bowman Prep's Craig Bowman, a 6-3 point guard, announced his commitment to FIU the modern way, via Twitter. He'll be part of the 2014 recruiting class.

Bowman averaged 15.3 points per game, 4.1 assists per game and 2.9 steals per game as a senior and 10.0, 3.3 and 2.9, respectively, as a junior. 

April 28, 2014

Coley in Liberty camp

FIU senior guard Jerica Coley, two-time national leading scorer and one of the most liked athletes in FIU history, has signed with the New York Liberty as a free agent. The Liberty began training camp Sunday, begin the preseason May 4 and the regular season May 16 against Connecticut.

April 22, 2014

Moving Out, Moving Up, Coming (or Not)

With sophomore Jerome Frink, 6-6, requesting his transfer, FIU loses its starting front line from the 15-16 2013-14 team -- Frink, starter of all 31 games this season and 25 of 32 as a freshman, seniors Rakeem Buckles and Tymell Murphy. Frink averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field.

Even with 6-10 transfer Adrian Diaz and 6-7 incoming freshman Harold Givens, FIU might have as much quality size on the perimeter (6-7 guard Dominique Williams, 6-6 guard Jason Boswell) as up front.

GOLF

FIU remains fourth, 16 shots behind leader Tulane, going into the final round of the Conference USA Golf Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Sophomore Meghan MacLaren rebounded from her opening round 4-over 76 with a 1-under 71, FIU's best second round score. Freshman Camila Serrano's even par 144 two-round score puts her fifth overall, seven shots behind medalist leader Texas-San Antonio's Fabiola Arriaga.

FOOTBALL RECRUITING

What's more bothersome to FIU fans? That Mario Cristobal is the top ranked recruiter for 2015 in the nation, according to 247Sports.com? Or that FAU already has four commits for 2015, including two three star prospects and four-star running back Jordan Scarlett from University School, and FIU has none of note after the decommitment of Northwestern high defensive back Antonio Howard?

UPDATE

FIU volleyball on GoFundMe is $295 toward a goal of $6,000.

 

April 15, 2014

FIU no longer grounded by grades; more water women;

The official Academic Progress Rates for 2012-13 won't be announced until June. But the Dean Wormers at the NCAA have seen FIU's grades and have decided there was enough APR upward movement in the season under Richard Pitino to take FIU off punishment and let the men's basketball team return to postseason play next season.

 

SWIMMING & DIVING

Johanna Gustafsdottir went back home to Iceland to rip through her native land's national meet, walking out with three firsts, two seconds and a national record in the 400 individual medley of 4:53.24. She also won the 200 freestyle with a 2:04.94 and was part of the 800 free relay winners.

FIU's 400 IM ace, Sonia Perez, was named an Honorable Mention All-American by the College Swim Coaches Association of America this week. Perez became the first FIU swimmer -- and was the only Conference USA swimmer this year -- to score at the NCAA meet, taking 13th in the 400 IM. She also swam the 200 IM and 200 backstroke at the NCAA meet before being named Conference USA's Swimmer of the Year.

 

April 01, 2014

Hat Trick for Coley; football games & practices moved

For the third consecutive year, the Associated Press has slotted senior guard Jerica Coley as an Honorable Mention when naming the All-America teams.

Once again, Coley led FIU in scoring (29.5 points per game), field goal percentage (42.5), free throw percentage (82.2), steals (1.8 per game), assists (3.9 per game), blocked shots (1.3 per game), autographs and being an all-around good person. She's the Tom Slick of the women's basketball team and maybe the entire FIU program.

 

FOOTBALL

The Shula Bowl, at FIU this year after two years at FAU, got moved up to Oct. 2.

Also, Saturday's open scrimmage has been moved to 7 p.m. Friday. Adjust your social calendars accordingly.

 

March 14, 2014

This is the end: 64-57

Conference USA Player of the Year Ebony Rowe played like exactly that against FIU Thursday.

