Pepperdine won the American Volleyball Coaches Association sand volleyball national championship in 2012 and 2014, was the runner-up in 2013 and came into Saturday's match with FIU ranked three spots above the No. 6 Panthers in the AVCA Sand Volleyball poll. Pepperdine skunked the Panthers twice, 5-0, during FIU's inaugural sand season two years ago.
So, Saturday morning's 3-2 win against Pepperdine at the Palmetto Invitational sits as a landmark for the direction of FIU's 12-1 sand volleyballers, who have won all their three matches against other top 10 teams.
There's 50 Division I sand volleyball teams in the nation now. The NCAA will take over running the championship next spring.
There's a bit of confusion over whether spring football practices were open or closed to fans. Here's the 411:
Practices are officially closed to fans and media. That was in a release to the media that was mass e-mailed to the media as usual by FIU Athletics media relations, but wasn't also put on the FIU Sports website as such things usually are (such as the previous two spring practice releases saying practice would be open).
BUT if you've been invited into the seats of La Cage, you can check it out. This seems cut and dried.
In practice, however, it's a bit of a clusterkibibble.
For one thing, invitations aren't exactly Willy Wonka gold tickets shining with a blinding glare the moment you pull them from your pocket. Sometimes, it's a Tweet from a coach to select fans or a group of potential fans. It can be a phone call or a verbal "Come on, down!" Also, gates are open for several practices either out of convenience for folks working around the stadium or allowing access to students attending a class in one of the suites.
So, if you happen to walk in one of the open gates, take a seat in the stands and aren't disruptive to anybody, everybody might assume somebody else invited you to be there and you'll get to watch practice. Not that I'm recommending you do this.
I hope this clears everything up on this topic. Back to vacation and my bed or balconies.
FIU's softball team enters this season as the Conference USA co-favorite with Alabama-Birmingham. Why that's to be expected is detailed in an earlier post. But that got me thinking...
When Jake Schumann left the softball coach last summer with an obvious potential conference champion and NCAA tournament team coming back, he insisted it was because of salary. Living the coaching life with wife and kids in the Broward suburbs, Schumann insisted he needed more than the just-under $60,000 per year FIU paid. He took an associate coach job at Ole Miss for more money in a cheaper area.
So, FIU's last team to be a preseason conference favorite: softball, 2015. Head coach Gator Rebhan's salary: $59,700.
FIU's last team conference title: women's golf, 2013 Sun Belt tournament. Head coach Joe Vogel's current salary: $58,590.
FIU's last team conference title in a completely team sport: women's soccer, 2011 Sun Belt tournament or 2012 Sun Belt regular season, if you count that. Head coach Thomas Chestnutt's current salary: $63,024.
FIU's highest ranked team nationally: sand volleyball, 2014. Head coach Rita Buck-Crockett's current salary: $60,000 (for being in charge of sand and indoor volleyball).
FIU's best team over the last four years when combining athletics and academics: swimming & diving. Head coach Randy Horner's current salary: $57,590.
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia's bonuses during the 2013-14 academic year: approximately $99,550.
Numbers according to either contracts in possession of The Herald or Florida Has a Right to Know website.
These things happen sometimes. Somebody takes Job A, leaving Job B open. The person who most recently had Job A needs work and sees an opening at Job B. When it's all done, it looks like a good old fashioned Ken Stabler-for-Dan Pastorini trade.
Paul Chryst left the head coaching job at Pitt to go back to Wisconsin. First reports put Matt House, Pitt's defensive coordinator the last three years, in the U-Haul as Chryst moved back to Madison. But then Chryst decided to keep Badger incumbent Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, new Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi hired FIU's defensive coordinator Josh Conklin and linebackers coach Rob Haley.
So, now, House has no home and FIU doesn't have a defensive coordinator. Wonder if that match is being made.
House's defenses ranked 34th and 33rd nationally in 2013 and 2014, although it helped greatly in 2014 that Pitt's pounding carnivore style of offense ranked fifth in time of possession, shrinking possessions per game and holding down total defense numbers.
Just a thought...
Reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler visited the FIU volleyball team Tuesday. Though she clearly fit in by height if not athleticism, does anybody see the irony in the symbol of the event costing FIU Athletics around $540,000 visiting one of the athletic department's most underfunded teams?
