August 26, 2014

Good Impressions

Some time over the last 11 months, somebody in the athletic department got slapped with good sense. Or, maybe slapped with good numbers. Or, maybe slapped with a sense of customer relations.

Somebody needed to be slapped with something. But you learn from your mistakes and it seems FIU did.

I just spoke with Michael Shorter, head of the Broward chapter of the Bethune-Cookman Alumni Association. Shorter's happy. Not Pharrell bouncing happy -- that might come Saturday if Bethune wins -- but happy with his interaction this year with FIU.

Shorter said someone from the ticket office reached out to Bethune-Cookman's alumni groups in Broward and Dade. The chapters went in together and bought a bloc of tickets and will be seated between the 30 and the 40-yard line. Shorter's bought some other tickets himself. You can be sure other BCU alums did the same. With BCU expecting another good team, Shorter expects the Wildcats to bring an even larger crowd than they did last year. That game led FIU home games in visiting team single game tickets sold (844) and overall single game sales (2,634).

(Technically, the East Carolina game's 3,103 were the most sold for a single game. Don't eat the manufactured, processed government cheese. The single game ticket sales listed under Internal was 2,392. For the Marshall game, the other game FIU was desperate for ticket sales to keep the NCAA bouncers fining them a cover charge or tossing them, Internal was listed as 1,094. For the first four home games? 551, 534, 698 and 244. Seemed a lot of sudden support from a different FIU pocket. I sent an e-mail to the highest reaches of Athletics asking what sales would be classified as Internal. The e-mail must have been lost...)

FIU got a great night last year from the Bethune-Cookman game despite itself. Hosting Bethune brings in the school's legendary band and a (perceived) beatable opponent from a school with an unusually loyal alumni base. They're bonded not just by the shared college experience, but to the school and each other by the shared Black Folks In America experience.

This game screamed for FIU to do two things: aggressively market the game, especially in South Florida's black communities, to high school and junior high bands of any ethnicity; and keep Bethune's fans happy. Treat them as Kerim Bey would.

The marketing department was in transition at the time. A unit's at its weakest when in transition, especially when transitioning from "one grad assistant" to "fully staffed."

Despite Bethune's win, FIU left a bad taste in the mouth of some Bethune-Cookman fans, particularly the alumni. Shorter talked to me the night before the game. He'd told me when the association saw their tickets would put them around the 10-yard line, they asked for something better. Let the young people sit there. The alums, grown folks who Shorter said are more serious about watching the game, like to be closer to the 50.

Can't do it, he said FIU told him. Those seats aren't available. He e-mailed me the night of the game, saltier and hotter than my fried rice. He saw the sections he requested they be allowed to buy sitting empty all night.

Someone in the school, involved in fund-raising, said exactly what I said last year about the little things at games. These people aren't at FIU every day. Their first hand experience with FIU, perhaps their first strong impression, comes largely from sporting events despite such events' tangential relationship to the overall university. 

Anyway, see you folks Saturday, one way or the other.

July 14, 2014

Heberling gets the title; golfers get academic thumbs up

Having saved head track and field coach money by assistant coach Ryan Heberling spending the 2013-14 indoor and outdoor track season as de facto head coach, FIU gave Heberling the actual title last week. Presumably, that means a bump from around $33,000 Heberling was making as an assistant. Former track coach Eric Campbell was making around $53,000.

Heberling, a former FIU javelin thrower, handled the throwers the last five years as an assistant and it's the women's throwers who have accomplished the most over the last few years.

GOLF

The Women's Golf Coaches Association named senior Shelby Coyle, sophomore Meghan MacLaren and freshman Coralia Arias as All-American Scholars. That's four golfers whose academic prowesss received notice last season -- Ashley Shimmel earned the Conference USA Commissioner's Academic Medal.

July 09, 2014

Aramis C-USA baseball's No. 1; FIU CBS Sports' No. 123

Conference USA awarded junior catcher Aramis Garcia its Player of the Year honor. Tuesday, Garcia completed a sweet sweep, being named Conference USA's Scholar Athlete of the Year for Baseball. C-USA names one for each sport.

In the spring, Garcia also received the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award and was on the conference's All-Academic baseball team.

ATHLETICS

Here's two different ways to rank athletic programs' on the field/court performances.

The first is the National Association of College Directors of Athletics Director's Cup, which takes into account 20 different sports. It's sort of like The Herald's All-Sports Award we do for high schools, except no greater significance is given to the more promiment sports. It's designed for the broadest-based athletic programs to reach the standings' penthouse.

In that ranking, 2013-14 FIU came in 257th out of 298 schools.

The other way is the CBSSports.com way, in which you consider only the marquee sports -- football, men's and women's basketballs, baseball and the most successful that season among the other sports at the school (for FIU in 2013-14, that probably would be swimming & diving -- second in Conference USA, scoring a few points at the NCAA meet). Heaviest weight given to football, second heaviest to men's basketball. nly schools with FBS football programs were considered.

Looking at things this way, FIU finished tied with Miami of Ohio, Nevada and Temple for 123rd. Or, last.

Stanford finished first, no matter which ranking was used.

Back to vacation and Argentina-Netherlands...

 

July 08, 2014

Prez sez...

