It would've been nice if some of the coaches or higher up suits in the FIU football contingent had gone over to Old Dominion's soccer field or taken some of the players to show support for FIU's men's soccer team in its season finale Friday night. The football charter arrived soon enough. FIU's athletes often show solidarity with one another. It would be cool if the post-college adults would show a little love, too, even off a disappointing season.
If that sounds wacky, consider that two years ago, Mario Cristobal planned for the football team to go en masse to the FIU-Middle Tennessee State women's soccer Sun Belt tournament game at South Alabama. The Panthers' charter plane managed to get to Mobile late enough to make that impossible.
The Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meets every few months to get reports on the athletic department’s doings from athletic department people with titles. There’s public discussion of those doings between the suits on the Committee and the Athletics Titles. The Suits and Titles exchange pats on the back or harrumphs. The Titles vow to improve. Then, the Suits get coffee as a slightly different set of Suits comes in for the next BOT Committee meeting. The Titles whoosh back to the west side of Camp Mitch.
The value in these meetings come in the chunks of information or analysis the Titles lay on the Suits. After a moment of feistiness from committee chairman Jorge Arrizurieta regarding the minutes of the February meeting, the Sept. 10 meeting carried a happy feeling. Not quite Up With People happy, but it was a Prozac-and-Percoset party compared to the last two Athletics Committee meetings I attended.
STUFF A CASUAL FAN MIGHT CARE ABOUT
A committee member happy to see the FIU vs. the University of Miami football series revived asked if FIU was working on any kind of football relationship with Florida State or Florida.
“We’re working with all the major schools around the country,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. “We wanted home-and-homes. We feel we can bring those games here. As you’re seeing Pittsburgh this week, Louisville’s coming here to play, we feel at this point in our development, we want to do home-and-homes. We’re willing to play anybody anywhere as long as we do home-and-homes.”
STUFF A HARDCORE FAN MIGHT CARE ABOUT
Garcia admitted sophomore Stephanie Texeira, the softball team’s best player as a freshman, played a larger than usual role in the selection of Gator Rebhan as FIU’s new softball coach.
“Obviously, when we go through the process of selecting a head coach, for the most part, you don’t talk to the student athletes that much about the search process. This was a little bit different,” Garcia said. “She was very adamant about what they wanted. The night we selected our next softball coach, she was actually sitting in her car about two hours outside my office waiting to hear if Gator was going to be our next coach.”
Early on in these things, the athletic department presents a proudly FIU example of the student-athlete ideal. It gives the committee a hot chocolate feeling inside before getting an ice bucket challenge of real problems elsewhere. Texeira got the call for this one. It won’t be her last.
Texeira pointed out her Mom-and-Dad home is only 15 minutes away but she stays at FIU. She extolled the Student-Athlete Academic Center (SAAC), the first of many attaboys for the SAAC on this day.
She went on to talk about Rebhan: “Gator has been my mentor for 6 years. I played for him in travel ball. I was fortunate enough to have a coach who was able to push me, to challenge me, he did everything he could to push me to the best that I can be. And it’s not like he picks on me. He picks on everybody. And everybody knows he does it because he cares.”
Then, with “We have a Turtle (baseball coach Thomas). Now, we have a Gator,” Garcia introduced Rebhan.
“This is a dream come true for somebody who was born and raised in Miami, coached the last 20 years here to be a coach at FIU,” Rebhan said. “It is an honor. I think the admiintration and the support of everybody to give me this opportunity.”
He stated, “One of the goals here is I want to keep the local talent from leaving. We have so many great players here in our backyard that for years we let get away. That’s one thing I want to focus on – keep our local players here. Girls like Stephanie, All-Americans, we keep them here, it builds excitement and fills the stands.”
He also thanked the administration for the new softball stadium. Rebhan pointed to the softball team’s 3.34 team GPA last year to applause and stated the goals for the season: 40 wins, winning the FIU-hosted Conference USA tournament, “and hopefully go far in the regionals.”
Rebhan closed with “One thing about girls softball, from coaching baseball and softball -- with girls, they have to feel good to play good. And right now, being out there watching these girls out there, they feel good. They feel good about themselves and the program.”
NUTS AND BOLTS STUFF THAT FEW CARE ABOUT IN PROPORTION TO ITS IMPORTANCE (JUST ASK FOOTBALL AND MEN’S BASKETBALL…)
Without mentioning FIU’s most recent appearances in the national media noise, Garcia swung into talking about Compliance, the SAAC and academic progress rating (APR). This is usually when “How did this happen?” gets asked often enough to be each meeting’s signature catch phrase.
