July 13, 2015

Leonard on Thorpe Watch

Jim Thorpe did everything as one of football's first superstars.

In an era when college football was America's second most popular team sport behind major league baseball -- professional football tended to be as confined to Ohio and Western Pennsylvania as the worship of Woody Hayes and Joe Paterno later would be -- Thorpe played running back, defensive back, punted and kicked for Carlisle Indian Industrial School. He did all of it well enough to allow Carlisle to compete for national supremacy with the Michigans and Harvards that ruled the fields as they ruled the halls of real world power.

"Heisman" still meant the head coach at Georgia Tech, not a trophy or shorthand for a romantic stiff arm, so Thorpe couldn't win that individual honor. And the best running back often wins the Heisman. So, Thorpe's name goes on the award for the nation's best defensive back.

And FIU cornerback/kick returner/punt returner Richard Leonard is on the watch list for that award.

Leonard defensive 2014 season came thicker than a Snickers with impact plays: two interception returns for touchdowns, one fumble return for touchdown, nine total turnovers, most of which came with opponents in scoring position. It'll be interesting to see how teams deal with Leonard this season.

Seems appropriate in a couple of ways...




July 08, 2015

No. 87 on Mackey Award Watch List (duh)

FIU felt Jonnu Smith's 61 catches for 710 yards and eight touchdowns should've earned him a spot as a Mackey Award finalist, especially when considering the circumstances: a freshman quarterback starting 11 games and wide receivers who made only cameo appearances as downfield threats.

The Mackey Award folks disagreed (hmph), but put Smith on their preseason watch list for the second consecutive season, as announced Wednesday.

July 07, 2015


Some of you probably saw my Tweet last week on the Over/Under line for each college football team's wins according to Bovada. Here's how the betting site sees Conference USA.


Marshall 10

Western Kentucky 7.5

Middle Tennessee State 6.5

FIU 5.5

FAU 5.0

Old Dominion 4.5

Charlotte 2.5


Louisiana Teach 8.0

Rice 7.5


North Texas 4.5

Southern Mississippi 4.5

Texas-San Antonio 2.5

Tough call on FIU. I'd tend to go with the over.

No surprise on the players FIU will bring to the Conference USA Media Days in Boca Raton July 21-22: junior tight end Jonnu Smith and fifth-year senior cornerback/kick returner Richard Leonard.



July 04, 2015

FIU Flips the Byrd



Jacksonville Ed White High cornerback Jadarius Byrd committed to Marshall...then decommitted. He committed to Oregon State...then flipped on Friday.

Now, it's FIU's turn to see if they can keep Byrd under the Richard Pryor number of commitments as Byrd has pledged himself to the Panthers via Twitter.

If he comes, it's a good get for FIU, according to the rankings. 247Sports.com and Scout.com both have Byrd at three stars and as FIU's highest rated recruit. Rivals.com puts him at two. He made the Florida Times-Union's All-First Coast First Team and was described as "a shutdown corner and special teams ace" with four interceptions, a defensive touchdown and four special teams touchdowns.

Check out his highlights here.

Happy Fourth of July


June 30, 2015

Dolphins Coming to FIU

The Dolphins will hold a public practice at FIU Stadium Aug. 7 as part of a Friday Night Festival, featuring live practice and scrimmage, player autographs afterwards, cheerleaders and Dolphins alumni smiling and waving after signing autographs...all you'd expect from a franchise of good people working very hard to help everybody overlook 20 years of professional mediocrity on the field.

Tickets can be purchased here for $5 each.


June 27, 2015

Summer Friday Night Softball for Charity

While I wrote about a summer camp at the University of Miami that disappeared and a sailor who disappeared before rambling up the Palmetto and I-75 to the NHL Draft, David Furones went to the Cypsquad Charity Celebrity Softball Game Friday at FIU Baseball Stadium. Proceeds from the event benefit former FIU safety Johnathan Cyrpien's CypSquad Foundation.

Furones reports:

Cyprien, a starting safety the last two seasons for Jacksonville, put together a team predominantly of former college teammates, high school teammates at North Miami Beach High, former UM players and other NFL players with South Florida ties against members of the military, policemen and fire fighters from Miami-Dade County.

Proceeds benefited the CypSquad At-Risk Youth Program and the Feed Our Block Foundation. A number of children in the program were on the field meeting and taking pictures with the stars before and after the game.