Michael Vasquez's Sunday Herald article quotes FIU AD Pete Garcia, in an interview at least a week past, as estimating the pageant will bring "close to $400,000" to FIU. A Friday release by FIU Athletics estimated $330,000.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Perusing e-mails from a records request, I saw that FIU Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Jessell contributed $4,000 in November to FIU's water women for "the acquisition of training equipment," according to Jessell's e-mail to several athletic department folks. That'll be matched by Athletics to give $8,000 to the swimmers for new training equipment.
If you were wondering -- I was, I figured you might be too -- Jessell's salary is $329,250, according to Florida Has a Right to Know. Still, that's not that's not chump change he's throwing in the pool.
Conference USA's All-Freshman volleyball team includes 6-2 freshman middle blocker Jennifer Ene, the first FIU volleyballer to get award love from C-USA. Ene finished the season with 65 blocks, the strongest part of FIU's game in conference play. The Panthers finished third in blocks and fifth in digs in conference play.
From that conference caress, we go to a national cuffing from The Mackey Award folks. The honor, named after tight end John Mackey, goes to the nation's best tight end. The eight semifinalists don't include the national tight end leader in catches, yards and touchdowns, FIU sophomore Jonnu Smith.
If the Mackey Award folks confined its finalists to Power Five conference players, well, you could understand the biased thinking, even if you don't agree with it. But junior Jean Sifrin from UMass made the finalist list. I'm not going to pretend I know Jean Sifrin's game as well as I know Lalo Schifrin's music.
What I do know is Sifrin's caught 40 passes for 621 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games while sharing the field with wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, who has 81 catches for 1,245 yards and five touchdowns. Smith's put together better numbers, albeit in one more game, without any other receiver who revives drives the way he does. As Ron Turner said today, it's not as if everyone who faces FIU doesn't know who the primary receiver/safety blanket is in passing situations.
Five blocks in the opener, five blocks Tuesday' against Stetson for 6-10 Adrian Diaz and the last of those blocks preserved Tuesday's 53-52 win. Also, it was Diaz whose help defense got him the steal before guard Dennis Mavin's driving layup with 5.6 seconds left that completed an 8-0 closing run. Methinks FIU's got a post presence.
Another key late play came when 5-10 guard Tashawn Desir retreated in transition defense with enough anticipation to draw a charging foul with FIU down 52-51. Desir slid into position, established it beautifully, took the hit.
This isn't a good team now. I'm intrigued to see the evolution, however, into what it'll be in January.
FIU allowed Florida Gulf Coast to shoot 56.1 percent from the field Tuesday in a 97-49 loss. That's 56.1 percent from the field in a game. How many Division I women's teams shoot that in practice?
Since my post a week ago on the postseason chances for the fall sports teams...
Men's Soccer: Beat FAU 2-0 Wednesday to stay alive for the Conference USA tournament then lost 1-0 to Kentucky to get eliminated. A win in the regular season closer against Old Dominion can only tie New Mexico and South Carolina, each of which beat FIU head-to-head.
Women's Soccer: Tied Marshall 1-1 Thursday and were shut out of the conference tournament when Louisiana Tech beat FAU in overtime. The remaining match, Sunday's makeup with Alabama-Birmingham, was cancelled as neither team would qualify for the tournament. Unless football pulls off a natural hat trick, this 8-8-2 record will be fall's Best of FIU.
Volleyball: Lost 3-1 to Rice and 3-1 to Charlotte to fall to 3-10 in conference, 6-20 overall...but they...are...ALIVE, in a pack with UTEP, UAB, Middle Tennessee and Charlotte, all of which have three conference wins and one of which will get the eighth and final conference tournament spot. Three conference matches remain for FIU: at UTEP (tossup), at Texas-San Antonio (12-0 in conference), home season closer against Louisiana Tech (1-11 in conference).
Football: Lost Saturday 31-17 to Rice and need to win three straight after losing three straight to even get a bowl to give up its phone number. The Former Sunblazers are three-point underdogs at Old Dominion this Saturday.
The swim team, a winter team that warms up in the fall, moved to 3-0 by beating Indian River Saturday 174-126 as last week's Conference USA Swimmer of the Week, freshman Silvia Scalia, won the 100 backstroke and 200 back. Freshman Brittney Fant won the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly (my shoulders and lats hurt just typing "200 butterfly").
To start, FIU coach Ron Turner confirmed Wednesday the expected: freshman running back Alex Gardner's right shoulder injury will keep him out of the Nov. 1 Rice game "and he'll be a longshot" for the Nov. 8 game at Old Dominion.
