When the Conference USA winter meetings broke in Boca, the conference proudly spoke of new regulations on student-athlete/athlete-student time demands. That's a problem that long needed to be addressed. Nothing like giving an athlete an education as payment for playing sports, then giving the athlete precious little time to get that education or the education you get from the whole college experience.
(If the education you got at college was the one they gave you the diploma for, you flunked)
The release spoke nothing of new television deals. That doesn't breed confidence in what the conference has cooking with its TV pals.
Maybe you didn't see it on American Sports Network, whose games involving FIU are often as invisible in Miami-Fort Lauderdale as the rights fees ASN pays Conference USA, but FIU center Adrian Diaz might've cost himself some money Thursday.
Diaz showing some nice spin moves on offense and the deft touch around the rim that's given him the conference lead in field goal percentage in conference games, 69.2 percent. But defense and rebounding top Diaz's can-do list. While Diaz slapped down Charlotte freshman guard Jon Davis like, well, a senior hazing a freshman, he had a problem with Charlotte senior center Joseph Uchebo. Uchebo went seven of 12 from the field and pulled down 10 rebounds going mostly at Diaz.
Diaz doesn't have many true big-on-big matchups this season to put on his tape for whatever or wherever his basketball life goes after FIU. He needs to dominate those few games.
You ever avoid going someplace on a date or just looking for a hookup because you know the glare of your competition for attention will render you invisible?
Then you know why FIU moved its season opening home game against Indiana to Sept. 1 from Sept. 3.
Oh, there was some official reason about now there's no chance the game gets jerked into the early afternoon by TV or some such. Yeah, yeah, yeah. As soon as the Hurricane's schedule came out with a season-opening home game against Florida A&M on Sept. 3, the first home game under new head coach Mark Richt, FIU began looking for a different date. Between attendance and attention, even by pulling off the very possible upset of Indiana, that fighting the first glow of Savior Richt would be The Charge of the Light Brigade for FIU.
On into the valley of death, rode the 600 (in the stands)...
FIU got Big Kahuna'd back to Thursday. And I don't blame them one bit.
Harry Minium's Virginian-Pilot story says Conference USA's television revenues take a pay cut in the next set of television deals. Look at the conference lineup and this isn't shocking. Now Conference USA finds itself negotiating a TV deal for what's, essentially, Sun Belt Premium in an era of shrinking traditional TV viewership.
Early in each CUSA media guide, you find a listing of the metropolitan areas graced by Conference USA's membership and where each ranks as a TV market. The current roster compares well enough with the TV market roster before the Realignment DJ screamed, "SWIIIIITCH!"
CUSA lost Orlando-Daytona (currently No. 18 TV market according to Nielsen), Memphis (No. 50), New Orleans (No. 51), Tulsa (No. 60) and East Carolina, a school in a puny TV market but with worshiping masses. CUSA added the Miami-Fort Lauderdale (No. 16) and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce (No. 38) markets, which often are seen as a single bloc, the No. 7 market, by sports television suits (this is why the NHL wants the Panthers skates hammered into the ground here); Charlotte (No. 22); Nashville (No. 29); San Antonio (No. 32); Norfolk (No. 42); Shreveport (No. 83); and Bowling Green, Kentucky (No. 182).
Bowling Green being the runt kind of sums up CUSA's problem. Western Kentucky's the most successful athletic program by record in the conference since joining last year. Fans and local media spend significant time and attention on The Hill People. Few football teams enjoy the success and none play a more exciting style of football than Western. But Western's in Bowling Green, so of little help to the conference when asking for media money. It's only 60 miles from Nashville, but this isn't a Louisville-Jeffersonville "Kentuckiana" deal.
Conference USA's in or near major cities. It's just that those major cities devote minor attention to CUSA.
You think FIU's got trouble being heard over the University of Miami, Florida and Florida State, not to mention the Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins? Try being North Texas, the team in Conference USA's largest market, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the school nearest the league's Irving, Texas headquarters. The Mean Green squeaks behind TCU and SMU locally. And that's once anybody gets past the University of Texas and the Dallas Cowboys, The Galactus Twins, consuming much of that zone's time, energy and attention.