Yeah, I know the Ask Rosenberg Twitter chat was last week. Here's the highlights from President Mark Rosenberg's answers in case you were busy composing songs about Tim Howard or working on getting darker.

To "Will there ever be an outdoor rubber track on campus?": "Hoping this happens soon, having major conversations about additional space on this campus to continue building."

To "A lot of us in the FIU alum community lost confidence in our current AD. Will FIU do anything to remedy this?": "All of us are under continuous review. Nobody is exempt from being accountable."

To "Are we gonna have a chance to beat UM in the near future?": "Our objective is to be competitive and to win regardless of who we play."

July 03, 2014

Ex-FAU AD Craig Angelos now in charge of...revenue?

FIU has hired former FAU athletic director Craig Angelos as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Revenue. Between FAU and FIU, Angelos held an also-long title, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director, at the University of South Florida.

Now, you might say FIU having a Senior Associate Athletic Director for Revenue would parallel BYU having a Senior Associate Athletic Director for African-American Student-Athletes. According to FIU's 2012-13 NCAA Financials Report, the latest one available, the athletic department received 68.9 percent of its total operating revenue from $19,519,332 in student fees. As far as contributions, the department brought in $2,830,915.

So, the department doesn't raise money so much as collects it.

Anyway, FIU's athletic department already has an Associate AD in charge of Development, Chris Bultinick. Bultinick's responsible for "all fund-raising efforts in the athletic department," according to his bio on the FIU website.

Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub oversees the marketing and ticket sales to the point he's got bonuses in his contract for attendance. So that shouldn't be on Angelos' plate, either.

Anyway, according to this 2012 story in The Palm Beach Post, poor fund-raising and marketing contributed to FAU not renewing Angelos' contract. The story by veteran reporter Tom DeAngelo also points out that Angelos got FAU's impressive $70 million stadium built. He had to raise money for that and the rest of the athletic department during a national economic valley. OK, so by that time that stadium's paid off, the rising coastal waters will have turned it into a beachfront stadium, but it's there.

We'll check after the holiday on what entry that's usually on an athletic director's To Do list is now on Angelos' for at least $141,000 per year. That's what Angelos pulled in at USF according to Florida Has a Right to Know.

So, there's been no track coach for the entire indoor and outdoor seasons. There's no softball coach because they wouldn't give him a big enough bump from $59,000. Various departments in the athletic department have been understaffed.

But the department has another $150,000 suit.

  

June 18, 2014

Softball staff departs...and why

Jake Schumann is 40 years old with a wife and two kids. He made $59,721 per year according to Florida Has a Right to Know. That wasn't enough to support his family in South Florida, even in Pembroke Pines. and put away any money for college.

Which is why Schumann has left FIU at the end of his contract. The rest of the softball staff -- assistant coaches Gator Rebhan, Sharon Palma, Kelly Kretsshman -- have left with him. They've resigned after a 33-20 season, with a roster losing only two players and elite freshmen in Stephanie Texeira and Gabby Spallone. FIU has posted the job already.

"That's it," Schumann said. "Nothing else. Nothing juicy. Nothing crazy. Nothing that'll turn heads."

He said he'll move to being the associate head coach at Ole Miss, but insisted that's not about SEC but about $$$ -- more money, Oxford, Miss., college town cost of living.

Schumann said if that hadn't come up in the last two weeks, he'd still be leaving FIU for a more affordable job/area combination.

"I loved working there," Schumann said. "(senior associate athletic director) Julie Berg was one of the best bosses I've ever had."

He also talked up the building of new facilities for softball, the current players and the recruiting classes coming into FIU. 

I'd heard the Diamond Dinner, the main fundraiser for the baseball and softball programs, will end after next year. All over FIU's athletic department, money's already tighter than security at Langley. Despite going into Conference USA, baseball's operating budget dropped $5,480. Subtracting the lucrative Diamond Dinner would put both baseball and softball programs below the economic Mendoza line.

But Schumann didn't mention any of that. He just talked about the basic economic reality facing him.

This is the third head coach to leave FIU in the last 12 months and don't be surprised if baseball's Turtle Thomas is applying elsewhere. 

Men's soccer coach Kenny Arena left for a better opportunity with the LA Galaxy, where father and U.S. soccer coaching icon Bruce Arena coaches. Those who knew the situation figured Arena would be done with FIU in a year anyway, new soccer field or not.

FIU's mothballed the plan to turn the soccer field so that it's an east-west field and put a track in around it. But track coach Eric Campbell's resignation has to do with something nobody wants to discuss directly ("I really like him, but you can't allow that," one of Campbell's peers said) and is suspiciously absent from Campbell's personnel file. Whatever it was, count it as a last straw. A year earlier, Campbell was arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly intoxication at the 2012 Louisville-FIU football game. 

FIU's going to have turnover just by nature of being where it is as an athletic department. Until it evolves further, it's a stepping stone or penance for most coaches, a longtime home for a few. You don't live in a Mercedes neighborhood on a Hyundai budget.

 

June 04, 2014

Staying In The Pocket

Let's talk money, shall we?