Rowe pumped in 25 points on 11 of 15 shooting, pulled down 14 rebounds, had an assist, a block and a steal as Middle Tennessee State ended FIU's season, 64-57, in the semifinal of the Conference USA women's basketball tournament. FIU led early before Middle took over with a run early in the first half.

Senior guard Jerica Coley ended her career with 19 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals. Her 115 points were a tournament record and her 3,107 points were fifth in NCAA history.

Middle held Coley, Durant and Taylor Shade to a combined 10 of 44 from the field. Tynia McKinzie had 15 points and six rebounds in 37 minutes.

FIU's tournament run put a nice gloss on a 15-18 season. As this season ends, it does so at a major fork for the program -- no more Coley and, if not this year then probably a year from now, no more head coach Cindy Russo. It'll be interesting to see where the program goes over the next 24 months.

March 13, 2014

FIU women through to TV & Middle Tennessee

Jerica Coley's teammates didn't have the greatest home finale or regular season finale. But they're more than making up for it at the Conference USA tournament.

Playing better than they have all season in successive games, FIU's Upset Special kept a-rollin' Thursday with a 69-55 win against No. 4-seeded Tulane. That's the third consecutive higher seed that FIU's made vulnerable to the old FHSAA tournament chant, "Get your hat...your coat...and LEAVE!"

Now, FIU faces No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee State at 11 a.m. Friday live on CBS Sports Network in a game that matches the team with the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year (Coley) against the team with the Player of the Year (Ebony Rowe). Middle knows better than to take FIU lightly.

During the regular season, Middle beat the Panthers at The Branch 65-58, giving up 29 points to Coley but holding everyone else under double figures. FIU actually led 25-24 at the half. Last year, in the Sun Belt Tournament sayonara for each, after splitting during the regular season, FIU lost to Middle 68-59.

Thursday, FIU again shot well from the field, 28 of 56, but really sat on Tulane defensively, holding the Green Wave to 31.8 percent shooting from the field. This time, FIU owned the defensive boards getting 33 there, getting only five fewer offensive rebounds than Tulane did defensive rebounds. Tynia McKinzie had 10 rebounds to go with her 15 points. Coley and junior guard Kamika Idom came down with eight rebounds each. Taylor Shade had 13 points.

Of course, to paraphrase an old Soviet hockey coach about Bobby Hull, Ms. Coley, she got her points -- 34. She needs 28 against Middle to move into fourth all-time in NCAA scoring.

 

 

March 12, 2014

Coley gets 42, FIU gets another day on the border

On Tuesday's first day of the Conference USA women's basketball tournament, it was low trump. All the lower seeds won, including No. 13 FIU over No. 12 Rice.

Wednesday, after UAB stopped the run by trashing No. 16 Marshall, FIU picked up the tune again with an 87-75 win over No. 5 seed East Carolina in El Paso, Texas. FIU got 42 points from senior guard Jerica Coley and a pair of good 11s, points and rebounds, from Tynia McKinzie. Kamika Idom almost had a double double with nine points and 10 rebounds. Arielle Durant had 12 and eight.

FIU plays Tulane Thursday at 3:30 p.m. eastern time. The Panthers lost at Tulane 66-55 during the regular season. Coley had 22, but FIU shot only 30.8 percent from the field as a team and Tulane owned the glass at that end, with 37 defensive rebounds to FIU's nine.

Coley not only came one point from the Conference USA tournament single-game record, but passed USC's Cheryl Miller, Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw, UConn's Maya Moore and Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, four of the biggest stars in women's college basketball history, on the all-time scoring list. She's 61 points behind Drake's Lorri Bauman.

 

March 11, 2014

FIU fries Rice, 85-65

Guard Taylor Shade, forward Arielle Durant and forward Tynia McKinzie all were in double figures for FIU Tuesday afternoon against Rice. You know Jerica Coley was, even though Rice held her to four points in the first half. That's why FIU stomped Rice 85-65 in Tuesday's first round of the Conference USA tournament at UTEP.

FIU faces East Carolina Wednesday at 3:30.

