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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.


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.


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.



February 19, 2014

Serrano C-USA Golfer of the Week

For medalist honors at the Amelia Island Collegiate with an 8-under 208, freshman Camila Serrano is Conference USA's Golfer of the Week. 

With Serrano, sophomores Sophie Godley and Meghan MacLaren, FIU stands a decent shot of winning the Conference USA title the year after winning the Sun Belt title. 

February 18, 2014

Golf, gold, decisions

Frehsman Camila Serrano took medalist honors with an 8-under 208 and FIU's 859 team score gave them a 12-stroke win over Kennesaw State in the Amelia Island Collegiate.

Sophmores Meghan MacLaren and Sophie Godley swapped spots (third and fourth) after McLaren shot a 3-over 75 to close and Godley put forth a 6-over 78 in the final round. Serrano held on for the win only after beating Daytona State's Tiffany Chan in an 18th hole playoff (literally an 18th hole playoff -- they played the 18th four times).


http://www.gofundme.com/FIUVolleyball. They're up to $195 as of right now. Their goal is $6,000.


As several of you hasve asked, from my end, here's what went into deciding to do today's story on Dennis Wiseman.

A young woman sent Tweets to several different people about Wiseman, his past and Saturday. I don't know Wiseman. His last year at FIU ended the academic year before I started my first run covering FIU. I might have had occasion to write his name in 1990 as a key departure from the baseball team from the previous year. I didn't know about what happened at North Miami High. When it happened, I was a Panthers/NHL reporter enjoying the time off between the Panthers getting knocked out of the playoffs that spring and the Stanley Cup Final. If I did read it in our Local section back then, I long ago dumped it from my memory banks.

Anyway, after seeing the woman's Tweet, I searched several public records on Wiseman. I found the progression of the case through the court system and his registration among several other facts. I also found what was written on the case after Wiseman's arrest. With information from these places, I called my immediate superior and laid everything out with "Here's what we have. What do we do with it?"

After all, this isn't some coaching change, schedule change or a recruiting commit. That's stuff you get out with all necessary haste, if you can. Blog post, hit it, it's out. I can make those decisions on my own. For stories like this, I can have my opinion, but it better be expressed in discussions with editors before that opinion is acted on one way or the other.

That editor told me to wait while he went up the chain of command. It's obviously a sensitive topic, on at least two levels. He came back with, "Write it." I called the FIU media relations department, asked who was in charge of selecting Wiseman and said I would like to speak with that person. Soon after, I was told he'd been on the football team plane several times so I also asked to speak to Pete Garcia. The answers to these requests are in today's paper.

I got Wiseman's cell phone number Monday night, called and left a message with my cell phone number. We waited until 10 p.m. before moving ahead with the story, sans comment from Wiseman. My cell phone stayed on until 1:30 a.m. He didn't call. (Wiseman called me this morning. As he wished the conversation to stay private, that'll all I'll say about it.)

I had nothing to do with the headline or story placement. Aside from blog posts and a few stories posted directly online, I haven't written a headline or picked the page/space for a story since the Indiana Daily Student.

February 17, 2014

Golf clubbing Amelia Island competition; FIU athletics kickstarter

FIU's got three of the top four indivduals, shot a team record 11-under 277 in the first round and head into the final day of the Amelia Island Collegiate with an obese 13-stroke lead on second place Kennesaw State.

Freshman Camila Serrano sits atop the team and tournament leaderboard with an 11-under 133 after two rounds. Sitting in third and fourth overall, five and seven shots back respectively, are sophomores Sophie Godley and Meghan MacLaren.

The tournament, at Fernandina Beach's Amelia National Golf Club, ends with a third round Tuesday. 


Over on http://www.gofundme.com, you can find the volleyball team $5 into a campaign to drum up $6,000 in donations with a 10/20 drive -- each athlete asks 10 friends to donate $20. Track and field took to the site last July to raise $15,000 to help pay for "the new upgrades to our facilities," specifically the soccer field/track renovation that was to start in November. Track has raised $2,200 of a $15,000 goal. 

I'm all for the Kickstarters of the world. I think they're brilliant uses of the Internet. But there's a difference between a director with a unique concept or an inventor with a new bobrick and the athletic team of a large, public university.

That two of FIU's teams have to resort to this electronic panhandling says the school needs to get better at tapping some moneyed pockets. By comparison, the groups from UCF I found on the site were club teams, pure extracurricular activites without scholarships.


February 16, 2014

Bits & pieces

I'll have a wrap up of this first baseball weekend after today's season closer. But here's some FIU athletics Snacky Cakes for the morning:

FOOTBALL: FIU will play UMass home-and-home in 2015 and 2018. UMass just went FBS in 2012 and has had back-to-back 1-11 seasons since then.

And this year's deal with FCS Wagner is a one-shot deal.

BASKETBALL: I figured with men's basketball attendance up and not having to travel to a conference tournament, this might be a better year financially for basketball than usual. Hey, there can be an upside to academic failure!

Alas, FIU could be facing a series of fines. I'd heard months ago that the program could be fined for Marita Davydova playing all of last year as an ineligible player. Fines instead of forfeits could be the penalty for the Ray Taylor fiasco, too. Frankly, if it's an either/or thing, I'd hope for forfeits if I were FIU. You never know what the Hypocrisy Hounds of the Nattering Nabobs of the NCAA will decide.

TRACK: Don't look for the soccer stadium renovation/reconfiguration into a soccer-and-track facility any time soon. The $3 million project was talked about for years and supposed to be started after this soccer season finished. 