First, the Fifth Annual FIU Athletic Department Golf Tournament is June 27. $375 per person, $1,500 per foursome, which is no savings for a foursome so really just $375 per person. This fundraiser for the entire athletic department includes an auction boosted by over 100 items that were supposed to be sold at the Diamond Dinner, the big fund raiser for the baseball and softball programs.

The baseball program saw its operating budget cut by around $5,000 this year, one of several programs whose budget remained stagnant or got cut as FIU moved up in overall quality with the jump to Conference USA. They didn't fly to the Conference USA tournament in Hattiesburg, but bused what's 11 hours, 38 minutes if you go 70 mph with no stops. Clearly, this is a program that can use all the financial help it can get.

Instead, baseball and softball must throw a large amount of the goods and services donated for their event into an event that raises money for the entire athletic department. That's other programs, administration, facilities, etc. I'm all for sharing, but that doesn't seem quite fair.

Oh, in an answer to a question posed a while back in the Comments about the athletic director's salary and bonus: it comes out of the athletic department pocket.

 

 

 

May 14, 2014

APR Stars (women's hoop, tennis) & Scrubs (men's track)

In the Academic Progress Rate reports released by the NCAA minutes ago, FIU didn't suffer any single-season disasters from 2012-13 and only men's basketball remains in the penalty zone in multi-year tracking, although football is close. That men's basketball showed a significant single season jump opened the door to the NCAA letting FIU off postseason grounding, but leaves them still facing some minor penalties -- practice reduction and limits on number of games.

Let's start with the good news. Perfect 1000 APRs for 2012-13 were attained by women's indoor & outdoor track, women's basketball, golf, tennis, cross country and men's soccer. Baseball came in with a 990.

On the low side were men's track, 897 indoors and 933 outdoor for 2012-13. Football's single season APR was 926. You hit 925, you get a nasty note from The Four-Letter Organization. You get below 900 for multiple years, time for the penalty box. Men's basketball, as previously mentioned, showed single-season hops, going from 750 to 959.

The multi-year APRs show basketball at 866, up slightly from 858. Football is at 933. Women's basketball provides FIU's zenith to the men's nadir in multi-year APR, 995, just ahead of tennis' 992.

MULTI-YEAR APRs

Women's Basketball   995

Women's Tennis   992

Women's Cross Country 987

Women's Golf  983

Swimming & Diving 982

Women's Outdoor Track 978

Women's Indoor Track 975

Men's Soccer 975

Softball 972

Women's Volleyball 968

Women's Soccer 955

Men's Cross Country 950

Baseball 948

Men's Outdoor Track 948

Men's Indoor Track 947

Football 933

Men's Baskteball 866

 

SINGLE YEAR APRs

Women's Basketball 1000

Women's Cross Country 1000

Women's Tennis 1000

Men's Soccer 1000

Women's Indoor Track 1000

Women's Outdoor Track 1000

Baseball 990

Women's Volleyball 979

Women's Soccer 976

Swimming & Diving 962

Men's Basketball 959

Softball 957

Men's Outdoor Track 933

Football 926

Men's Indoor Track 897

 

 

May 13, 2014

A Few Football Facts & Franco

Started looking over some things, figuring up some numbers, then got to playing with Windows Movie Maker after watching the Heat then Kings-Ducks and, well...

 

BASEBALL

FIU pitcher Mike Franco has been named to the watch list for the Gregg Olson Award, which recognizes college baseball's breakout player of the year. Olson, an Auburn pitcher, rebounded from a mediocre first season to gain All-American status.

April 30, 2014

Serrano C-USA Freshman of the Year; MacLaren All-Conference

Conference USA named FIU's Camilla Serrano its golf Freshman of the Year. Serrano also was a Second Team All-Conference USA selection.

Last year's top FIU freshman, Meghan MacLaren, made Third Team All-C-USA. MacLaren rebounded from a rough first round of the conference tournament to tie Serrano for 12th overall with a 3-over 219 as FIU finished tied for fourth.

 

April 28, 2014

Texeira C-USA Player of the Week; Pitching Zeroes; On The Beach

As predicted on this blog yesterday, Conference USA named FIU freshman Stephanie Texeira its Player of the Week for the second time this season. Texeira went four for five with four walks, five RBI, two home runs, a 2.000 slugging percentage (that's Babe Ruth-on-a-1980s-video-game numbers) and a .900 on-base percentage.

BASEBALL

Also as predicted on Sunday night's blog post, FIU retook the national lead in team ERA, which is now down to 1.93 for the season. Mike Franco ranks sixth with a 0.95 ERA and freshman Cody Crouse is 25th with a 1.35 ERA.

SAND VOLLEYBALL

Two years ago, when FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia mentioned FIU adding a sand volleyball team, he crested on "giddy." His reasoning: the sport's a natural for a school in a town with popular beaches and FIU could be a national power quickly because the sand Panthers wouldn't be scrambling to make up everybody else's 10 or 100-year head start.

Such was the theory, so has it been danced. FIU's seeded No. 5 going into the American Volleyball Coaches Association national championship for sand volleyball, which is still what the NCAA classifies as an "emerging sport." CBS Sports Netowrk will show a delayed broadcast in late May.