Rice is in Houston. So is the University of Houston. So is Texas. Besides, Rice's 6,500 enrollment, closer to that of Carrollton than Kansas, limits its appeal.
You know the deal with FIU and Florida Atlantic in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach County.
Middle Tennessee State's 40 minutes from Nashville. So 40 minutes from one SEC school, Vanderbilt, under the empire of an SEC sports giant, Tennessee.
Charlotte's a good bring back for basketball as the area loves the college game more than the NBA game. Also, it's a region that finds room to embrace hoopsters from many schools despite the elephantine presence of Duke and North Carolina. For football? Well...
Old Dominion brings a well-funded athletic department and solid following...in the conference's eighth or ninth, depending on how you count South Florida, largest market.
Despite the omnipresence of Texas, Texas-San Antonio has been a good addition for Conference USA. San Antonio's a fertile, nice-sized market in which a CUSA school can maintain visibility without needing football seasons such as 2014 Marshall or 2015 Western or a Sweet Sixteen NCAA men's basketball tournament run. Imagine this kind of exposure/interest for a new football coach at FIU or Middle.
Should CUSA go whole hog into exploring the digital option? Or partner with YouTube or some other streaming video outlet? It's what some professional sports leagues did when they felt they couldn't get enough love or money from cable or broadcast.
Whatever the conference does, for now, we're about to see what kind of moneymakers run each athletic department.
Curious about how FIU ranks among its Conference USA peers since moving from the Sun Belt Fun Belt in 2013, a curiosity prodded by several people inside and outside the athletic department asking the same thing, I did a little record hunting.
Now, obviously, the best answer to the above would be found by compiling the records of each CUSA school in each sport that FIU plays, weighting for things like missed conference tournaments, NCAA runs, conference tournament runs, individual brilliance (such as FIU's Meghan MacLaren tearing up the 2015 conference golf tournament). But all that would take up way too large a portion of whatever time I have left on this plane of existence. So, here's what I did:
I ranked the schools on overall and conference records since 2013 in football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and then a wild card sport -- each school's best sport in which FIU also participates.
You play to win championships, so when ranking in conference play, the title winners eat first. When I assign point values later to determine an overall ranking, conference play will get greater weight. You get more credit for beating your peers than you do gorging on lesser punks.
I see the obvious flaws. With a relatively small sample size, one great or abysmal season can swing the results too hard in one direction. That's even more the case with schools that entered CUSA after the Great Sun Belt Migration of 2013 brought FIU, FAU, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State to the league. But, outside of Intelligent Benevolent Dictatorship, no perfect systems exist.
Here's the rankings for each sport:
1. Marshall – 33-8, three bowl wins
2. Western Kentucky – 20-7, two bowl wins.
3. Rice – 23-16, two bowl appearances, one win.
4. Louisiana Tech – 22-17, two bowl wins.
5. Middle Tennessee State -- 21-17, two bowl appearances.
6. Old Dominion – 11-13
7. North Texas -- 14-23, won one bowl game.
8. UTEP – 14-23, one bowl appearance
9. UTSA – 14-22 (ranked behind UTEP and North Texas despite a smidge better record because UTEP’s extra loss came in a bowl game and North Texas’ extra game was a bowl win).
10. Southern Mississippi – 13-25, one bowl appearance
11. FAU – 12-24
12. UAB – 8-16 (loses tiebreaker with FAU on, you know, the program being dead, then revived to two-season coma).
13. FIU – 10-26
14. Charlotte – 2-10
1. Marshall -- 20-4, one conference title
2. Western Kentucky -- 12-4, one conference title.
3. Rice – 15-9, one conference title.
4. Middle Tennessee State – 17-7
5. Louisiana Tech -- 16-8
6. UTSA – 12-12
7. Old Dominion – 7-9
8. Southern Mississippi – 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over UTEP, North Texas and FAU based on a Conference USA West Division title.)