Despite sitting on Coley, Rice was getting drilled 37-28 at halftime because the support cast that let FIU down when the Panthers saw Rice in January rose up and smote the Owls several mighty blows. While Shade had 18 points, McKinzie 16 (with 11 rebounds) and Durant 14 to go with the 20 Coley eventually ended with, this time it was Rice star Jessica Kuster who wound up unsupported. Kuster had 26 points and 11 rebounds or exactly 40 percent of Rice's offensive output. Those are numbrers usually associated with Coley.

Coley now has 3,012 points, the 10th player in NCAA history with 3,000 career points.

This will be the second time this season FIU plays East Carolina and, coincidentally, the second time they do so right after playing Rice. FIU won 76-75 at The Branch in January.

Coley's or Kuster's last stand?

FIU plays Rice today at 2:30 in the first round of the Conference USA women's basketball tournament in El Paso in what could be the last game for senior guard Jerica Coley, only eight points from becoming the NCAA's 10th 3,000-point woman.

Coley was on the verge of another milestone, the FIU career scoring record, the last time these two teams played and got it with 15:18 left in the game. Rice blasted FIU 59-41 at The Branch with senior Jessica Kuster (yes, I know it's spelled differently than the infamous general) putting up 20 points and 15 rebounds. What really killed FIU was getting 31 offensive rebounds and only five second chance points as the Panthers made executing the layup look more difficult than running a supercollider.

Rice double-teamed Coley all game whenever she got the ball within spitting distance of the three-point line. Should the Owls do that again, FIU could make things interesting by actually taking advantage of their man advantage on the rest of the court. The non-Coley Panthers shot nine of 49 from the field in that first game. 

March 10, 2014

Coley First Team All-Conference, Murphy Second Team; Spring Football in the dark

No surprises from the Conference USA All-Conference basketball teams announced Monday -- senior guard Jerica Coley First Team for the women and one of Coley's biggest fans, senior guard Tymell Murphy, Second Team for the men.

Coley, conference and national leader averaging 29.6 points per game, also leads FIU in assists, steals, blocked shots and minutes. This is her fourth recent conference, regional or national honor, but the first to be only about basketball and not include her excellent academic record.

Murphy averaged 16.6 points per game on 58.4 percent shooting. He's the seventh highest scoring player in FIU history with 984 points despite playing only two years at Camp Mitch. His 57.9 career shooting percentage is an FIU record. This season, he also averaged 7.4 rebounds, 1.94 steals per game and 1.52 blocks per game (average speed on those blocks: bazooka).

SPRING FOOTBALL

The spring football schedule of 15 practices, beginning March 18 and ending with the Spring Game April 12 has been released. A bunch of 9 a.m. practices, but that's irrelevant to you because all practices before the 11 a.m. Spring Game are closed to the public.

 

 

March 05, 2014

Mourelle mowing; Coley Academic All-C-USA; JoGus, Perez, Beaupre going NCAA

Last year, Bethune Cookman won two out of two against FIU baseball. Wednesday, Bethune got two hits against FIU.

Specifically, two hits against freshman Chris Mourelle, who walked none and sent down the final 23 Bethune batters in a 6-0 FIU win. FIU opens Conference USA play this weekend at 2-7-1 Charlotte, which is on a seven-game winless streak. The true yardstick series for the 12-1 Panthers, however, comes the following week, at home against perennial Conference USA favorite Rice.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Jerica Coley was named Academic All-District and Third Team Academic All-American. So, of course, she made Conference USA's Academic All-Conference team.

Then, Wednesday night, Coley scored 29 in a 67-65 last-second loss to Louisiana Tech in Ruston. She's eight points away from 3,000 for her career. Only the Conference USA tournament remains in the career of one of FIU's finest student-athletes.

SWIMMING & DIVING

The song remains the same with the names from FIU going to the NCAA Championships.