“Our mission, No. 1, was for these kids out here because we wouldn’t be having this event if it wasn’t for those guys,” Cyprien said. “This foundation started about a month ago, and it’s for at-risk youths to put them in better positions so they can make better choices.”

Among the top standout sightings were Indianapolis Colts Pro-Bowl wide receiver and former FIU Panther T.Y. Hilton, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Northwestern High), Chicago Bears safety Antrel Rolle (UM, Homestead South Dade) and former FIU baseball star Garret Wittels, he of the 56-game hitting streak.

Cyprien said his highlight on the field was scoring a run in the 9-5 victory for the celebrity team. The top bloopers: Isame Faciane dropping a fly ball, Dolphins safety Louis Delmas dancing around the field every chance he got or rapper Ice Berg just embarrassing himself at the plate.

Some of the best ovations from the roughly 1,000 in attendance came for Hilton, of course.

“Any time you get a chance to come back to your old stomping grounds, you do that,” Hilton said. “Just give back, just come out here and have fun and spend some time with the kids.”

Cyprien plans on making the softball game an annual event with the connections he has in both the Miami and Jacksonville areas.




June 26, 2015

Football Past & Future

Former FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien's Cypsquad Celebrity Charity softball game, benefitting Cyprien's foundation that assists at-risk youth, will be 6 p.m. tonight at FIU Baseball Stadium.

The lineup includes former FIU football players Antwan Barnes, Anthony Gaitor and Tourek Williams; former FIU baseball hit streaker Garret Wittels; Dolphins safety Louis Delmas; Minnesota Vikings quarterback and Northwestern High graduate Teddy Bridgewater and a host of others. Tickets still available here.

Meanwhile, after FIU's camps, they've gotten a run of verbal commits for next season. 

South Dade running back Jawon Hamilton, 5-10, 185, not rated by any of the major recruiting sites

Tampa Bay Tech safety Isaiah Brown, 6-1, 185, three stars by 247Sports, not rated by other sites.

Lake Nona wide receiver Ulice Gillard, 6-1, 190, not rated by the major recruiting sites

Tampa Countryside guard/tackle Wyatt Panaccione, 6-5, 280, not rated by the major recruiting sites


The 2015 schedule is out.


Same here.


June 15, 2015

FIU on ASN (football, of course)

Conference USA announced which games will be televised on the American Sports Network and FIU announced game times for two should-be home wins. Actually, the five games involved might comprise the Panthers' 2015 victory total.

ASN, a division of Sinclair Broadcasting that too often doesn't include a station in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, decrees that FIU's home games against Texas-El Paso on Oct. 18 and Charlotte on Nov. 7 will be at noon. If you heard a Nancy Kerrigan-like screaming, that's FIU's marketing and sales reacting to any potential hope for a decent crowd getting kneecapped.

I used to wonder why FIU didn't play more home early afternoon football games to take advantage of the heat. I saw the Rice and Pitt crowds -- using "crowds" more loosely than jeans sag on the ignorant -- last year. I wonder no more.

The annual Shula Bowl, at FAU this year, gets a 3:30 p.m. kickoff for Oct. 31, Halloween, on ASN. That'll take a few parents out of the trick-or-treating game. I hope two South Florida teams means ASN manages to show the game down here on something other than ASN's streaming site.

FIU announced its home opener, a planned punking of North Carolina Central, and the Oct. 24 Homecoming game against Old Dominion will be 6 p.m. kickoffs.



June 14, 2015

Phillicia & Phil

Long jumper Phillicia Fluellen officially finished FIU's 2014-15 athletic year when she sailed to 14th in this week's NCAA Championships.

Fluellen's leap of 20 feet, 4 1/2 inches was her third best this season and second best among the mid-majors at the meet behind 10th place Texas State's Allie Saunders (I'm not counting 11th place Tennessee State's Clairwin Dameus as being from a mid-major -- that track program's been good longer than half the coaches at that meet have been alive.)


The premier college football preview publication, by information tonnage and accuracy, Phil Steele's College Football 2015, is now online if not newsstands.

Steele ranks FIU 103rd overall and fourth in Conference USA East. One of the common problems when turnovers become the manna you turn into victory, as in FIU's five wins over the last two seasons, is that's not consistent sustenance. Steele lists the Panthers as one of the teams with a positive double-digit turnover margin, a statistic that precedes a dropoff in wins the following year for 65 percent of such cases since 1991.

But, Steele points out FIU was four plays from being 8-4 last year instead of 4-8 and expects this year's model to be the best of the three Ron Turner FIU teams.