February 12, 2014

Coley and CLASS; Snow day; 2015 Diamond Dinner

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

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


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


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

January 30, 2014

Coffee, Coley & TV

 The biggest weeps over senior guard Jerica Coley graduating FIU might not be heard in the women's basketball offices, but the marketing and media relations offices. They'll be crying like it's the end of Love Story. For those arms of FIU media, Coley's the gift that never stops giving, the cornucopia of FIU goodness.

This week, it's being named a Capital One Academic All-District athlete by College Sports Information Directors of America. This district covers colleges in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Coley carries a 3.41 GPA and majors in dietetics and nutrition.

Coley and the entire women's basketball team will be signing autographs Saturday after FIU faces FAU at 6 p.m. on National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Female FIU employees with their FIU card get in free. Girls under 12 receive a free t-shirt.


The Apr. 5 FIU vs. FAU softball game will be televised on Fox Sports Network as will the May 3 FIU at East Carolina baseball game. Conference USA announced its spring television schedule today.




January 17, 2014

Cold Night at The Branch; MLK breakfast

Thursday night's basketball presentation at The Branch could be likened to walking in on your octogenarian mother or mother-in-law in the midst of an undies change: an unsightly ragged surprise that shrinks your appetite for anything similar.

Upon returning to South Beach, I didn't want to see even one attempted jump shot, dunk or entry pass. What Old Dominion and FIU did to basketball put it almost in a state from which not even sure the Jackson Five could save it.


Most annoying in the 36-point performance, an FIU-record for offensive futility, was the lack of movement. Too much statue basketball -- get the pass, stand, observe, pass to another person to do the same -- where there's not much movement of the ball or off the ball. That led to forced drives, which leads to bad shots and turnovers.

"Combination," assented FIU coach Anthony Evans about the stagnant nature of the offense. "I think the ball is stoopping too much. Going to one person and sticking instead of crisp ball movement so we can get open shots."

And, FIU saw some inside shots dance around the rim before falling away, inevitably to an Old Dominion rebound. Evans said practice today would be devoted to defense, reasoning if your offense is slumping, get the defense together to create offense from defense.

I apologize for the lateness of the blog. After dinner, dessert, Daddywork (melted cough drops in the backpack...c'mon, kid), I banged out some of the postgame blog then went face down on the keyboard. Then, this morning, after dropping the kid off, I skedaddled over to the 23rd Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Breakfast at the Graham Center ballroom.

I saw Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub at the breakfast. I was told the athletics table across the rom included several coaches including, predictably, swimming coach Randy Horner (the swim program defines "ubiquitous"). Not in the house full of successful, affluent Miamians and FIU-connected folks? Ron Turner. I know a pile of recruiting visits are this weekend, but that's exactly the kind of event at which an athletic department living student fees-to-student fees needs the coach of its most visible program.

The keyote speaker was Dr. Clarence Jones, a speechwriter for and close friend of Dr. King, a copyright lawyer and professor at Stanford. I really wish I'd gotten down verbatim his quoting of Dr. King on striving for personal excellence and taking responsibility for your personal behavior.


Another thing about football recruiting: that other schools are sweating some FIU recruits speaks well of them. You want players other schools want. That also means, however, you've got to make them love you enough to keep their affection through the wooing of others.

Just a thought as FAU's making a run at Hialeah running back Henry Bussey, an FIU commit.


December 04, 2013

Williams out; Davydova, too (for now); Trifunovic Player of the Month

Greetings from Camp Mitch, where December 5 must be on the calendar as Firing Day.

A year less a day after a much larger sacking in the football program, FIU has fired linebackers coach Tom Williams. 


Don't expect to see 6-3 center Marita Davydova on the court this season. Word out of Camp Mitch is last year's Third Team All-Sun Belt center is ineligible this year after a Compliance screw up, but should be able to come back next season. If she was also ineligible last year, FIU could face school fines or forfeits.


Sophomore Aleksandra Trifunovic shares November's Conference USA Player of the Month Award with Tulsa senior Samantha Vickers.

Trifunovic went 3-0 in November without losing a set.


December 02, 2013

A few things for you readers

1. I do check IP addresses and e-mail accounts. One poster who recently claimed "This is my first post" under a name "Roberto" had the same e-mail and IP address as a previous post "Bob." I deleted the "Roberto" post. I don't like to block people, but I will do it. Pick a screen name and stick with it or get your posts deleted.

2. There's only so many posts you can make referring to a particular athlete without admitting that athlete is your son or daughter. I'll put up with it once, twice, maybe three times, but after that, you're getting called out as XY's or XX's parent, just so everybody knows where you're coming from.

3. This blog finished 13th among Herald blogs in November with 16,660 page views. Next highest was the Florida Panthers blog, 20,602. Top college sports blog: Eye on The U, 253,406. Top blog: Dolphins in Depth, 833,199.

That's about where it normally finishes as far as page views. Except for January, 2013. Signing Day excitement? Nah. Strip club Tweeting.

4. As for the football players a reader requested status updates on: After eligibility questions early in the season, DeAndre Jasper played several games. Yousif Khoury was injured half the season, then played at least the final game. Dieugot Joseph and Deonte Wilson both played in the last game. Imarjaye Albury was sitting out under NCAA transfer rules. Of the rest, some I knew were in academic trouble, some I strongly suspect were discipline issues and a couple just weren't well-liked by the staff.



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