9. UTEP 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over North Texas and FAU on combined head-to-head record)
10. North Texas -- 9-15 (head-to-head tiebreaker over FAU)
11. FAU -- 9-15
12. UAB – 5-11
13. FIU – 7-17
14. Charlotte – 0-8
MEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL
1. Louisiana Tech – 68-19
2. UTEP – 55-27
3. Old Dominion – 53-32
4. Middle Tennessee State -- 51-31
5. UAB – 49-32
6. Western Kentucky -- 28-18
7. FIU – 38-40
8. North Texas 36-42
9. Charlotte – 17-28
10. Marshall – 27-52
11. UTSA – 25-50
12. Rice – 24-53
13. FAU – 21-53
14. Southern Mississippi – 41-36 (placed down here for two years of self-imposed postseason bans after fundamental NCAA violations, such as completing homework assignments for recruits).
MEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE
1. UAB -- 20-15, one Conference USA title
2. Louisiana Tech – 31-6
3. UTEP -- 27-9
4. Western Kentucky -- 12-7
5. Old Dominion – 23-12
6. Middle Tennessee State – 22-13
7. FIU – 16-19
8. North Texas -- 17-21
9. Charlotte – 7-12
10. UTSA -- 13-23
11. Marshall – 12-23
12. Rice – 10-26
13. FAU – 7-27
14. Southern Mississippi -- 17-18 (See above)
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL
1. Western Kentucky – 40-7
2. Middle Tennessee State – 60-20
3. Southern Mississippi – 60-22
4. UTEP – 52-25
5. UAB – 41-33
6. Old Dominion – 44-37
7. FAU -- 38-34
8. Marshall – 38-37
9. Charlotte – 22-22
10. UTSA – 34-40
11. Louisiana Tech – 33-42
12. Rice – 24-49
13. North Texas -- 23-48
14. FIU -- 20-54
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE
1. Western Kentucky – 17-2, one conference title
2. Middle Tennessee State 30-5, one conference title
3. Southern Mississippi -- 27-8
4. Old Dominion -- 21-14
5. UTEP – 21-15
6. Charlotte – 10-9
7. UAB – 18-17
8. Louisiana Tech – 15-20
9. UTSA -- 15-21
10. FAU -- 14-21
11. Marshall -- 11-24
12. Rice – 11-25
13. North Texas -- 11-25
14. FIU – 6-29
1. Rice – 79-42, one NCAA at-large bid
2. Southern Mississippi – 71-43-1
3. FAU – 70-44, one NCAA at-large bid
4. UAB – 68-46
5. UTSA – 68-51
6. FIU – 66-51
7. Old Dominion – 63-54
8. Middle Tennessee State – 63-54
9. Western Kentucky – 24-28
10. Louisiana Tech – 40-62
11. Marshall – 40-63
12. Charlotte – 38-60-1
North Texas & UTEP – No team
1. Rice -- 45-15, one conference title
2. FIU – 29-31, one conference title
3. Southern Mississippi – 38-21
4. Middle Tennesse State – 37-24
5. UAB -- 35-25
6. FAU -- 33-26
7. UTSA -- 33-28
8. Old Dominion – 30-30
9. Marshall -- 22-37
10. Charlotte -- 21-38
11. Western Kentucky – 10-19
12. Louisiana Tech – 13-46
North Texas & UTEP – No team
WILD CARD SPORT
1. Western Kentucky – Volleyball. 62-10, 30-2 in conference, two conference tournament titles.
OK, you knew it could happen, maybe even felt it probably would happen, hoped it wouldn't happen, but it did. Marshall took FIU to Fiftyburger and got a Shutout Shake with it.
Playing on the road against a team that's better than they are anyway and on a day heavy with feeling, the Panthers gave up big plays early and got nothing steady going offensively. Then, they got crushed.
Obviously, the soccer team can't make up for 52-0 when it faces Marshall in the Conference USA Championship Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., although FIU will be heavily favored. The Panthers smoked The Herd 5-1 earlier this season.
There won't be an official FIU watch party for that. There was for Saturday's game, at Carolina Ale House in Doral. I arrived early in the first quarter with Marshall up 7-0.
I've been in Miami long enough to know: heavy rain=light crowd, even indoors. There were 17 people there. That's 17 more than I saw or recognized from Athletics. Nor did I see the advertised giveaways of two basketball courtside tickets or two suite tickets for next week's regular season finale. And I heard that the circle of televisions on the game weren't on the game until after kickoff.