So, there's that.



June 12, 2015

...and Comings

Year Three, time to see. Time to see progress that can be spotted at a glance. Time to see recruiting significantly improve as relationships develop. Time to see a foundation for the future formed by a consistent way of doing things.

That's where both football coach Ron Turner and men's basketball coach Anthony Evans find themselves in 2015. Turner's recruiting class looks like an improvement over 2014, at least at the highest end, but we'll see when the pads start popping. Evans announced his third class last week, three freshmen and three junior college players.

I stopped by Evans' office to talk to him about what he expected from each of them.

Guard Donte McGill, 6-3, 185, Phoenixville (Pa) Mont Clare Academy, Goldey-Beacom College, Vincennes University -- "Coming from Vincennes, been in a winning program. I think he can help us offensively. Definitely losing Dennis, we tried to bring in some guys who could help us scoring-wise and I think he's one of them who can give us some points. Really good in transition, Nice mid-range game. Shot 38 percent from 3-point range."

Forward Elmo Stephens, 6-7, 200 (somebody feed this young man before they lose him through a shower drain), Auburndale High, Tallahassee Community College -- "Good player, really good three-point shooter. Definitely someone who can spread the floor. When 6-10 Adrian (Diaz) is being double-teamed, he'll be able to knock down shots and create his own shot. Another person we're looking to give us some offensive punch."

Forward Cam Smith, 6-7, 210, Tallahassee Leon, Tallahassee Community College -- "Really coming into his own. He blew out his knee coming out of high school. Sat out the year before, then played last year. He's got a ton of talent. Definitely someone I feel can come in and give us a contribution in points, rebounding, defensively, to go along with helping Adrian and Daviyon (Draper) and those guys out."

Now, to the freshmen. "Those guys, obviously, we want them to come along. I don't know how quicly that'll happen. All three will come in and contribute. We know they're freshmen and they will go through their ups and downs."

Forward Michael Douglas, 6-5, 190, Sachse (Tex) High School -- "More of a shooter, really athletic."

Forward Eric Turner, 6-5, 193, The Villages Charter High School -- "Averaged 24.0 points per game in 2013-14. He's a scorer. Can get to the basket, shoots the three. Very athletic. Was recruiting by some high major schools, so it was a great addition for us."

Guard Kimar Williams, 6-1, Philadelphia Constitution High -- "Philly Public League Player of the Year. He just brings that toughness. He played in a really good league."

I asked Evans how he got such a player out of the Philadelphia are to come to FIU. Evans smiled, "Relationships."

He explained Constitution High coach Rob Moore coached at Bodine High School when Pendarvis Williams (no relation to Kimar) went to play for Evans at Norfolk State. McGill's from Newark, Delaware, about 45 miles from Philly. 

Three of the six being from junior colleges prompted me to ask Evans if the percentages of junior college recruits to freshmen will drop from 50 percent.

"I think the thought with it is sustain, at this point and bring in guys who can help us with immediate needs," Evans said. "Obviously, we brought in three freshmen who we feel we can build on. That's what we like to do. When they're juniors, we should be able to bring in freshmen and continue. Junior college will always be an option. Not that it'll be a 50-50 thing. When there's a need, we will go out and recruit." 

Evans didn't say what follows on the record or indicate it privately. No one representing Evans said this. But, you don't have to be a a real-life Sheldon Cooper to do the math:

FIU's not a destination job for a young coach with a still-mobile family. Few so-called mid-major jobs are destination jobs. Most are springboard jobs -- you're on the board for a few years, then either get propelled upward to a head coaching job with a fatter budgeted program or or you splash back down into being an assistant.

All you need to get a positive bounce off the board one or two seasons of unexpected winning basketball. Your name gets hotter than a Warren Buffet stock tip. A job opens up, you're on it with the inside track. That's what happened when Richard Pitino left FIU in 2013 after one 18-15 season for a $1.2 million per year job at the University of Minnesota. That same year, Andy Enfield went from Florida Gulf Coast to USC (the one in LA) after two seasons as a college head coach and one trip to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 15 seed.

So why not play heavily in JuCo land? Few places give the coach the benefit of time to build a program anyway. Might as well try to build a winner quickly, then hope an opportunity opens to do a George and Weezy.


Forgot to add late night...