Should FIU as a team or one of the pairings come back with the biggest trophy, you can predict the trophy-snuggling photos: Garcia, several other athletic department administrators, FIU President Mark Rosenberg, all getting around the team and the trophy with the enthusiasm of taking selfies with a new baby. 

Why, then, doesn't the department put enough bucks behind the sand volleyball and volleyball programs so that it doesn't have to do the gofundme.com thing? It's not embarrassing for the programs -- they're doing what they have to do. That's what coaches and ahtletes do. It reflects on the school and the athletic department that those programs have to do the electronic version of pleading car to car at 107th Avenue and 8th Street. FIU's doing the reverse Strom Thurmond -- instead of giving child support, but no name or claim to a daughter, FIU's giving name and is happy to claim, but are almost deadbeat dads.

Schools consider Division I athletics marketing. It's about getting the school name and positive impressions of the university out there. It works, too. Applications went up when the football team went to bowl games. But these words go back to what I wrote in the fall and the winter -- details in operation and presentation form an initial impression of your school to those who haven't been around it daily. Failure there presents a negative impression.

This is too basic to be a detail. Those who want to show love after the team wins should show love beforehand by showing the money.

 

April 17, 2014

Will hustle for food; MacLaren Academic All-Conference

Somebody in FIU Athletics better start raising some money.

This was brought up to me by a veteran of similar-sized athletic departments after the NCAA Legislative Council declared schools should be able to give their athletes unlimited meals or snacks in connection with games or practices.

The NCAA was embarrassed by University of Connecticut point guard and Final Four Outstanding Player Shabazz Napier saying he sometimes went to bed "starving." With the whole "should they be paid?" argument swinging away from them, this rule made for a better public relations move than saying, "Clearly, Napier needs to learn how to handle his money because, looking at some of his portly pals on the football team, there's no shortage of food available to athletes and that football team is batspit compared to the basketball team."

Anyway, this becomes another expense for any athletic department. It's a bit more onerous on a department that's near the top of the nation in relying on student fees for funding. This is in addition to the meal plan that's part of an athletic scholarship.

People think about how much extra this means when feeding the football and basketball teams. Yeah, that's no trip to Hamburger Wednesday at McDonald's, but think about everybody else getting fed. Think about track throwers and baseball players. Take a look at the softball, volleyball (sand and indoor) and soccer (either gender) teams -- not many salad-eaters there. Parents of swimmers can tell grocery bill stories that give Publix owners a Saturday night happy. 

FIU can't hit up the students again. Well, it can, but not without drawing the appropriate ridicule. No, somebody in FIU Athletics better start kissing some rings or things and getting some money from some new wallets.

Time to feed the family.

NCAA ADOPTS IT'S OWN "TOM BRADY RULE"

This new football flagable from Wednesday, according to NCAA.org...

"The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below."

GOLF

Sophomore Meghan MacLaren, who led FIU to the Sun Belt Conference title last year and has a 3.49 grade point average, has been named to the Conference USA Golf All-Academic team. The Conference USA championship will be Monday through Wednesday in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

April 11, 2014

Good News, Bad News about FIU's Commissioner's Academic Medalists

Conference USA honors those athletes with a 3.75 grade point average or better with the Commissioner's Academic Medal. These FIU athletes received that hardware:

Swimming & Diving: Klara Andersson, Anna Jonsson, Lily Kaufmann, Marie Therese Nord, Marina Ribi.

Women's Basketball: Marita Davydova, Katrina Epnere, Zsofia Labady.

Women's Soccer: Ellen Crist, Johanna Volz, Paula Zuluaga.

Sand volleyball: Morgan Crawley, Aren Cupp, Savannah Davis.

Volleyball: Jessica Egan, Anabela Sataric

Golf: Ashley Shimmel

Softball: Samantha Green

Men's Cross Country: Orlando Rodriguez.

Good news for them.

The bad news is 19 medalists represents the fewest of any full-time Conference USA school.

 

April 10, 2014

154 FIU athletes make C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll; Sand up to 6th

These athletes maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average. Those with a 3.75 GPA will be announced Friday as recipients of the Commissioner's Academic Medal.

FIU's 154 tied them with North Texas for 12th most in Conference USA. The team with the most on the list for FIU? Swimming & Diving, which starts their days earlier than any other team and remain the athletic department's staunchest supporters as far as attendance at FIU sporting events.

For those on whom subtlety is lost, that's a nice way of saying, "Spare me the excuses by those athletes and teams that come up short academically."

Baseball (13): Alex Beyersdorf, Nathan Burns, Zachary Carter, Charles Cormier, Kolby Follis, Julius Gaines, Aramis Garcia, Mike Gomez, Carlos Lopez, Louis Silverio, Tyler Sullivan, Zach Sweety, Roche Woodard.

Men's Basketball (3): Adrian Diaz, Marco Porcher Jimenez, Dominique Williams

Women's Basketball (12): Aleksandra Bodlovic, Jerica Coley, Marita Davydova, Katrina Epnere, Karrah Johnson, Zsofia Labady, Tynia McKinzie, Timeyin Oritsesan, Kiandre'a Pound, Taylor Shade, Nikolina Todorovic, Brianna Wright

Men's Cross Country (7): Brandon Ballard, Dylan Cook, Daniel Fernandez, Brandon Jones, Eli Monzon, Daniel Puentes, Orlando Rodriguez.