What's was up with that? The advertisements for the Watch Party didn't say canceled in case of rain.
Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. Illinois, 11 a.m.
Football -- Saturday vs. Charlotte, noon
Volleyball -- Sunday vs. North Texas, 1 p.m.
Q: What's up with junior tight end Jonnu Smith?
A: FIU coach Ron Turner called Smith day-to-day. Smith was padless with a brace around the left knee. Didn't look day-to-day unless those days were today and a week from Saturday.
Q: Any other injury updates?
A: Freshman running back/wide receiver Anthony Jones will be back, and maybe fifth-year senior running back Anthon Samuel. Turner hated having to overuse Alex Gardner, who played every offensive snap Saturday then faced the media, visibly hurt by the loss.
Q: Is Juwan Caesar ever going to see the field?
A: He's got three games left before his college career finishes without taking the field. He seems to want to play on whatever's wrong with his knee. Why not try him, especially when they're unhappy with Thomas Owens as they were last Saturday?
FIU played "Ask Rosenberg" on Twitter Tuesday night. As this is a sports blog, we'll stick to the sports questions I saw. Quoting the questions and answers without commentary on either.
Q: When will our football team get a better coaching staff? Our football program is not getting any better.
A: We appreciate fan support. Our coaches are hard working and committed.
Q: Are there any plans to expand athletic facilities? For example, a future natural grass practice field.
A: Facilities improvement is an ongoing imperative.
Q: Are there any plans to expand and improve FIU Stadium? Better concessions and perhaps an upper bowl for the stadium?
A: (No answer)
Q: FIU football disaster. So r other FIU Athletics teams. Facilities & fan support are a joke. Why is Pete Garcia still employed?
A: (No answer)
Q: When is Cheerleading at FIU going to receive the same benefits as other athletes on campus?
A: I appreciate what our cheerleaders do to build the school and want the best possible conditions for them.
Q: 1st -- I'm a huge fan! 2nd -- why is Pete Garcia still at FIU. As an alum, it hurts to support when he is in charge.
A: (No answer)
Q: Hope to see you at the game Saturday afternoon
A: Absolutely, go FIU.
Q: let me know when and where :)
A: Give me your contact info and I will get you that information.
Junior goalkeeper Sophia Trujillo and her 4.0 in sports and fitness studies made the Conference USA All-Academic team.
Freshman Maryna Veksler went 10-2 in singles matches during October and won the ITA Southeast Regional Consolation Bracket.
For this, Veksler was named Conference USA Women's Tennis Athlete of the Month.
Women's soccer -- Friday vs. Southern Miss, 7 p.m.
Volleyball -- Friday vs. Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Football -- Saturday vs. UTEP, noon
Women's soccer -- Sunday vs. Louisiana Tech, 1 p.m. (Soccer scarves for the first 50 Res Life students).
One big advantage of Conference USA over the Fun Belt -- CUSA's a tremendous bowl slut, hooking up with lower rung bowls, helping create new bowls and generally making sure there's a plethora of bowl beds for its teams to lay their heads come December. I think they're related to every bowl under Rose and above American Standard.
Seven primary bowl tie-ins this year (Heart of Dallaskeep most member team's fans tractable even after a conference title drops from the List of Possibilities. So, I'm expanding the weekly Top Six to the Select Seven.
1. Western Kentucky (4-1, 2-0 in Conference USA) -- Wilt Chamberlain, CUSA team version. Imagine how they'd be scoring if they hadn't lost 1,500-yard rusher Leon Allen. Home this week against Middle Tennessee State. Take the Over.
2. Louisiana Tech (3-2, 1-1) -- Running back Kenneth Dixon got tossed from last week's win against Louisiana-Lafayette, but he'll play at Texas-San Antonio.
3. Marshall (4-1, 1-0) -- Only two receivers over 11 yards per reception. That' means they need to get their chunk yardage from the big chunk of a running back, Devon Johnson. They do.
4. Middle Tennessee State (2-3, 1-0) -- After close losses to Illinois (who looks better than usual this year) and Vanderbilt, seeing visit to Western this weekend reminds me of the old Bernie Mac line "I ain't scared of you!" If Middle loses, next week's home game against FIU becomes an elimination game as far as the conference title.