Tampa Gaither High's Shane McGough, brother of FIU sophomore quarterback Alex McGough, announced his verbal commitment to FIU via social media. Shane plays on both the offensive and defensive lines, 6-2, 265, and is unrated by any of the recruiting sites we usually quote.


June 01, 2015

TV Time

Four of FIU's eight conference games get the television once-over on the schedule announced by Conference USA Monday and one non-conference game will get Big Ten Network coverage.

The conference opener at Louisiana Tech, Sept. 26, will be on Fox College Sports. Fox Regional Networks will carry road games at Middle Tennessee (Oct. 17), Marshall (Nov. 14) and the home game against Western Kentucky (Nov. 21). After FIU opens the season against Central Florida on CBS Sports Network on Sept. 3, the Panthers go to Bloomington to face Indiana on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. (8 p.m? Whatever happened to 1 p.m. kickoffs that get everybody to Kilroy's and the DunnKirk area by sundown?)

FIU might have another couple of conference games in the to-be-announced 30 that'll be broadcast by American Sports Network, which last year showed a couple of games everywhere except South Florida. So far, six FIU games will be televised.


Preseason Projections

Edwin Rios' ground out that ended the baseball season began the scollege-affiliated football preseason. The preseason magazines drew us to the Coral Gables Barnes & Noble on the way to Saturday's baseball action.

Athlon's, Lindy's and The Sporting News sit on the stands. Phil Steele, producer of the most accurate and (not coincidentally) exhaustively researched preseason guide, just shipped his guide off to the printer for July 1 store release.

Steele released his four-deep preseason All-Conference USA teams Monday and it reflects the general perception of FIU going into the season. 

On offense, he cites only junior tight end Jonnu Smith on the First Team (duh) and junior guard Jordan Budwig on the Fourth Team. The other side, however, includes senior defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine on the First Team, sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint and senior cornerback Richard Leonard on the Second Team (Second Team for Leonard?) and senior linebacker Davison Colimon on the Fourth Team. He puts Leonard as his First Team punt returner and senior Clinton Taylor as the Fourth Team punt returner.

Athlon Sports ranks FIU 112th nationally out of 128, fifth in the C-USA East and projects the Panthers to run in place -- second consecutive 4-8 overall and 3-5 conference records. I think they went with chalk in figuring FIU to beat FCS team North Carolina Central, Old Dominion and No. 128 Charlotte at La Cage and a conference upsets somewhere in there.

Their all-conference Panthers were Smith, Wakefield and Leonard on the first First Team, with Leonard at punt returner and cornerback and Colimon on the Second Team.

This year's quote from a conference opponent's assistant coach -- "They were much better last year than two years ago, but their passing game was almost nonexistent" -- might not come off well, but it's an encouraging butt-slap compared to last year's slap-in-the-face quote.

Lindy's likes FIU at No. 98 nationally and fourth in the East. While not throwing out a record, the magazine states becoming bowl eligible (six wins) would be a stretch for FIU. Lindy's two-deep preseason all-conference teams look similar to Phil Steele's, but put Colimon and Budwig on the Second Team and Leonard on the First Team. Lindy's ranked Smith as the nation's No. 1 tight end for college fantasy football.

The Sporting News says fifth in the East with Smith, Leonard and Wakefield as their preseason all-conference players (TSN made only one team).

May 27, 2015

APR, Adidas, Athletics Cash

As the baseball team practiced (with adidas bats -- more on that later), the 2013-14 Academic Progress Rate numbers dropped. Not literally, but in the modern popular music vernacular.

Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale concerned African-American women and early 1990s relationships, not APR. But, it does tend to describe FIU around this time of the year. It's entirely possible one of the breezes I felt at the baseball stadium today came from the department exhaling over an APR report without any red flags or even yellow flags.

Men's track (indoor and outdoor), women's track, volleyball, softball, golf, women's cross country each registered perfect single-year APRs of 1000. Golf owned the lone perfect multiyear APR.

Proving that bad APR falls somewhere between tires and herpes in durability, men's basketball came in with the lowest multiyear APR, 879. That's still represents progress from 858 in 2011-12 and 866 in 2012-13 and allows basketball to proceed penalty free for the first time since the Richard Pitino-coached season of 2012-13.