Football (10): Richard Burrows, Ricky Fernandez, Cody Hodgens, Yousif Khoury, Fred Porter, Donald Senat, Austin Taylor, Delmar Taylor, Cory White, Mitch Wozniak.

Golf (6): Coralia Arias, Shelby Coyle, Sophie Godley, Carla Jane, Meghan Maclaren, Jasmine Wade.

Sand volleyball (6): Marina Boulanger, Ellyssa Citron, Maria Coukoulis, Alexa Diaz, Tina Toghiyani, Airam Trillo.

Men's Soccer (9): Roberto Alterio, Luke Bray, Gonzalo Frechilla, Sebastian Frings, Marvin Hezel, Nicholas Midttun, Daniel Mion, David Mitchell, Robin Spiegel.

Women's Soccer (16): Shelby Bowden, Ellen Crist, Marie Egan, Talia McMurtrie, Crystal McNamara, Morgan Morris, Jessica Palacio, Nicole Rios, Alyssa Robinson, Ashleigh Shim, Marlena Stablein, Sara Stewart, Patrica Tomanon, Johanna Volz, Madlen Weinhardt, Paula Zuluaga.

Softball (11): Samantha Green, Corinne Jenkins, Breanna Kaye, Brianne Kimura, Christine Marte, Marisa GcGregor, Kennah Orr, Rebekah Sanchez, Rachel Slowik, Gabriella Spallone, Stephanie Texeira.

Swimming & Diving (20): Jennifer Alfani, Klara Andersson, Sabrina Beaupre, Mary Boucher, Jessica Chadwick, Sarah D'Antoni, Katelyn Duranso, Nadia Farrugia, Anna Jonsson, Lily Kaufmann, Jean Madison, Danielle Meara, Melissa Moreno, Maria Therese Nord, Sonia Perez Arau, Valeriia Popova, Marina Ribi, Alaina Smith, Courtney Vander Schaaf, Rebecca Wilde.

Tennis (6): Giuletta Boha, Valentina Briceno, Tina Mohorcic, Nina Nagode, Carlotta Orlando, Aleksandra Trifunovic.

Men's Track & Field (7): Jamal Dorviller, Pablo Espitia, Christopher Lickfield, Garry Louima, Christopher Prophete, Roberto Salvador, Aubrey Smith.

Women's Track & Field (14): Maria Alea, Chantae Barnett, Destiney Burt, Cierra Campbell, Chandra Fulwood, Jessica Gehrke, Adrienne Gerzeny, Anna Heinzman, Tiffani Hernandez, Michelle Howell, Tetisheri Menna, Isolda Montiel, Bianca Morrison, Caroline Reiser.

SAND VOLLEYBALL

Wednesday's American Volleyball Coaches Association Sand Volleyball poll saw 13-2 FIU tied for sixth with UCLA. FIU began the season ranked No. 9 and moved up to No. 7 the last two weeks. Southern Cal ranks No. 1 with preseason No. 1 Pepperdine at No. 2. Hawaii is third and Florida State, which handed FIU one of its losses, 4-1, is No. 4. 

This weekend, they'll be at the Fiesta on Siesta Tournament in Siesta Key.

 

 

April 02, 2014

Going Broom on Conference USA Water Awards; A Fistful of Wasted Dollars

Capping, arguably, the best season FIU swimming and diving has had, the Panther water women swept the top two individual awards announced by Conference USA Wednesday.

Senior Sonia Perez Arau was named Swimmer of the Year after winning the conference in the 400 individual medley and being the only Conference USA swimmer to score -- and first in FIU history -- at the NCAA Championships when she finished 13th in the 400 IM.

Senior Sabrina Beaupre got the Diver of the Year award after winning both the 1-meter and the platform diving at the conference meet and missing the 3-meter title by 0.6 of a point. Beaupre will continue to dive, aiming to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympics.

JTS COMMUNICATIONS & THE JEFFREY GROUP

Remember that Jan. 8 e-mail that went out to almost every member of the South Florida media attempting to "introduce" us to FIU's "new" football coach, Ron Turner?

We haven't heard from that company, JTS communications, for a while. JTS Communications' president and CEO is Juan Thomas Sanchez. According to his JTS bio page, before starting JTS, Sanchez was a senior partner at The Jeffrey Group, which boasts that it’s “the leading independent marketing and corporate communications agency helping companies inform, engage, motivate and persuade audiences in Latin America.”

Apparently unsure of their geography, the athletic department hired The Jeffrey Group after being down two employees in the media relations department. Yes, they did this instead of filling the two positions with people for whom they'd have to pay salaries and provide benefits. Doing that would allow the media relations department to function like a normal media relations department instead of scurrying about, dealing with faulty equipment and strange administrative whims while being too understaffed and overworked.

Instead of hiring someone for $40,000 to $45,000 a year, FIU decided to pay this company $5,500 a month for six months ($33,000 for six months, mind you) starting in December. According to the agreement, the company would head up a "proactive communication effort" that includes helping with an "enhanced media presence," "athlete promotion" and "digital outreach." Oh, they had a whole plan.