With Gardner out, expect junior Anthon Samuel, junior Lamarq Caldwell and freshman Napoleon Maxwell to get an increased workload. Samuel's the best all-around back of the three, Caldwell the best pass protector and Maxwell the most explosive.
The football team gets a few days off. With no game sucking up my Saturday, no pregame blog Friday night, no postgame blog to finsih off Sunday morning, that opens up the weekend for...
Women's soccer! No, at Texas-San Antonio Friday and UTEP Sunday...
Men's soccer! Darn, at Marshall Saturday...
Volleyball! At Western Kentucky Friday, at North Texas Sunday. Sigh...
Swimming & Diving! Saturday at Florida Southern...
Everybody's gone. No balls being kicked, carried or spiked with meaning. Going to the athletic side of Camp Mitch this weekend could make you wonder "Where is everybody?"
Is sophomore tight end Jonnu Smith already one of the 33 best tight ends in the nation?
FIU's quarterbacks would say so, stopping just short of waving foam No. 1 fingers for Smith. They look for him when in trouble the way some people look for Roy Black.
The John Mackey Award people think so. Smith's one of the 33 tight ends on the award's midseason watch list. The award honors the baddest tight end in college football. Smith's 34 catches, 411 yards and four touchdown catches leads FIU in each of those categories.
The word that should make FIU extra happy is "sophomore." Six other sophomores and two freshmen made the list. The other three Conference USA tight ends on the list -- UAB's Kennard Blackman, UTEP's Eric Tomlinson and Western Kentucky's Mitchell Henry -- all are seniors.
FIU, 6-13 overall, got to 3-3 in Conference USA play by sweeping the weekend road trip. I mean, really sweeping the weekend -- 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-17) at Charlotte and 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-20) at Louisiana Tech.
At Charlotte, FIU had a .415 hitting percentage and Lea Montavon led in kills with 13. Kiona McSwain had 35 assists. FIU held Louisiana Tech to a .122 hitting percentage and collected 60 digs.
There will be a football-y post later today, including FIU cornerback Richard Leonard getting Honorable Mention from the College Football Performance Awards for his game against the Owlmen Thursday (100-yard fumble return touchdown, end zone interception, bunch of pass breakups).
Let's start off Monday by giving a high five to the volleyball team, though some of you more vertically-challenged readers might have to jump to do that. A tough month of 10 consecutive losses ended with a 3-1 (25-13, 18-25, 25-23, 25-16) win over Alabama-Birmingham on Replacement Lime Court at FIU Arena, the team's first win since Sept. 6 and first Conference USA win.
Freshman Kiona McSwain had match highs with 38 assists and nine digs, the latter tying senior Martyna Gluchowicz. Freshman Jennifer Ene led in kills with 13.
SWIMMING & DIVING
The water women lost Sonia Perez and ace diver Sabrina Beaupre among several others and added a busload of freshmen. Appropriate, then, that freshmen piled up winning points Saturday as FIU smoked FAU 205-95 at the Biscayne Bay Campus in the first dual meet of the season.
Italian Silvia Scalia won the 100 backstroke, 200 back and 200 individual medley events. Her 200 back time of 2:01.69 is third in FIU history behind Perez's 1:57.35 and then-freshman Johanna Gustafsdottir's 1:54.40. Burlington, Ontario's Rebecca Quensel won both diving events.
Gustafsdottir, now a senior, won the 200 freestyle, 200 breaststroke and anchored the 400 free relay with sophomore Jenny Alfani, senior Klara Andersson and freshman Ally Mayhew. Senior Jean Madison won the 100 breast. Alfani won the 50 free.
Weather pushed Friday's FIU-FAU match into being the finale of last week's Battles With Boca. After 90 minutes of regulation followed by overtime, 0-0.
And it was as defensive as that sounds. Each team allowed only seven shots at goal. FIU put four shots on goal, FAU managed only two.
FIU'S 6-5-1, 1-1-1 in Conference USA going into this week's Friday-Sunday road trip to UAB and Middle Tennessee State.
The men (3-5-1, 0-2-0) went out to No. 15 New Mexico. They'd have been better off taking a left turn at Albequerque instead of playing there. The 2-0 loss featured a goal against in the first minute and midfielder Nelson Milsaint red-carded for fighting near the end of the first half.
They're back home against South Carolina Wednesday.