Multiyear APR

Golf 1000

Women's basketball 995

Women's cross country 987

Tennis 982

Men's cross country 977

Women's outdoor track 977

Women's indoor track 975

Swimming & Diving 973

Volleyball 973

Softball 971

Men's soccer 970

Women's soccer 969

Men's outdoor track 958

Men's indoor track 956

Baseball 938

Football 933

Men's Basketball 879

2013-14 Single Year APR

Men's indoor track 1000

Women's indoor track 1000

Women's outdoor track 1000

Men's outdoor track 1000

Women's cross country 1000

Volleyball 1000

Golf 1000

Softball 1000

Women's soccer 979

Women's basketball 967

Swimming & Diving 962

Tennis 955

Football 935

Men's basketball 933

Men's Soccer 932

Baseball 931


Businesses show love by showing material and money. As detailed here in the February post "Getting Dressed," the FIU athletic team Adidas loves most is baseball. No other program gets the amount of equipment under Adidas' agreement with FIU Athletics that baseball does. No other FIU head coach gets $4,000 of free product annually as FIU's baseball coach does.

According to Camp Mitch sources, baseball's love of its Adidas clothes and gear didn't extend to the bats. So FIU brought other brands along with Adidas to the plate throughout the season.

Apparently, somebody at Adidas noticed FIU's bat diversity as the Panthers battered Conference USA tournament opponents. That's not a problem unless there's a clause in the agreement between the school and the athletic wear company stating "each Sport...shall exclusively use or wear Adidas products whenever School's athletic teams are playing one of the Sports (including games and practice sessions)..." and that failure to do so constitutes a material breach of contract.

FIU swung Adidas bats at practice Wednesday and you can bet they'll do so this weekend in Coral Gables.


USA Today's annual college athletics finances report demonstrated little of surprise beyond Oregon taking over the Total Revenue title from Texas.

Of the 230 schools ranked, FIU placed 90th in total revenue ($28,104,962), 92nd in total expenses ($27,542,910), 16th in subsidy ($22,540,365) and 36th overall, second to Eastern Michigan among FBS football schools, in percentage of total revenue that comes from subsidies (80.2%).


Click here to see the current real world job of former FIU running back Darian Mallary.


May 07, 2015

MacLaren Golf...And Twins!

Jacksonville First Coast has an offensive guard who is 6-3, 285 with the last name Connell. Funny enough, they have a 6-3, 285-pound center with the same surname.

Two peas in a pod -- or, more accurately, one pea split in two -- guard/tackle Dallas Connell and identical twin center/defensive tackle Douglas Connell continue their close relationship by both committing to FIU, as announced Thursday via Twitter.

Of course, this reminded us of...



Junior Meghan MacLaren needs a top three finish in the NCAA Regional out in Utah to advance to the NCAA Championship, May 22-27 over in Bradenton. After the first of three rounds, MacLaren sits fourth, 1-over 72, four shots back of leader Pauline Loulier of Cal. 

May 04, 2015

Camp Bodies; Super Tex

To no surprise for a team whose best players were juniors, sophomores and freshmen, the 2014 football Panthers saw nobody get their name called or miscalled during the NFL Draft. Nor did any of the 32 entertainment franchises under the NFL shield sign an FIU player as a free agent.

But, rookie camps need more bodies beyond the undrafted free agents scooped up in the draft's version of a Dec. 26 sale. So, they bring in rookie camp bodies to make the numbers up, as the British would say, and get a longshot's chance of hanging around. One Dolphins rookie camp, I did a story on Justin Wynn, a wide receiver with one year of junior college ball under his belt -- three and a half years before he came to the Dolphins camp. Wynn wound up hanging on until the second round of cuts in the main training camp.

Indianapolis, which seems to be bringing in anything with a Miami connection short of a coffee window, has had an undrafted free agent make the final 53 in September 16 consecutive seasons.

According to FIU, safety Justin Halley will get the opportunity to extend that streak; strong safety Demarkus Perkins will be in the Jets rookie camp and the Dolphins pulled in offensive lineman David Delsoin.

I'm still trying to confirm these camp invites.


You can't blame the softball team's failure to make the Conference USA tournament on sophomore Stephanie Texeira.

Texeira set an FIU record with a .444 batting average, beating Ashley McClain's .409 in 2011. With her freshman year .408, she's got two of the three best hitting seasons in FIU history. McClain's FIU record for career batting average (minimum 200 at bats), is .357. Or, rather, was .357. Texeira's at .424 with 276 at bats with two seasons remaining.

Texeira's 51 RBI this season ties Kim Rodriguez's 2008 number for second behind McClain's 56 in 2010.




April 24, 2015

Tennis Honors & Football Dollars

The tennis team lost in the Conference USA semi-final round to eventual champion Rice, but cleaned up nicely in the C-USA postseason awards.