Not this time. Compliance hadn’t bungled anybody’s eligibility. Nobody’s been put in academic time out. There’s no new APR problems.
“I feel very comfortable about what we have going on in the SAAC and the Compliance department with our APR and it’s been a total, total team effort,” Garcia said. “We’re starting to see the results. In a lot of these areas, you don’t see the results until two or three years down the line. What’s really encouraging is we’re seeing immediate results.”
He sang of Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Bejar – “She’s a workaholic. She gets things gdone. She’s very demanding, I’ll say that. But it makes everybody go to the next level.” – before handing the floor to Compliance Director of several months Hank Harrawood.
“I know from our last meeting, the certification process was important to make sure our student-athletes on the field are indeed able to represent us on the field,” said Harrawood, hired in the months following the Ray Taylor and Marita Davydova oops-ups that cost both basketball teams.
Now, the new web-based certification system will, he said, “allow for cross checking. It’ll allow everybody to go back and see what others have done. It’ll allow for greater accountability in the certification process and help majkre sure our athletes are indeed able to represent us when they do represent us on the field.”
Also, all the coaches who needed to be certified to recruit off campus passed the certification the first time. Harrawood said from what he’s heard that’s an FIU first.
Arrizurieta gave kudos that, so far, Compliance being under the Athletics umbrella works. Garcia extolled Harrawood’s work ethic with “weekends, he’ll call me in the middle of the night. Then, he introduced APR consultant John Shukie.
Shukie used to work for the NCAA. Now, he’s the president of Forward Progress Athletics Company, which works with 20 schools. Right before Shukie made that transition, he got a call from FIU as a school staring the APR abyss of men’s basketball and football.
“Let me paint the picture for you in the summer of 2013 when I did get that call,” Shukie said. “FIU athletics, especially men’s basketball and football, were facing some difficult APR issues. The men’s basketball team knew they’d be ineligible for the men’s basketball tournament coming up this past academic year. Football was looking at a very difficult sittaiton where they might fall in that same boat.”
“The first thing I did was diagnostically figure out, How did FIU get there? What put them in this situation?”
Shukie listed staff instability (the SAAC had more directors the last few years than Gone With the Wind) plus a lack of resources. Then, when bringing up the APR issues that penalized basketball and threatened to do so with football, he pointed at former men’s basketball coach Isiah Thomas and former football coach Mario Cristobal.
“What was lacking were some coaches who didn’t necessarily buy into the concept of APR,” Shukie said.
Having had a long APR discussion with Cristobal as he groaned about the difficulty in raising a low APR, I’d call that assumption into question. I'd also say the problems in Compliance and the SAAC, the same ones being celebrated as being fixed, contributed heavily to the basement APR. Such as the SAAC advisor who advised one athlete to take a course he'd already taken and passed, helping his academic ineligibility (she later advised a track athlete right into inelgibility).
“We are still, in some senses, paying for what happened in 2010-11 and 11-12 now because we keep those numbers until they roll off four years later,” Shukie said. “We had coaches, at least from what I can tell -- who have since left (or been fired – DJN), I did not deal with them -- weren’t necessarily recruiting with an academic purpose. They were probably recruiting with an athletic purpose, to win games, but there didn’t seem to be a real strategic plan for recruiting student-athletes who could be successful on the court or field and off the court or field.
“Over the course of the year, I’ve witnessed a 180,” he continued. “I thind it starts at the top. When I say at the top, there’s a group of people at the top. It starts with Pete Garcia stressing to his coaches, emphasizing to his coaches the importance of academics. I wasn’t a witness to what was going on before I got hired, I assume those conversations happened before I arrived as well.
“What I have seen is coaches buying into that. Especially in football and men’s basketball, where a lot of my work has been focused. We have coaches that buy into the concept of APR. They’re bringing in student-athletes who are focused athletically and academically.”
So, does Shukie think change started at the top with Garcia or at the coaching level? He seems to say both.
Anyway, Shukie lauded the involvement of men’s basketball coach Anthony Evans and football coach Ron Turner: “I’ve had more phone calls from Coach Turner than any coach I’ve worked with across the 20 schools I’m involved with.”
Shukie said any athletes coming to FIU just for a visit have their academics fully vetted before coming. If not in order, he claims, no visit. Remember the cancelled visit by all-purpose guy Javonte Seabury, for a while FIU’s highest rated 2014 football recruit? There you go.