5. Southern Miss (3-2, 1-0) -- A strange team. Got taken to the brink by Texas State, then they took Nebraska to the brink (although this is lesser Nebraska to the point it's almost NCIS: Lincoln.). Friday night at Marshall should test junior quarterback Nate Mullens.
6. Rice (2-3, 1-1) -- Love each conference's smarty pants private school rising up to tweak the schools who never have to worry about players making it into school.
7. FIU (2-3, 0-1) -- After FIU's 7 personal fouls or unsportsmanike conduct penalties over the last two games, UTEP should be practicing "Yo, Mama" snaps for dropping on Panthers at the key moment to draw a retaliation penalty ("Man, yo' mama's so ugly, I told her to wait for your sister outside.").
There's not much that'll help the crowd for a noon game against UTEP after two losses. So, FIU's making a measured raffle-focused effort at the student attendance after getting enough tickets distributed for the home opener.
Students entering the game at Gate 5 or 6 before halftime will get a raffle ticket with the chance of winning $1,000 tuition. The winning numbers will be shown on the video throughout the game and you have to be in the house when your number comes up to win. Also, there's a jersey giveaway at the end of the third quarter on the Panther Beach Party Deck, right up there near the drive-in projection booth that houses each school's radio team.
(Quick aside: Old Dominion put some new suites on the end of a 75-year-old stadium. It works. UMass put a new football facility and press box on a 50-year-old stadium. Nice try.)
Also, you can start buying tickets to win this ball, autographed by the whole team and coaching staff.
The winning number will be announced during the second half of the Homecoming Game, Oct. 24, vs. Old Dominion.
Some of you who follow FIU sports other than football have noticed the in-game Twitter updates that kept us apprised of the action now trickle like California's water supply when they come at all. That's because the folks who let us know what was going on -- while dealing with 17 other things -- left FIU.
FIU Athletics media relations department needs replenishment in quantity and quality. In a short span, the office lost three staffers of uncompromising integrity, high work ethic and tremendous patience with the sometimes harassing conditions (faulty equipment, many people looking over their shoulders, etc.) of their jobs. Each was in charge of certain sports and were part of the mini-army for sports that needed multiple staffers at home games, i.e. football, baseball, the basketballs.
They write the stories for the FIUsports.com website, handle interview requests, do pregame and postgame notes for distribution to the media and a pile of other stuff not appreciated by many outside the media industry.
If you find the Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meetings as exciting as an Medieval Lit class taught by PriceWaterhouseCoopers middle managers with chest high pants, skip this blog post. I'll have my usual pregame blog post up late Friday night (or Saturday morning depending on how many $5-$6 Central Indiana Long Islands I gulp).
I happen to find these meetings interesting, if for nothing else than they act as truth serums on the department suits and coaches. It's as honest as they'll be in a public forum.
I arrived about 20 minutes late Wednesday -- school dropoff duties and I'm not making my kid cut sleep short for this. Now, if I thought someone might spike the coffee and a toga party broke out with, say, Senior VP for External Relations Sandra Gonzalez-Levy and Committee Chairman Jorge Arrizurieta leading everybody in The Wobble, different story.
I knew that wouldn't happen this morning when I saw the chairman parking seconds after I did. Each of us hustled into the Graham Center Ballroom in time to hear the end of the department report from Athletic Director Pete Garcia.
Then, it was time for the Compliance Update. This used to bring about much shame from Athletics and Compliance and uncomprehending indignation from various board members at the variety of goofups costing FIU money, athletic talent and esteem (people in the business notice).
Hank Harrawood took over in February 2014 and turned Compliance around before leaving this summer. Arrizurieta said Harrawood, now UNC-Charlotte's Director of Compliance, left FIU when his spouse got a job back in his native Carolinas. His replacement, Jessica Reo, said she's two people short in the department, but "all kids are eligible right now" after this round of certification. She also noted she's got blood tethers to the region -- her parents live in Jupiter.
After some yada, yada, yada concerning post graduate placement for student athletes and some billing issues with Baptist Hospital over athlete rehabilitation, we got the closing act: Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment's Senior VP for Collegiate Serivces Mark Donley and Executive VP for Collegiate Services Michael Palisi answering questions from the committee members. The tone of the questions could be summarized as "What are you doing with us, how are you helping us make money and how much control do we have over what you do?"