Senior transfer from Clemson Yana Koroleva picked up Newcomer of the Year, Outstanding Singles Player at the Conference Championship, a First Team All-Conference singles and, with sophomore Nina Nagode, a First Team All-Conference doubles honor. Nagode received Second Team notice in singles while Carlotta Orlando joined Koroleva on the First Team. Nerma Caluk made the Third Team in singles.


You had to figure the dollars worked for FIU in their second two-year deal with Indiana similar to the way the first home-and-home deal put FIU $800,000 to the good.

And they did. An FIU spokesman said today that the Panthers will get $800,000 for playing Indiana near Disco Briscoe Hall while the Hoosiers will get $200,000 for facing FIU across the street from Parkview Hall in 2018. Net: +$600,000 on this deal, +$1.4 million on the whole four years.

The profit from the second deal, at least, will go to summer school and helping pay the total cost of attendance for each athlete. Conference USA stated last summer they would begin paying the total cost of attendance for each scholarship athlete in 2015-16.

April 23, 2015

FIU Wants Some More IU

Or vice versa.

FIU announced another home-and-home series with Indiana University, tacking 2017 and 2018 onto the 2015 and 2016 set that starts Sept. 12 at Indiana.

Indiana's the perfect non-conference opponent for FIU and that opinion doesn't come from being born in Indianapolis, raised on IU football, basketball and soccer and spending four wonderful years in Bloomington.

No. 1: The current deal with Indiana makes money for FIU. Indiana's paying FIU $1 million to come to Bloomington this year while FIU's paying the Hoosiers $200,000 for coming to Camp Mitch in 2016. I don't know the financials on this new deal yet, but I find it hard to believe FIU won't turn a profit on the exchange.

No. 2: Widen the recruiting footprint. Why not? FIU's clearly getting a better foothold locally. That doesn't preclude getting some decent talent from the Midwest, especially along the line. Illinois & Ohio are talent thick. Indiana's no longer the Dollar General of football talent among states. It also puts you in front of Northern Kentucky.

No. 3: Indiana's Big Ten without being Big. Indiana admitted it wanted FIU on the schedule to soften their non-conference schedule up a bit. Don't overlook that this also gives FIU a shot at a very beatable Power Five conference team. A young, callow version of the Panthers played Pitt on even terms last year and, aside from a flurry of second quarter big plays, hung tough against Louisville. FIU lost both but Pitt and Louisville are better than Indiana was and better than Indiana likely will be. FIU should be more mature across the board.

I guarantee you the Hoosiers will come out in September, skipping and hopping across a sun-smothered field, feeling good about college life and ready to whip up on some G5 duck...leaving them vulnerable to being stunned by FIU's speed, at least.

The Panthers come as the hunted...but might wind up bagging some Big Ten Game.




April 22, 2015

MacLaren No. 1, FIU No. 2; Kickoff time on Sept. 3

Can't blame junior Meghan MacLaren that FIU finished second, eight shots back of winner Middle Tennessee State in t Conference USA championship at Fort Myers' Verandah Club

Needing to lead FIU back from an eight-shot deficit on the final day, MacLaren handled the course with the flawless daring that recalled McLarens driven by Ayrton Senna at Silverstone (yeah, I know, she's British, the race cars are named after New Zealander Bruce McLaren, but go with me on this...).

An eagle on the 488-yard, par-5 5th started a six-hole, 6-under run that continued with a par, then four consecutive birdies. In the process, MacLaren hit the nine-hole turn with a scorching 5-under 31 that caught, passed and dusted Middle Tennessee State sophomore Samantha Gotcher. When Gotcher woke up Wednesday morning, she had a six-shot lead. By the time she woke up on the golf course, MacLaren held a two-shot lead. Gotcher recovered late, but MacLaren played the final nine at 2-under to finish with a 7-under 65 and a 10-under 206, both Conference USA records. She took medalist honors by one shot over Gotcher.

Aside from MacLaren, however, the back nine devoured FIU Wednesday almost as messily as it did Monday.

The Panthers got within one shot of Middle at one point and the Raiders' choke muscles seemed to be in spasm. But, subtracting Gotcher and MacLaren, Middle played the final seven holes at a collective 2-over and FIU played it at a collective 9-over. The closing holes proved to be the championship holes. Monday, FIU shot 13-over on Nos. 14-18 while Middle's five golfers shot 2-under.