Junior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon wore an orange injury jersey and limped off the field after going through a full practice. This might seem like a good time to note that senior backup cornerback Randy Harvey will be back this week after FIU coach Ron Turner put him in timeout for one game following his brief boxfight with a Wagner wide receiver.
No one else on the two-deep wore a Home Depot jersey.
THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH IS ABOUT TICKETS. IF YOU DON'T LIKE TO READ ABOUT TICKETS, YOU CAN SKIP OVER IT. REALLY. THERE WON'T BE A TEST OR A REFERENCE BACK TO IT LATER.
I'm hearing some season ticket holders are receiving generous offers of near free tickets so as to prevent The Cage from being half La Cage Aux Folles from the Louisville support. In addition to the fans who'll travel, there's going to be more than usual local support for a visiting team. The Cardinals roster features 16 players from Miami-Dade County, one from Broward County, two from Palm Beach County and nine other players from the state of Florida. Even if every player brings in 20 friends and family -- a generous number, but using it because it's at the high end -- that's still only 560 extra Louisville fans.
Lamar Thomas coaches Louisville's wide receivers. I wonder if he'll be in one of the coaching carnival booths or along the sideline. I'm not sure which would be more entertaining.
The line's hanging around 27 with an Over/Under of 48.
Tonight's match against FAU will be at the Rec Center after weekend kettlebells broke the beach, also known as Lime Court at FIU Arena. Free admission and posters to all. Autographs afterwards.
Still waiting for final official word about what'll be done about a floor. The temporary floor over the dented floor for this season seems to make the most sense with the least displacement.
Word on the street and out of Camp Mitch is former FIU assistant and longtime club softball coaching ace Gator Rebhan will be named as FIU's new softball coach.
UPDATE: FIU announced this a half-hour after I posted the above.
Rebhan was an assistant under Jake Schumann, who left to be the associate head coach at Ole Miss after three years at FIU (and no raise from $59,000). He inherits arguably the most promising team in the athletic department. Almost everyone returns from a young team that went 33-20, 15-9 in Conference USA last season.
Single game tickets for the fall sports -- football, volleyball, both soccers -- go on sale at 5 p.m. at FIUSports.com.
If you're into spending mornings off watching football practice instead of splashing at a water park or helping the local economy by keeping a waterfront bar in business, here's the football practice schedule.
Tuesday-Aug. 9: 8:15-10:30
Aug. 11, 13, 15, 18, 20: 8:15-10:30 a.m. and 7:15-8:30 p.m.
Aug. 12, 14, 16, 19, 21-23: 8:15-10:30 a.m.
As far as the (potential) Class of 2015, FIU's killing it in Jacksonville. Jacksonville Trinity Christian's 6-3, 315-pound Deion Eakins became the fifth from the area to pledge FIU. Eakins is unrated by ESPN and 247sports.com and at two stars by Rivals.com and Scout.com.
Trinity ran for 266 yards per game last season on their way to a state title. According to an article in In The Game magazine, Easkins plays drums and is in the church band. If he comes to Camp Mitch, he'll combine with running back/singer Alex Gardner out of Jacksonville Raines to put FIU a lead guitar from a church trio.
St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy sent running back Napoleon Maxwell to FIU this year. Jestin Green, a wide receiver and safety, says he's coming to FIU next year. Green's unrated by the four sites I usually site here.
The preseason Conference USA coaches poll put FIU ninth in the 13-team conference. Defending champion Texas-San Antonio was picked to repeat with Sun Belt immigrant Western Kentucky ranked second.
FIU put nobody on the preseason all-conference team, but Adrianna McLamb represents FIU on the conference's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as its External Affairs Chair.
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.
With sophomore Jerome Frink, 6-6, requesting his transfer, FIU loses its starting front line from the 15-16 2013-14 team -- Frink, starter of all 31 games this season and 25 of 32 as a freshman, seniors Rakeem Buckles and Tymell Murphy. Frink averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field.
Even with 6-10 transfer Adrian Diaz and 6-7 incoming freshman Harold Givens, FIU might have as much quality size on the perimeter (6-7 guard Dominique Williams, 6-6 guard Jason Boswell) as up front.
FIU remains fourth, 16 shots behind leader Tulane, going into the final round of the Conference USA Golf Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Sophomore Meghan MacLaren rebounded from her opening round 4-over 76 with a 1-under 71, FIU's best second round score. Freshman Camila Serrano's even par 144 two-round score puts her fifth overall, seven shots behind medalist leader Texas-San Antonio's Fabiola Arriaga.