FIU's outsourced its suite, signage, naming rights, etc, and media rights sales to Van Wagner. Palisi stated that 90 percent of the FBS schools outsource this work. The company pays FIU $550,000 per year plus a percentage of what it sells. Athletics estimates it was making only $400,000 from those streams, so the guarantee alone puts more money in the department's pockets.
The figure FIU and Van Wagner throw out for the deal's worth is $9 million in revenue and savings to FIU over seven years. Palisi called the figure conservative. Under questioning from Kathleen Wilson, Donley estimated 30 percent of the $9 million is savings to FIU in staff costs and 70 percent is actual incoming revenue.
Pete Garcia said the money would go toward satisfying the yearly $900,000 to $1 million cost of attendance nut when FIU starts doing that en masse.
Donley also promised that the school will be kept fully and continuously apprised of the Van Wager folks' activities on FIU's behalf. "There will be nothing we will do, no sponsorship we will sign that the University does not have complete knowledge of."
The Committee wanted quarterly reports on Van Wagner's doings.
Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.
Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Saturday vs. Alabama A&M, noon
Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Saturday vs. South Florida, 6 p.m.
Now, you can walk the walk between FIU Arena and the soccer "stadium" without fear of getting conked by a wayward shot put or discus. North of the International Hurricane Research Center and south of the ROTC area, there's a field in front of a hammer throw cage and two discus/shot put circles.
Over in FIU Stadium, there's a dry land diving board -- I can't help but think it looks like a prop out of High-Diving Hare -- to help Swim & Dive keep cranking out its run of dominant divers.
The new softball locker room is running behind, but is running.
Meanwhile, eight football players got to play Santa Claus/UPS Guy/Jesse/Whatever Delivery Man Brings You Happiness by bringing season tickets to fans on campus while wearing jerseys to stand out among their fellow students (like they blend anyway). These pictures courtesy FIU Athletic Department.
That's Provost Kenneth Furton.
The replacement for Compliance Director Hank Harrawood, the best thing to happen to that department in a while, is Jessica Reo. Reo also gets "Special Projects" attached her "Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance" title. Hey, mon, when a dollar needs to be stretched, it's all about how many jobs you can do. Reo worked in compliance at the other Division I/FBS school in town for seven years, but the spent the last seven years as director for student services in Central Florida's athletic department.
Need to grab some water. These crackers are making me thirsty.
At 8:44 p.m. Friday night, a Tweet from the FIU Athletics account said the Heat wouldn't win (spit), disparaged Dwyane Wade and said Justise Winslow was no LeBron James.
At 8:52 p.m., I got a call from an FIU spokesman to say the account likely had been hacked and FIU held no such opinion of the Heat or any local team. FIU got that out on their account swiftly.
I'll bet on a hack. While South Florida's average syntax and grammar might put more dents in English than South Florida drivers put in a taxicab, the Tweet read too undereducated to come from anybody I've met in Athletics.
Most league commissioners on the way out get judged by a deriviative of the Ronald Reagan 1980 Presidential campaign debate line: is your league better off now than it was when you took over?
By that standard, Conference USA commish Britt Banowsky, whose departure for the College Football Playoff Foundation was announced last week, failed over his 13 years as CUSA leader. There's no question stronger athletic programs with larger followings (Louisville, Memphis, Cincinnati, TCU, East Carolina, etc.) comprised the 2002 or 2003 versions of Conference USA as compared to the current model.
That's not the proper gauge of Banowsky, however. He's been a success because Conference USA still exists.
Conference realignment nearly ripped apart the league in 2005. When Virginia Tech and the college in Coral Gables moved from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference with Boston College right behind, the Big East rolled up on Conference USA like the IRS in a mood -- the Big East took five schools. Charlotte and Saint Louis, without football, headed for the Atlantic 10. TCU went to the Mountain West.
When I asked Banowsky about his most difficult period in office, he said, "We had Realignment I, which was new to everybody. We were all kind of waiting on the ACC to see what they were going to do and the Big East was waiting on the ACC. We were waiting on the Big East.