Sophomore Coralia Arias came in tied for ninth at even par 216. Sophomore Camila Serrano fell from sixth to 13th on the final day with a 3-over 75 that brought her to 2-over 218. Freshman Katerina Krasnova's 6-over 78 final round dropped her 15 spots to 35th, 10-over 226. And junior Carla Jane's 5-over 77 Wednesday left her 14-over, 230, tied for 40th.



CBS Sports Network decrees that FIU's football season opener at Central Florida will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3. 

April 17, 2015

Weekend of Hope

This weekend at Camp Mitch will be about hope.

Not "hope" as a verb. To me, that connotates too much of dealing with things as you wish they were or as they will be if some long odds uncertainty comes through instead of dealing with things as they are. "If everything goes right this season, we'll win X games" describes sports hoping at its best.

"Hope" as a noun, on the other hand, means "a chance." That's what baseball, football and softball will be trying to give themselves or demonstrate they have starting Friday at 4 at the baseball stadium and running all the way through the finish of Sunday's 1 p.m. baseball and softball games.

Between those, at 7 p.m., the football team will try to nurture hope among its fans at the annual Spring Game. The "Friday Night Lights" promotion that starts at 6 p.m. includes schedule posters for the first 1,000 fans, a DJ, a meet-and-greet with the swimming & diving team (is there any other school, excluding Cal with Missy Franklin, who could use the swim team to draw fans to football stuff?) and all sorts of other giveaways.

Despite the running-in-place nature of spring football, there are things to be learned. Watching the 2013 Spring Game gave you that Otter-in-the-Dexter-Lake-Club feeling about the season. During last year's Spring Game, you could tell freshman quarterback Alex McGough possessed the bearing, style and enough smart decision-making that eventually Ron Turner would elevate him over incumbent E.J. Hilliard. Also obvious: running back injuries would give freshmen Alex Gardner and Napoleon Maxwell a shot at starting.

This year, the team wants to build a crowd, build hope in that crowd for 2015, build some kind of buzz, even muted buzz. Another year of dragging in the standings and in the stands by the athletic department's flagship sport puts a drag on the whole department. I'm interested to see how the inexperieneced safeties and wide receivers look as well as the offensive line. The defense, with advantages in experience and overall talent, should dominate.

Softball, Conference USA co-favorites in the preseason coaches' poll, can't get swept this weekend by C-USA best Western Kentucky or just making the conference tournament moves into sorcery-miracle category. The Panthers problem in that regard stands 5-6, Western pitcher Miranda Kramer. She's one of the best in the nation with a 0.91 earned run average, a 17-4 record and only 58 walks against 271 strikeouts. And one ace like her in softball can open up many options for a coach, especially over a doubleheader Saturday and a Sunday.

And then there's baseball, having one of those seasons when you feel like you're always spitting into the wind. The Panthers might get the eighth and final conference tournament spot by default. But if Charlotte or Old Dominion get hot for a weekend or two and FIU keeps taking one per weekend, as Richard Pryor used to say, "Cancel Christmas."

The baseball crew's also facing Hilltoppers, albeit slightly less scary. Western's Austin King, Josh Bartley and Ryan Thurston go 5.31, 5.44, 6.00 in earned run average. I expect some long games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

April 13, 2015

Monday Droppings

I'll be all over the place here.

FIU Arena's being prepared for its new seats and beach floor.


The athletic department caught a big break when that CrossFit-like (but not CrossFit, CrossFit wants to make sure you know) competition broke the beach floor. Players and past coaches complained about how unforgiving the old floor could be on knees and ankles. Now, FIU gets a new floor and somebody else pays for it.

Looking at head coach Marlin Chinn's contract, the first thing that struck me was the five-year deal gets extended a year each time FIU wins 20 games and makes the NCAA tournament. His base pay is $161,000. He gets a $10,000 bonus for a single season team Academic Progress Rate of at least 970 (the team's been a perfect 1000 each of the last three reported years) and another $10,000 for team GPA over 3.1. He gets an extra $7,500 for each of these achievements: getting into the NCAA tournament, Conference USA Coach of the Year, sole possession of a regular season C-USA title. 

I heard the whole women's basketball coaching staff got sacked Monday by new coach Marlin Chinn. That's high on the expectation list when a new coach comes in after the disaster of 3-26, 0-18. I'd be willing to bet longtime assistant coach Inge Nissen winds up somewhere else in the department or university.