That's three times in a row for junior Johanna Gustafsdottir, who'll swim the 100 backstroke, 200 back and 200 individual medley; two years in a row for senior Sonia Perez, who'll do the 200 back, 200 IM and 400 IM; and would be the fourth consecutive year for diver Sabrina Beaupre, but she skipped last year's NCAAs to get surgery on her long-injured ankle.

Beupre and freshman Lily Kaufman will dive in the NCAA Zone Regional next week. The swimmers will be in Minneapolis for the NCAA Championships, Mar. 20 through 22.

 

March 03, 2014

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!

A pretty good one out at Camp Mitch, eh?

The softball team took two games, Detroit-Mercy being an after dinner snack after upsetting No. 19 Minnesota 3-1. Freshmen Gabby Spallone knocked in a run with her first hit and scored another after her second. Freshman Stephanie Texeira doubled in freshman Marina Carmona. Note the repeated use of "freshman." The softball team comes home from Arizona at 14-6.

Back on Miami-Dade County soil, we saw the wearing out of the Greens.

For Sunday brunch (no mimosas, though) baseball smacked around Dartmouth and came home eased up with an 11-7 win that puts FIU at 11-1 with another round of national rankings coming today. Perfect Game's Top 25 puts FIU just outside the rankings, as one of Five to Watch. 

FIU's got five hitters over .300, led by Aramis Garcia (.463) and Josh Anderson (.460) and Zach Sweety at .294. But when you've got starters with ERAs of 1.12 (Mike Ellis), 1.65 (Mike Franco), 1.00 (Robby Kalaf) and 1.64 (Cody Crouse) you could have a Hee-Haw lineup of banjo hitters could get you through the night.

On the court, Tulane's Green Wave got swallowed by a rogue wave from FIU. The Panthers jumped to a 10-0 lead and kept pace past the signposts. I thought, FIU's playing extremely well, but if that lead gets under 10 at halftime, I'm worried. FIU led by 10 at half. Then I thought, OK, don't let the lead get down to four or five. It was down to five at 42-37 for one possession. Rakeem Buckles dropped in a three. Tulane suddenly looked like John Belushi's Samurai hotel clerk when Richard Pryor's Samurai chopped a desk in half to end an argument: "I understand where you're coming from." 

 

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick walked in at halftime, dressed for a sunny March day in Chicago, with a few pals. President Mark Rosenberg and athletic director Pete Garcia talked with the group for a few minutes before showing them to a cabana. A cooler quickly was produced. The group hung out until about four minutes remained in the game. Kaepernick declined to say what drew he and his crew to spend part of a sunny Sunday watching Tulane vs. FIU.

SWIMMING & DIVING

I forgot to note FIU's Rio Ramirez received Conference USA's Diving Coach of the Year award. 

March 02, 2014

FIU Swim 2nd in Conference USA; JoGus, Beaupre 1st (again)

Women's basketball Senior Night at The Branch included redshirt junior forwad Arielle Durant. Though Duratn said this was the first year she felt truly healthy and a year of eligibility remains, she's done after this season. Academically done. As in, she's about to get her master's degree in sports management.

While Durant told us this, FIU's swimmers did their own finishing up in Atlanta, coming home second behind Rice in the Panthers' first Conference USA swim meet, FIU's best finish in a conference championship meet. Rice racked up 1,000 points, helped greatly by taking all the relays. FIU's 740 points edged East Carolina's 700 and Western Kentucky's 686.

Just as she used to in the Sun Belt, senior Sabrina Beaupre took Diver of the Meet. Beaupre followed a narrow second in the 3-meter springboard by dominating the 1-meter springboard Friday and 10-meter platform Saturday. 

Also treating C-USA as she did the Sun Belt, junior Johanna Gustafsdottir won a third consecutive conference title in the 200 backstroke. Her 1:55.05 didn't break the school record she set with her first 200 back conference title, 1:54.40, but she did do some record-breaking with a leadoff 50.01 in the 400 free relay. Gustafsdottir, freshman Jenny Alfani, freshman Jenny Deist and junior Klara Andersson came in second to Rice (catch the running theme?) but did so in a school record 3:20.74. That shaved 0.93 off the record set at last year's Sun Belt meet by Gustafsdottir, Andersson, Dani Albright and Marina Ribi. And all members of this relay team should be back next year. Ribi was a senior and Albright decided to quit swimming.