What's more bothersome to FIU fans? That Mario Cristobal is the top ranked recruiter for 2015 in the nation, according to 247Sports.com? Or that FAU already has four commits for 2015, including two three star prospects and four-star running back Jordan Scarlett from University School, and FIU has none of note after the decommitment of Northwestern high defensive back Antonio Howard?
FIU volleyball on GoFundMe is $295 toward a goal of $6,000.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky ruled the Sun Belt volleyball courts in 2011 and 2012. Since FIU last beat Middle, in 2010, Middle hasn't just won five straight matches -- it's swept the five matches 3-0.
So when Thursday's Conference USA Tournament opener for No. 11 seed FIU opened with No. 6 and tournament host Middle whipping off a 25-18 first set win and followed with Middle overcoming a 12-5 FIU lead to take set No. 2 29-27, it looked like another one-two-three-and-out for FIU.
Instead, the Panthers pulled off a 3-2 (18-25, 27-29, 25-20, 25-22, 15-11) upset. FIU faces No. 3 seed Tulsa Friday at 5 p.m. The match will be on the Conference USA Digital Network.
Thursday, FIU found itself down 6-2 early in the third set. Considering the macro trend of history and the micro one of the match, a Panthers collapse would've been predictable, even understandable. Instead, they went on a 7-0 run begun by a Gloria Levorin kill off a Jessica Egan assist and ending with a Martyna Gluchowicz kill. Another 5-0 run pushed their lead to 18-10 on the way to taking the third set.
A 4-0 fourth set run gave FIU a 9-5 lead and the Panthers stayed in front until the match was tied, 2-2. An even third set got opened up with a 5-0 run to 14-9 featuring a kill by Gluchowicz and a kill and a block by Levorin. The same combination that began the match-turning third set run, Egan setting up Levorin, did so for the final point.
Gluchowicz and Castro each had 17 kills while Levorin had 16. Egan racked up 48 assists. Gluchowicz also came up with a team-high 17 digs.
Marshall has scored over 60 points once, over 50 another three times, 49 in another game and 45 last week against Tulsa. The offensive line coach, Alex Mirabal, and the offensive coordinator, Bill Legg, left FIU without the warmest of feelings for the school.
Can't wait to see what the over/under will be on the 6 p.m. Fox College Sports game, FIU's last home game of the season. The opening line is Marshall by 33.
Senior Night saw FIU sweep North Texas 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-22) behind 14 kills by junior Martyna Gluchowicz and 13 by sophomore Lucia Castro. FIU ends the regular season 12-16, 6-8 in Conference USA.
The volleyball team plays Middle Tennessee State Thursday in the Conference USA tournament. Middle swept FIU during the regular season and hasn't lost to the Panthers since 2010.
Former FIU defensive end Tourek Williams started for San Diego agian and made the game's first tackle against the Dolphins, a long walk from where Williams' high school alma mater, Norland.
This wasn't in the e-book about the 2012 season.
Former FIU starting linebacker Winston Fraser had an interesting run of Tweets on Nov. 7:
"I remember hitting a doobie every morning jus to eat and get right before I hit the field."
"Regardless of how much I used to blaze...I still understood the defensive playbook better than anyone...even some of the coaches."
"I (past tense of expletive misspelled) up my senior tryna be a leader and (guano). Killing myself to try to help the next (racial slur masquerading as term of endearment)."
"I shoulda just focused on me and made my plays like when I was ballin my junior year."
After collapsing Saturday against Youngstown State, FIU men's basketball hung on to beat Kennesaw State 66-58 to get their first win of the season and the first win under head coach Anthony Evans. Rakeem Buckles had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Ray Taylor put in 15 and distributed five assists. Tymell Murphy had three steals. FIU, 1-2, can get back to even with a win against Warren Wilson Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the volleyball team (11-5, 5-8 in conference) took out Southern Mississippi 3-1 (24-26, 25-22 cubed). Sophomores Lucia Castro and Gloria Levorin led the Panthers with 20 and 13 kills, respectively, Senior Kimberly Smith had five blocks and sophomore Adriana McLamb had 24 digs.
In the NFL, former FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien recovered Tennessee's onside kick to clinch the first win of the season for Jacksonville in addition to his three tackles. Former defensive end Tourek Williams made his first NFL sack a true highlight by chasing down Denver quarterback Peyton Manning for a strip sack that set up a San Diego touchdown in the Chargers 28-20 loss.