I wasn't at Sunday's Athletic Academic Awards Banquet (also known as "Dress Up for Food & Instagram Shots"), which would've been a great time for a sayonara ceremony to Nissen and former head coach Cindy Russo. Considering how long and well they coached at FIU, that would've been nice. I'm not sure Russo was even invited. In her last three full seasons, FIU went to two Women's NITs and got farther than Jerica Coley's superpowers should have taken the Panthers in last year's Conference USA tournament (the program was rewarded with being told the run took the team over its travel budget for the season). 

Men's basketball guard Dennis Mavin and multi-titled swimmer Johanna Gustafsdottir won the Athlete of the Year awards of the appropriate genders. The entire golf team made the conference's academic honor roll, so no surprise it won the addidas Athletic Director's Award for best GPA of the year, 3.67. Women's soccer took the Paul Gallagher Community Service Award. The Michael Felsberg Spirit Award went to swimming & diving, which shared the Champs/Life Skills Challenge Cup Award with baseball.

Speaking of baseball, senior shortstop Julius Gaines gave the invocation for the entire event and received the team's Leadership Award. That capped a good Sunday individually for Gaines. Earlier in FIU's 5-4 11-inning loss to FAU, he cracked three singles to break out of an 0-for-18 plunge that also prompted a plunge down the batting order Sunday. Coach Turtle Thomas moved Gaines from leadoff to eighth.

"I definitely don't need to send a message to Julius Gaines. He's been with us for four years. He's a good baseball player," Thomas said. "He made some really good defensive plays today. (Moving down to eighth) gets you down there where you maybe see a few more fastballs, they're not killing you working you over in the top five of the batting order. It's just to give him a different look."

Gaines said at the plate, "I got out of my head. I just went up there and said I was going to put a swing on it and whatever happened, happened." As far as hitting eighth, he admitted, "There's not as much pressure. You worry about your at-bat at that time and whatever situation comes. Leading off, it's your job to get on base. It can weigh on you a little bit."

While Gaines shrugged off his defensive day as, "I did my job. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary," FAU coach John McCormack said, "Some plays that the shortstop made in this game? Wow. Julius played really well. Thank God he's leaving this year."

Gaines made a game-saving (for the moment) play in the eighth on pinch hitter Danny Murray's tough grounder with the bases loaded. McCormack marveled that Gaines operated efficiently enough to get control of the ball, see he'd be too late for the force out at second and still fired a Murray-beating throw to first.

McCormack said two other things I found interesting. He blamed himself for FIU's 6-5 win Friday. He said he should've gone to Seth McGarry immediately in the eighth with a 5-2 lead. Instead, he used lefty Devon Carr, who gave up two hits and a walk in four batters, sparking FIU's four-run eighth inning. 

He also said he didn't believe in any FIU-FAU rivalry.

"I don't believe in rivalries because the players continually change," McCormack said. "I'm not big on, 'Win this one for The Gipper, they're our biggest rivals.'"

Out on the football field, Ron Turner said FIU's lack of experience at wide receiver and abundance of tight ends and running backs wouldn't mean FIU would use double tight end sets more in 2015 because "we did a lot of it last year." But, Turner said, they'll use more sets with varying position numbers and groupings now that FIU's in the third year of running his offense. 

"I've told these guys from Day 1 I really believe in utilizing our personnel and moving them around. If you've got a guy and he's always in the same spot, they can take him away very easily. That's one of the biggest things I learned in the NFL -- get your playmakers involved, put in position to make plays. We've done a little bit of that the first couple of years, but not as much as we'll do this year. In that league, they pay those guys a lot of money. The owners say, 'I'm paying him a lot of money, why isn't he getting the ball? Why isn't he involved?'

"And we have some guys with versatility. Look at our tight ends. We've got three guys (Jonnu Smith, Ya'keem Griner, Akil Dan-Fodio) who can line up at tight end, line up in the slot, line up as a No. 1 receiver outside and, in some cases, line up in the backfield. Look at our running backs, same thing. We've got some guys who are strictly backfield guys or you've got some who can line up in the slot or outside. We've got a couple of wide receivers who can line up in the backfield and play some running back, quarterback or whatever."

After saying he was excited about all the different options for FIU, Turner joked once spring football ends, the coaches will have too much time to come up with too much other offensive stuff to teach. Or, maybe he was only halfway joking as staffs do make that mistake more often than is noticed.



Team Stats

» View more stats



Powered by TypePad