"People were new at the game of realignment. That was a little bit challenging because folks didn't know how to behave. Go back and read some of the stuff that went on at that time, it was obvious people didn't know how to behave," I was really proud of the way our group handled it. They kind of clung to some principles that were good values -- like honesty, openness and following the rules and respect. We fortunately got through that window."
Banowsky guided CUSA through a restocking that he had to repeat in 2012 as another realignment frenzy hit college sports. That's when the conference imported a big chunk of the Sun Belt to keep its personality of schools in or near major markets (for the most part).
"The second round of realignment, we were better prepared to understand how it went," Banowsky said. "These universities are aspiring universities. Everyone wants to be the best they can possibly be. You want that. So, if they can find their way into a better situation -- if a school in South Florida can find their way into the ACC, you would want to see that opportunity realized. But it needs to happen in the right way.
"But the most interesting and challenging thing I worked on during my time was the management of post-Katrina with Tulane. The way our universities rallied around that and for Tulane, keeping that football program alive during a period the university was shut down and keeping all their sports programs alive."
One sports program nobody could keep alive then nobody could keep dead sits in Birmingham. Both Banowsky and UAB coach Bill Clark tried to find the silver linings in the Alabama Board of Trustees killing the program after refusing to let it prosper, then the public-fueled resurrection now set for the 2017 season.
The revival did save the conference the hassle of booting UAB for not having football and finding another football-playing school.
"I'm proud of our people for giving (UAB) the time or the space to figure it out and not put too much artificial pressure on them," Banowsky said. "It seems like they've just had the problem of getting everyone aligned in the same way around the football program. In some ways, it's a little bit of a wake up call for them. My hope and expectation is they'll be able to get more people pulling on the rope this time around or they realize now how valuable that asset was as they were about to lose it."
That's similar to what Clark said when I reminded him that, a year ago, he talked about getting UAB's facilities up to the level of a modern FBS school. Now, he sat at Media Day talking about rebuilding a whole program, which should start with a smaller, newer, better placed replacement for Legion Field, the only thing in Alabama more out of date than the Confederate battle flag.
"The great thing about the facilities is we're not saying it as an athletic department. Our whole town's saying it," Clark said. "I had a guy call me last night, "Coach, I've never seen Birmingham like this." This isn't me saying it. This is our community. I'm an Alabama guy, hadn't been in Birmingham my whole life. But when you know our school is the No. 1 job engine in the state, all of a sudden, you've got these people saying, "We want our community to be the best."
"That's what we were hoping would happen. So, maybe it took something like this...to wake some of these folks up and say "We've got to get involved." I think that's what we're hearing right now."
What he's also hearing, he thinks, is the effect of social media. I'd throw in the ubiquitous, voluminous sports media always ready to feed the daily ravenous news beast with a bite of the latest news prey. UAB turned into a national story. Fox Sports' Tim Brando jumped on this story like it was hot buttered corn and he'll stay on it for this week's Football Saturday show.
That's brought calls from Left Coast recruits and we're not talking as much Tempe as Tampa.
"We've got kind of a national footprint now that we obviously didn't have before," Clark said.
Barnowsky sees the transition to his replacement happening before the end of football season. He's also seen some pretty cool stuff from the conference he's kept together.
"I've seen teams make it to the Final Four," he said. "I saw that kid from Kansas hit a three-point shot to knock out Memphis. I saw Dwyane Wade put a team on his shoulders and take it to the Final Four out of this league. Saw Case Keenum put up unbelivable numbers on some great Houston teams."
What most of us media types at Media Day want to see is who'll replace Banowsky, who often ended his loquacious interviews with "promote the conference."
To sum up FIU's seven-year deal with Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment, announced today:
*VW takes over the selling of advertising and signage in FIU's facilities. They're also responsible for tickets packages and suite sales.
*The contests and games at the stadium/arena for fans attending the game? That's them.
*If rights to an FIU game aren't already assigned by Conference USA's deals with various partners, VW can shop them around to local radio or TV stations.
FIU expects the deal to bring in $9.1 million over the seven years.