In her last individual conference championship event, senior Sonia Perez Arau knocked 7.24 seconds off her own school record while snagging second in the 1,650 free in 16:28.63. Below 400 yards, Gustafsdottir's the best swimmer in FIU's 11-season history. At or above 400, it's Perez, two-time conference champion in the 400 individual medley and school record holder at every distance at or above 400 meters.

Juniors Jean Madison and Dani Meara got FIU points with a fifth (2:18.28) and ninth (2:19.97), respectively, in the 200 breaststroke. Senior Sarah D'Antoni swam to a 200 butterfly sixth place in 2:01.13. Deist's personal best 50.43 in the 100 free was good enough for fifth.

 

 

February 24, 2014

Coley, Conference USA Player of the Week, Lieberman finalist; Baseball ranked

Senior point guard Jerica Coley scored a career-high 47 and 35 points in her two games last week. She also averaged 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. For this, she won her second Conference USA Player of the Week award. 

Coley also made the cut to 22 for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the best point guard in college ball. The award is given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

BASEBALL

College baseball polls outnumber flagpoles at the United Nations. Perfect Game and ESPN/USA Today doesn't rank 8-0 FIU. But Collegiate Baseball's weekly poll puts the Panthers at No. 30.

That should be 9-0 after Tuesday's game agianst Florida Memorial.

 

February 22, 2014

Play4Kay Hoops & Cut Baseballs

Saturday represents the only basketball sort of doubleheader of the season -- the men at 2 p.m. vs. Tulsa, the women at 6 p.m. vs. Marshall, baseball and softball going on during the time between games --  and the women's game also will be the penultimate home game for senior guard Jerica Coley.

It's also the Play4Kay game, FIU's part in the movement to try to find a cure for breast cancer. The team will wear several pink accessories and fans are also asked to wear pink.

BASEBALL

The Diamond Dinner keeps the baseball and softball programs above the Internet panhandling to which the track and volleyball programs have been forced to stoop. Baseball needs that event as its budget has subtly sunk like a good Randy Jones pitch over the past few years.

Total operating budget: 2011-12: $834,498

Total operating budget for 2012-13: $825,940. Main difference: $4,872 less for Tuition, Stipends, Scholarship, $11,000 less for Game Expenses, $9,061 more in baseball staff and operations salaries. 

Total operating budget for 2013-14: $820,460. Main differences: $5,000 less for Team Travel, $20,211 less for Tuition, Stipends, Scholarship, $3,500 more for Recruiting Travel, $10,000 more for Game Expenses, $4,284 more for baseball staff and operations salaries.

The budget for men's basketball fell also each of the last four years. It fell 0.2 percent from Isiah Thomas second year to his third and final year, but 6-1 percent from Thomas to Richard Pitino's year and another 2.7 percent from last year to this year. But examining that difference line by line shows most of that difference is in Team Travel, which was budgeted over $100,000 less each of the last two years than each of the last two Isiah Thomas-coached seasons, a drop of over 30 percent; and basketball staff and operations salaries, which have gone down with each coaching change (Thomas to Richard Pitino, Richard Pitino to Anthony Evans); and in the line item Fringe Benefits, which has also gone down with each change.

Football's budget dipped by 2.1 percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12 (bowl season to bowl season); rose by 1.2 percent from 2011-12 to 2012-13; then rose again by 4.29 percent for this year. Most of that came from larger numbers for operations and staff salaries and Tuition, Stipends, Scholarship.

But, note that there were head coaching changes around each of the moves in budget for football and basketball. Baseball's staff has remained the same at the top.