“Part of our strategic plan is to have them create relationships with the faculty For men’s basketball, we require them to face to face interactions with the faculty, not just sit in the back,” Shukie said. “They have to actually go introduce themselves. We also require men’s basketball to participate in the on-campus mentoring program so they can have an administrative, faculty mentor. Not just helps them academically, but ties them to this school. So they feel tied to FIU and not just tied to FIU men’s basketball program.”
Arrizurieta half-joked, “if we were the first (client) and helped you get another 19 clients, we should get a reduction on our fee.”
Garcia countered, “Mr. Chair, just the penalty alone for football for any school that doesn’t make the APR (minimum) is $300,000. He’s worth every penny.”
The February meeting introduced a new bigger budget for the SAAC. This meeting officially introduced the new SAAC Director, Wes Maas.
Maas said the SAAC will add two learning specialists by the end of this semester as well as an assistant director position. The SAAC itself is getting a construction version of a workout-and-wardrobe makeover.
Maas wants to increase “the pride in our facility so our student athletes, who are 18 or 19 years old, feel as good about walking into the SAAC that they feel when they walk into the math lab on campus, which is amazing, state of the art and it’s new.”
They won’t be walking in for study hall. Maas eliminated it because he felt that a system of simply counting hours turned SAAC employees into timekeepers. It failed to provide the in-person attention some athletes need.
“We want to create independent learners. We don’t want to hold hands, we don’t want to facilitate eligibility,” Maas said. “We take the syllabi, break down the reporting status, so we know every week what our student athlete is supposed to be doing. We bring them in on Sunday or Monday. We have the student athlete create their objectives for the week, what they’re supposed to complete and when. We can assign them tutoring, we can assign them office hours with faculty, we can do anything in that time to ensure the student-athletes have the resources they need. Then we follow through the week and make sure the student-athletes complete the objectives they’re assigned.
“This is obviously for freshmen and athletes new to the university. But the idea is teach them how to do it, so that the next year they can do it and be independent in the process.”
After Maas finished, Arrizurieta said he was proud of the work the committee did in pushing for improvements in the SAAC and Compliance.
“Whatever else this board needs to do to support the initiative of athletics, the SAAC, Compliance, I’m incredibly happy to see that we are generally in the direction of progress, we’re tangibly seeing progress,” he said.
Vice Chairman Mitchell Adler assented.
“Thank both of you and the rest of the trustees for pushing the envelope and making us better,” Garcia said. “I’d like to thank President Rosenberg and the administration for giving us the resources we need to make this work. I echo the senitments that its been a team effort from both your stand point, the administration and everybody who’s doing the actual day-to-day work. I couldn’t be more proud of what everybody’s done and more excited for our future. Because without academic success, we’re not going to have any other kind of success.”
Arrizurieta stayed for the Finance Committee meeting that followed. He asked FIU Foundation president Howard Lipman if there was a policy of “a donor gone bad,” a clear reference to David Alfonso. The donation deal between FIU and Alfonso that put his name on the football field now called Ocean Bank Field ended after only three of its five years.
Lipman said as far as taking a donor to court “I don’t think that would be anything I would ever recommend.”
In 99 percent of cases, Lipman said, an unfulfilled donation occurs not out of any maliciousness but bad situation, i.e., market downturn, business dropoff, something happens in their lives (bad health and bad divorce can suck your money faster than the biggest black hole -- DJN).
“The last thing we want to go is create a policy toward the 1 percent,” Lipman said.
Arrizurieta said some protection must be given because “We’ve been through this before. It’s not intangible, it’s tangible and it’s happened.”
The full account of today's Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meeting can wait until tomorrow. Much like the one last spring, many words were spent on many issues, too many words to transcribe and analyze after a school Open House and dinner. This time, with the SAAC and Compliance Department better armed in almost every way, you didn't have much "how does this happen?" over Animal House grades and season-turning NCAA violations. So most of the many words bore happiness.
What I want to get to before I get to bed concerns two things from Conference USA. A CUSA spokesman said senior cornerback Randy Harvey will receive no further punishment for his brief bout with Wagner wide receiver Keith Foster. No word on what punishment Harvey will receive from FIU coach Ron Turner.
The same spokesman also admitted an officiating boo-boo from the Bethune-Cookman loss.
With 3:32 left in the first half and FIU down 7-3, the Panthers decided to go for it on fourth and 2 from the Bethune 3. Quarterback Alex McGough called a timeout to discuss the play call. The timeout ended, officials started the 25-second play clock. FIU arrived back for the next play on Miami time. His receivers still not properly set, McGough turned and signalled another timeout. The referee refused to grant the timeout. The play clock struck zero. Fourth and 2 became fourth and 7 after a delay of game call. FIU took the field goal.