Alas, after that e-mail, their plans went the way of some other grand ideas.

 

What I didn’t see among the correspondence I requested in a public records search was the dissolving of the relationship between FIU and The Jeffrey Group. One hire was made in media relations, leaving them still one short. If the school cut ties right after the infamous e-mail (and nothing has been heard from JTS or The Jeffrey Group since that e-mail), that would’ve been at two months. So, FIU spent at least $11,000 for one moment of embarrassment.

You can go to Vegas, get a high roller room at MGM Grand, pound mojitos with a hustling working girl until you forget your Cialis and your $11K embarrassing moment will have done more for you than the athletic department’s did FIU.

Maybe they just should’ve filled both jobs in the media relations department.

 

March 14, 2014

Got a $1 million for women's sports?

What Senior Associate Athletic Director Bobby Staub didn't get to tell the Athletics Committee meeting two weeks ago, FIU's athletic department announced Friday: a campaign to raise $2 million for projects having to do with the softball, golf, track, sand volleyball, tennis and swimming & diving teams.

As I put on the blog a week and a half ago, FIU says they've got $1 million of the money raised.

Softball and golf will get new locker rooms, a lounge and golf gets a new putting and pitching practice area. Track's throwers, now practicing in that field between The Branch and the soccer field (no improvements for that, same as it ever was), will get a practice area with the appropriate cages and rings. Sand volleyball and tennis get new locker rooms. The water women get a new scoreboard over at the Biscayne Bay campus pool.

 

March 09, 2014

March 04, 2014

SAAC up & get some Compliance

Friday's Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meeting featured so much conversation on Compliance and the Student Athlete Academic Center, places that define "turnover" and "fumbling" better than a bad wishbone offense could, that Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub didn't get to make his presentation on the $2 million initiative to build up facilities for women's sports -- finishing the softball stadium, locker rooms for softball and golf and the like. Allegedly, the department already has $1 million of the $2 million.

Let's be blunt about Compliance and the SAAC. Nobody notices when Compliance slips up on a shot putter. A softball starter lost to academics? The interest barely makes it out of the locker room. Not that shot putters and softball outfielders don't work just as hard in class or at their craft. I'm talking just interest here.

But when ineligible basketball players take the court (Ray Taylor), key players can't take the court (Marita Davydova, whose loss FIU coach Cindy Russo again Saturday called "catastrophic"), the basketball team can't go play after school with the other boys and the football team loses three of its most talented players to GPAs that look like breathalyzer tests, many notice.

So, Compliance is considered a problem. The SAAC is considered a problem, though men's basketball and football are the only teams with more GPAs under 3.0 than above and three sports (women's basketball, women's tennis and men's cross country) have none under 3.0.

Committee chairman Jorge L. Arrizurieta opened the meat of the meeting by asking about Compliance and the SAAC, "What’s the game plan to fix the issues that have taken place in the past? We’ve come too long a way in athletics at this great institution to risk falling behind in some of these issues. It’s not an option. My concern from a mangement standpoint is from Compliance, we’ve had three program directors and two interims in the last six years. In the case of the SAAC, as I understand it, three program directors, three interim in the same time period. That’s got to stop. Something has to change.”

While Arrizurieta said he wanted to look forward and not belabor FIU's failures in those departments, that's hard to avoid. So Christopher Schoemann, a long-used compliance consultant in the Collegiate Sports Practice Group of the Kansas law firm Bond, Shoeneck & King, was called up to explain Davydova and Taylor's ineligibility.

Taylor's problem, as reported often, was that he didn't withdraw his declaration for the 2012 NBA Draft soon enough (Digression: shouldn't somebody have told him, "Ray, you're a nice mid-major player. But you're a 5-6 point guard who isn't exactly dominating the Sun Belt. What business do you have declaring for the NBA Draft?).

Davydova's problem is that she, apparently, played some games for Russian State Agrarian University and should've had to sat out a season upon transferring to FIU. Some members of the committee seemed surprised Compliance whiffed on situations that turned on basic, factual information that Compliance had. It is sort of like watching someone strike out in batting practice.

New Compliance head Hank Harrawood introduced himself to the committee, which discussed Compliance being moved under the Athletic Department's roof.

"I believe the Compliance officer should report to the General Counsel," opined Trustee C. Delano Gray, whose bio speaks of his great experience with internal auditing (speaking of internal auditing, that audited 2013 football attendance report should've been ready in late January...). "I prefer that the head coaches or the folks in athletics doesn't have the influence that is likely to happen. I used to be an internal auditor. I have experienced that every now and then, the people you are working with have some kind of influence in what you do."

Schoemann, a former Compliance director himself, said, "Nationally, it is a mixed bag. Has the trend been to have these offices report outside of athletics? The trend has been. I've seen these programs work well solely from an athletics perspective where there is no outside tether to the office of the general counsel, president or provost; and I've seen them work poorly when they're placed entirely of the athletics purview. Hank Harrawood becomes a de facto assistant athletic diretor because of the nature of his job. He becomes a member of Pete's staff. That's true whether or he would report to the general counsel or the office of the president or directly to Pete.