Keep in mind, there was an increase in student fees of 54 cents per credit hour, approved to cover the move to Conference USA and increased yearly fees. The increase more than paid for that move, as the students have more than paid for their share of FIU athletics. According to USA Today's annual subsidies (student fees, state funding, etc.) report, FIU's the 25th most subsidized athletic department budget (83.38 percent). Among the 24 more subsidized departments, only Georgia State plays football at the FBS level. 

Now, all of this assumes that the budgetary numbers I received from a public records request from FIU are accurate. Sometimes, numbers get misplaced. Or, things go missing.

 

February 20, 2014

Coley Academic All-American; Compliance moves

The day after tying her career high with 47 points in a loss to Southern Mississippi, senior guard Jerica Coley was named a Third Team Capital One Academic All-American.

You know the numbers: 3.41 GPA, 29.4 points per game, an amazing (or ridiculous) 42.7 percent of FIU's offense this season. The only home games remaining for Coley, assuming FIU doesn't make a postseason tournament of any kind, are Saturday against Marshall and a week from Saturday against Old Dominion, both 6 p.m. games.

COMPLIANCE

Val Sheley was the Director of Compliance until last fall. Back then, Compliance didn't fall under Athletics.

Now, comes Hank Harrawood. Harrawood's title? Associate Athletic Director of Compliance, indicating that office has been moved under the Athletics roof or is about to be.

FAU, USF and UCF each have both an an Assistant AD of Compliance and a Director of Compliance. FAU doesn't list staff beyond their top two. In addition to the assistant AD and director, UCF has a director in charge of rules, another for financial aid, an assistant director in charge of monitoring rules and one monitoring eligibility. USF has three additional assistant directors of compliance and a "compliance extern."

FIU has the Harrawood position, three assistant director positions (one open, the one in charge of APR) and a compliance intern (also open). Not sure what Harrawood's making, but Sheley was making $100,000. The two assistant directors in place now make around $110,000, combined. Considering FIU's Compliance troubles and possible fines incurred to the NCAA for those troubles, the school might want to drop a little coin on the department. At least that'll keep the money in town.

The same could be said of the SAAC. Former director Phil Moses wrote in his 2012 evaluation, "The needs of the student-athletes we serve and the needs of the SAAC staff members are diverse. The financial constraints of a budget that does not match the needs of the students we serve necessitates decision-making that is consistently efficient, but very challenging. The same goes for the professional development of the SAAC staff. Much development is needed for staff, but critical priorities have severely hampered funding such development."

In one of her performance evaluations, Sheley wrote that "our staff is not big enough to be doing all things at all times for all people" and that Compliance at FIU had responsibilities "for certain areas not usually housed in the Compliance office." Then again, I've heard some athletic department staffers in an area that should have nothing to do with Compliance were having to handle Compliance work.

Or, to paraphrase Biggie, "No money, mo' problems."

(Yes, I have made a public records request for the budgets of Compliance and the SAAC.) 

Let's see if FIU puts the new guy, Harrawood (undergrad at East Carolina, law school at Elon) and whoever takes over the SAAC in a better situation. Harrawood most recently was an assistant AD for nine months at Louisiana-Monroe, where Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub was athletic director before coming to FIU. Before that, Harrawood was the Compliance Coordinator at Gardner-Webb University.

 

 

From Gomez (not Addams)

Southern Mississippi attempted defense, a pressing, trapping kind. FIU's Jerica Coley ended with 47 points. FIU attempted defense. Southern Miss scored 106 points and shot 54.4 percent from the field. Stetson attempted defense and achieved comedy -- six errors leading to five FIU runs.

Only FIU's relief pitching seemed to have the concept down Wednesday night at Camp Mitch. And the last of those relievers, senior Mike Gomez, is truly appreciative of another chance to be the closer FIU thought he would be in 2013, before Tommy John surgery ended his season after five appearances and four saves.

"It's unreal," Gomez said. "To be back on that mound, there's nothing like it. All last year, I was sitting and watching from the stands. All I could think about is getting back on the mound."

In three appearances, Gomez has two saves. 