This offseason, the athletic department finally hired a dedicated video person, which should improve the production qualities of the PantherVision broadcasts as well as any in-house produced video materials.
Credit to FIU Student Media for getting a sit down with FIU President Mark Rosenberg and to the president for being responsive to student media for the chat that resulted in this video. Rosenberg answers questions about athletic director Pete Garcia and the football program going back to Division II.
While Rosenberg could've given a Dikembe Mutumbo finger wag after swatting the second question into the metaphorical 10th row, he did a little dancing when asked about a Garcia contract extension (Garcia's up in 2016). Rosenberg called that question "premature," which it most certainly would be if this were a completely different athletic department and athletic director. As it is...look, if you're reading this, you probably know all about it and if you don't, click on "Pete Garcia" on the list of categories and read away. I have neither the time nor the inclination to rehash it all here.
Anyway, after Muhammad Ali Rosenberg floated like a butterfly from that question, he straight out said he wants to keep productive people around and Garcia, in his opinion, has been productive "with the resources he has had, with the capabilities that have evolved."
"Resources" is the less crass way of saying "money and people." According to USA Today's annual college sports economics survey, FIU received only 3 percent of its 2013-14 income from ticket sales, last in Conference USA. Meanwhile, its portion of the athletic's budget coming from subsidy was a Conference USA high 80.2 percent of which the overwhelming majority comes out of student fees.
The sand women left FIU at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday to catch a pre-dawn flight out of Fort Lauderdale in a journey to Gulf Shores, Alabama. They could return as national champions.
The last AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championships will be this Friday and Saturday. Sand volleyball becomes a full-fledged NCAA sport next season and that Four Letter Organization will take over the championship in 2016. Hopefully, the West Washington Street Wackos, whose rulings sound formed from the logic of a Lewis Carroll character, will stage it someplace with more cool than Gulf Shores, Alabama.
As for this year, No. 3 seeded FIU, 18-1, faces No. 6 Florida State Friday and the Panthers beat FSU 3-2 earlier this season. When I talked to players and coach Rita Buck-Crockett for a story about a month ago, one thing they made clear: winning only whetted their appetite to destroy. Beat a top opponent 3-2, make it 5-0 next time. And they ended the season giving opponents the Godzilla, including lone conqueror Stetson. A 3-2 early season loss got avenged 4-1 with the lone match loss coming via retirement because of injury.
A win Friday morning against FSU puts FIU in a second round match with No. 2 Hawaii. Even if the Panthers lose there, they've still got a shot at getting to the championship match through the losers bracket in the double elimination tournament.
With freshman teammate Anja Licka clearly appreciating the effort, Maryna Samoday gets the ball over the net against FAU's Mandy McIntosh. Senior Summer Nash serving against FAU. Take cover.
As she descends from defending her net, senior Summer Nash turns to see what partner Kristine Monforte will do with the altered kill attempt.
When you win four Player of the Week awards and finish as medalist in the conference tournament with a record score for the tournament and single round, getting conference Player of the Year seems a "Duh!"
So, no surprise that junior Meghan MacLaren received that award, along with First Team All-Conference and sharing Most Improved Player with FAU's Heather Netti. MacLaren swings her sticks under the FIU visor in the NCAA Regional next week.
Sophomores Coralia Arias and Camila Serrano got Second Team All-Conference nods.
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.
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.
FIU's on an island in the Conference USA golf championship -- Second Place Sandbar
Above the Panthers on the leaderboard by eight shots you find Middle Tennessee State (8-under overall), the other school that blew through Tuesday's 18 holes at a conference-record 7-under 281 for the day. Eight shots below FIU you'll find third place North Texas (8-over overall).
A 3-under 69 second round by junior Meghan MacLaren boosted the Panthers and got MacLaren up to second and 3-under after two days. That's still a fat six shots behind Middle's Samantha Gotcher. FIU's Camila Serrano played at 2-under 70 and is tied for sixth. Sophomore Coralia Arias' 3-under round brought her back to even and a ninth place tie.
FIU got better Tuesday, not from start to finish, but at start and finish. The Panthers five golfers played the first five holes at 6 under par and the last five holes at 1 over instead of the 12 over Monday disaster that cost FIU the lead and, possibly, the championship.