"What's imperative, is that in any type of analysis that the NCAA does with respect to institutional control -- despite the fact they operate with the old Supreme Court adage with respect to pornography that they "know it when they see it" but have never defined it -- that's the litmus test that gets applied to you once that bell gets rung and the NCAA shows up on your doorstep. When we're doing our analysis of institutions, we want to make sure those outside tethers are engaged. That (new Compliance director) Hank (Harrawood) and his counterparts have the necessary access to those offices (of general counsel and president)."

Arrizurieta, referring back to the instability at the top of the department, said part of the reason he supported the move was "Whatever we've done hasn't worked."

General counsel Kristina Raattama said in dealing with Compliance outside Athletics, “Pete feels like he has accountability and no control and I feel like I have responsibllity and no control. When you combine that function into the athletic department, you have a situation where everybody knows what they're responsible for.”

Pete Garcia said, "Hank has been given a directive by all of us that if there's a major issue...his first phone call is to the president’s office, his second phone call is to the legal department." 

The SAAC remains outside athletics. It also remains without a director. Dr. Stephen Fain, the most recent past faculty athletic representative, has been serving as the interim director. Dean of Undergraduate Education Douglas L. Robertson presented the State of the SAAC Report. A committee with the task of finding a new director has a start date of July 1.

"We anticipate filling the director's position with a director who will die in the position," Robertson said. After that brought unintended laughter from the room, "I meant of old age. I meant retire in the position. I anticipate his start date will be July 1, but hope it will be sooner."

(How is it FIU can replace a head basketball coach in a week but takes 10 months to start to find a new SAAC Director?)

The next director comes into a SAAC that gets a budget bump of around $80,000 next year to just over $840,000. Here's how some of that money will be spent:

$60,000 for a business analyst working out of the SAAC who's involved in the building and care of an automated NCAA player certification system and provides tech support.

$26,000 for a bump in the SAAC Director's salary. Dr. Phil Moses salary was $105,000 when he was hired in 2011.

$5,000 as an "equity salary adjustment" for the SAAC Tutor Coordinator, who now makes $35,000.

$16,000 for an "equity adjustment" for the SAAC tutors.

$84,000 for a "significant increase in tutoring hours and staffing."

$10,000 for "additional staffing for book distribution."

$9,000 for "productivity tools for SAAC staff (cell phones and service...)"

$7,000 for GradesFirst, an academic tracker designed for student-athletes.

Those are yearly recurring costs. Under one-shot costs, ther are...

$252,000 for "automation of the NCAA player certification process."

$21,000 for replacing all 35 desktop computers in the SAAC Computer Lab ($600 per computer)

$6,000 for replacing all eight SAAC staff desktop computers.

$176,000 to "improve the SAAC environment" and add five offices. 

Dean Robertson seemed quite excited about bringing Graduation Success Initiative-like metrics, which helped boost on-time grauation rates from 41 percent to 50 percent at FIU in two years, to the SAAC.

"We have invested significantly in predictive analytics to target students who are at-risk or who are on track to graduate, but may not know it an need some additional support," Robertson said.

All this means not much if you don't have athletes who give a good darn enough to crack a book. After all, you can lead a horse's butt to water, but you can't make him think.

Arrizurieta asked why some of these GSI-like ideas and technologies, including real-time updating, "weren't initiated before? Or, was it and it wasn't executed?"

Robertson answered with something that I think of almost as the FIU mantra: the school grew faster than the infrastructure.

"The institution has invested heavily in creating the infrastructure for the GSI that involves a big investment in predictive analytics and various kinds of academic tracking tools that are expensive to build have now been built," he said. "Those tools and expertises -- for example, we now have an office with five behavioral scientists doing these kinds of analytics -- is now in place. That allows the proper support of a SAAC diredctor in providing these kinds of analytics that was not there before."

As for information reporting, Garcia said when Robertson spoke to the faculty senate some time back, Robertson asked for progress reports on the student-athletes.

"There has been a very small percentage return on progress reports (13 percent)," Garcia said. "The reason I’m saying this is they need to know what kids need what tutoring now. They don’t need it at the end of the semester when they’ve failed. As good as I think our SAAC people right now, they can’t help these kids if they don’t know what classes they need help with." 

 

February 24, 2014

Ramble On

While the stick and ball teams take a break from using their bats on visiting teams like they owe FIU money, swimming and diving prepares to leave for Atlanta and the Conference USA meet.

(They won't need to do any Internet panhandling, but the volleyball team is still at http://www.gofundme.com/FIUVolleyball, $195 toward their goal of $6,000. While you're on the site, you can contribute to the Oswego State Synchronized Skating Team's trip travel to nationals. Or the Coppin Academy Girls Basketball team trying to raise $6,000 to attend a summer camp.)

Lack of diver depth hurt FIU in the Sun Belt meet and could do the same here after senior Sabrina Beaupre takes the 10-meter platform and at least one of the two springboards. She's favored in all three.

In the pool, C-USA's tougher than The Belt and FIU no longer has Madame Butterfly, Marina Ribi, to pick up points in that dastardly stroke. Still, junior Johanna Gustafsdottir ranks first in the 200 backstroke and second in the 100 back. Senior Sonia Perez Arau comes in with the best 400 IM time in the conference. Klara Andersson is a close third in the 50 freestyle, which she won at last year's Sun Belt meet.