"Close to night and day, the way my arm feels at least" he said. "With our new pitching coach now, Coach (Sam) Peraza, he's teaching how to just command (pitches) and just pound the zone with strikes. Not taking away from our other pitching coaches. Coach (Drew) French was a great coach, but this year I think what I needed was "throwing strikes" engraved in me because I had too many walks last year and the year before that."

Gomez has developed a cutter to stick in his arsenal.

"I've been working hard on that pitch," he said. "It was a little struggle at first. Me and Coach Peraza overcame it. It's a good pitch for me, especially against lefties. I needed an out pitch against lefties. My changeup has been devastating to righties, so that was a good pitch to add."

The baseball team sits at 5-0 going into the weekend series against Stony Brook (No, they don't have a Flinstone Hall or Rubble Recreation Center). They got votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top 25, votes that would surely multiply if FIU comes out of this weekend 7-1 or 8-0.

February 12, 2014

Coley and CLASS; Snow day; 2015 Diamond Dinner

Another pile of points from senior guard Jerica Coley, 29 of them, couldn't lead FIU to an upset of Middle Tennessee State Wednesday night at The Branch. But Coley did get two pieces of individual good news lately: she's one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award (http://www.seniorCLASSaward.com) and one of the 30 finalists for the Naismith Women's Player of the Year Award.

The former award takes into account Coley's excellence in the classroom as well as on the court and fans can go to the website to vote for their favorite student-athlete. 

TENNIS

The women's tennis match against Winthrop got snowed out. They can't clear off the courts and play? Nobody's got a shovel up there? Sheesh...

BASEBALL & SOFTBALL

Arrangements for the 2015 Diamond Dinner, Feb. 7, 2015, already are underway. And FIU's in talks with another excellent keynote speaker. I'm not sure he's a better speaker than this year's Jim Kaat, current broadcaster and former longtime major league pitcher, but he's one of the biggest names in baseball from the 1960s and 1970s.

February 07, 2014

Joining The 700 Club; new softball stadium's first game

Between planes connecting FIU's women's basketball team from San Antonio to El Paso isn't an ideal time for serious reflection. That's where I caught Cindy Russo Thursday afternoon after her 700th career coaching victory, she and her team were in Houston with UTEP in the future (Saturday) and the milestone win against Texas-San Antonio in the past (Wednesday).

"It's an honor to reach it," Russo said. "It took a lot of time and a lot of good people."

As for the most memorable of those 700 wins, Russo pointed to the 81-76 1995 first round NCAA win against she and longtime assistant Inge Nissen's alma mater, Old Dominion. Despite that connection, I got the feeling the top placement owes more to the game being the first of FIU's two NCAA tournament wins.

"And, of course, it's always nice to beat UM," she laughed.

Russo couldn't remember win No. 1.

"It' was too long time ago," she laughed. 

It was 42-41 against Brevard Community College, Jan. 7, 1978. Russo recalls FIU's campus encompassed seven buildings. The team played at Miami Christian High School. They practiced in a former airplane hangar they called "The Tin Gym" now used for storage.

"That first year was memorable," Russo said. "I had a lot of volleyball palyers playing after their season and a lot of softball players playing before their season. But they were a gutty group and coachable."

In the Florida AIAW tournament, FIU won two, then lost two, finishing second to Bethune-Cookman. An eligibility issue, however, knocked Cookman out of the AIAW tournament and sent FIU to the Southeast Regional at the College of Charleston. The Sunblazers (gosh, how much cooler a name is that?) lost to Tampa to end their season 8-14.

Appropriate that the building of wins from eight to 700 by the longest serving FIU coach in any sport in some ways parallels the building of FIU's current campus.

SOFTBALL

Speaking of construction, the new softball facility debuts today at 4 p.m. when FIU plays Maryland in the Felsberg Memorial. Tomorrow night is the major fund-raiser for the softball and baseball programs, the Diamond Dinner in the Graham Center Ballroom at Camp Mitch. Reception is at 6 p.m with the dinner starting at 7 p.m.

Former major league pitcher Jim Kaat will be the keynote speaker.


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