And FIU will bring home a relay win or two. I'm thinking 400 medley and 800 free. Just noticed -- the common thread in every school record relay is Gustafsdottir swimming the first leg. That makes sense. She's strongest in back, the first stroke of a medley relay. Her next strongest stroke is free. Classic relay set up uses the second fastest to lead off with the fastest anchoring.

I'd be shocked if the water women can give the athletic department its first Conference USA title. Defending champion Rice is still strong and East Carolina looks like a possible problem. That leaves baseball and softball -- track? Name the last conference champion without a coach -- and both of them get blocked. Rice owns baseball while UAB and Tulsa tussle over softball.

No, the baseball team isn't outscoring the football team after eight games. They were after three games (25-23) and four games (30-23). But if you just count scoring against Division I/FBS opponents, it's closer than you think after eight games: 78-63 for football.

When I saw FIU football coach Ron Turner at FIU Baseball Stadium with his family Saturday on the concourse on the first base line. I thought, "Boy, he'll go anywhere to see some offense." The Sunday juxtaposition couldn't have been more ripe -- FIU sports and centertainment head Pete Garcia attending hte baseball game with Butch Davis, the currently unemployed former coach at the Universty of Miami.

Now, if Davis wants back in coaching, he's got to cleanse himself by working somewhere else for a year or two. Obviously, FIU would be a fine place for that. Maybe Davis has changed his mind about FIU. He certainly could've joined his buddy Garcia a year ago and a few candidates (or their representatives) said they were told, "don't bother, this is Butch's job." Garcia's fits of temper and rash decisions would do Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts proud -- thus why some in the department call the second floor area housing Garcia's office "The Tower of Terror" -- but firing Mario Cristobal without a card like Davis to play exceeds Garcia's Yosemite Sam quotient.

 

North Carolina was on the hook for Davis' money, so nothing about that green affected Davis taking FIU's green. A theory I formed while writing about Saturday's 10-0 baseball thumping of Stony Brook: Davis learned the horrible academic situation facing FIU football in 2013 and decided to let someone else deal with that academic barf. If I knew about it in December, 2012, why wouldn't Davis?

This weekend's baseball stories were easy to write. FIU won three blowouts, scored early in each one and I didn't have to spend any time waiting to talk to coaches or players or transcribing their quotes. I did talk to Stony Brook Friday night starter Frankie Vanderka, one of the better pitchers FIU will see in non-conference play, about what pitch Julius Gaines drove for a home run and what he thought of FIU's lineup. On Saturday and Sunday, I wasn't going to waste the Stony Brook coach's time asking him his opinion of a team that just waxed him by 10 runs.

I'd have liked to talk to Aramis Garcia, hitting .500 over the first eight games; or freshman JC Escarra, with a team-leading .577 on-base percentage; or Josh Anderson, last year's team leader in doubles with 22, already with five this year and 14 RBI.

Alas, FIU coaches and players were unavailable for comment to the media. I'd been told before Friday's game that would be the case. Officially, it was Turtle Thomas' decision so everyone could remain focused on baseball without any distractions. Logically, that dog didn't hunt. Postgame interviews are, you know, postgame and about 18 hours before the next game. They take less than 10 minutes total time, two or three players and Thomas combined, once they start. There wasn't media, only a medium -- me -- for three of the first five games (as well as Friday and Saturday). And the Panthers looked none too distracted in winning their first five games. Also, Thomas does answer questions from FIU media relations after the game.

Of course, this came from above Thomas. Thomas' bosses are Garcia and Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub. This was a predictable reaction to the Dennis Wiseman story, but mostly because I'd long ago heard that neither was too pleased about a series of public records requests I've been making since December on a broad range of things. Sometimes, I just feel there's information I should have. Sometimes, I'm curious. Sometimes, I smell something.

Marketing's now Staub's thing, by the way. He's now the most motivated salesman in FIU athletics. In addition to his $110,000 salary, Staub gets $1,000 bonuses for football season student attendance being above $20,000, then another grand if over $30,000; basketball season student attendance over 5,000, then 10,000; basketball season tickets over 500 and over 750; baseball ticket revenue over $15,000 and $20,000; football ticket and sponsorship revenue (excluding Pepsi) over $1 million and over $1.5 million; sells the naming rights to FIU Baseball Stadium or five other new athletics assets; and sells all the suites for one season for football and basketball.

By the way, the victory song for FIU during the Turtle Thomas era used to be "New York, New York." Not sure why, but it's become custom since 2008. Now, under directions from marketing, it's Kool and the Gang's "Celebration," both the highest charting and worst Kool and the Gang single ever. Feel the cliche.

Oh, I forgot, The Master Plan Development for Camp Mitch from Feb. 14 still shows a soccer field surrounded by a track as a Future Development. Not even Funded or Likely Funded. Future Development.

To let you know how far into the future that might be, also in that category is Stadium Upper Bowl Expansion. That'll be about as useful as a weave store for skinheads until Ron Turner turns into Dr. Alchemy followed by Staub turning into P.T. Barnum.

That would be something completely different.

 

 

 

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.

 

 


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