Conference USA admitted the official should've allowed the timeout. The NFL long has had rules against calling consecutive timeouts without a play happening. Colleges let you take all the timeouts you want.
Would FIU have gotten the first down? Maybe, maybe not. Would FIU have scored a touchdown? Maybe, maybe not. But a touchdown there, instead of a field goal would've put them up 10-7 at halftime. If the second half plays out the same, it's Bethune having to throw at the end, not FIU. The Wildcats' second touchdown aside, their passing makes a regular football do things that a Nerf football does after the dog takes a bit out of it.
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.
1. By the time Ron Turner came in, not only had the former coaching staff been off the job for a month, but team leaders Johnathan Cyprien and Tourek Williams were preparing for the NFL Draft. (Also, Cyprien graduated in December 2012). Both took time to straighten out younger teammates.
2. Anybody who thinks Mario Cristobal or his staff cared only for themselves simply doesn't know them. I'm a pretty sleepless guy. I can remember ending a text message conversation with Cristobal or a staff member in the wee hours before I went to bed and picking up the conversation in the predawn while being the Morning Mussolini to my daughter. They worked themselves to a visible weariness. Sometimes, I wondered when they went home or at least got away from FIU football.
As I said in the Comments section of the last post, I didn't agree with their approach on everything. But I never doubted their feelings for their players.
On the single, Stevie suddenly shouts to The Jackson Five and they do the "Doo-do-wop" part.
Judging from the noise, Stevie could be many FIU followers proxy when discussing the athletic director and the football coach. Who, I've heard, have had a few go-rounds recently over some of FIU's department shortcomings that a few extra bucks could've avoided.
Speaking of bucks, the football coach isn't likely to be going anywhere soon unless his financial house is in unusually good order or FIU wants to swallow a big matzoh moneyball. That's if I'm reading Ron Turner's contract correctly (I'm not bothering the nearest Harvard Law 31-year attorney with this. She's got her own job).
If Turner resigns any time soon, he'll owe FIU $500,000, a year's base salary. If FIU fires Turner without cause any time before January 3, 2016 -- and I don't see anywhere in the contract that a really bad first-year record counts as being cause -- the school will owe Turner two years base salary or $1 million. Plus, FIU will have to pay another football coach.
That's a lot of jack to tie up in that position for a department whose revenue is $25.4 million, most of it coming from student fees, and has trouble drawing any kind of actual attendance to football games (I have put in a public records request for the actual ticket sales figures from the 2012 football season, last year's basketball season and thus far in 2013 football).
Especially when, by my math, the school still owes former football coach Mario Cristobal $431,386. That might be off the books, however, if the severance contract clause didn't follow Cristobal beyond his next coaching stop. That was the University of Miami for a winter minute before Cristobal landed at Alabama.
To fire Garcia costs one year base salary, $362,527 at this point. Also, FIU has to pay his replacement.
I heard that FIU President Mark Rosenberg sang praises of Garcia to a group of boosters on the Louisville trip. I've also heard there might be a Board of Trustees meeting with Rosenberg Monday over all this business, although none is posted and I'm not sure this qualifies as enough of an emergency situation to act under those rules (although I'm also sure any Board and President worth their website photos know how to skirt Sunshine Laws). If there is a meeting, I'm sure the cost of doing business -- or ending it -- will be discussed.
I'm having a hard time understanding why anybody's shocked or irate about the first two football games. Let's be realistic -- this was a six-win team, maximum, with everybody healthy and eligible. Go around the country, pluck the top two wide receivers, top running back, top cornerback/return man off the roster of six-win teams. Then, have that team lose three more starters to injury -- with a steep dropoff to second string -- in the first game. With a new coaching staff and new systems.
A six-win team disintegrates into a likely one-to-three-win team. Friday night, that team played a Central Florida team that'll win eight to 10 regular season games. This isn't about players' effort or coaching, much as we all love to question play calls and strategic decisions. This is a team that's stripped down like an '82 IROC Z-28 Camaro abandoned in Hialeah.
Could FIU have won this game? Not without firearms (don't get any ideas in The Towers...). Could they have made it more respectable? Sure. But it just would've been delaying the inevitable.
Remember when I wrote about the drops in training camp, not just among the wide receivers, but among the defensive backs? What I had in mind are plays such as UCF's first third down. Blake Bortles threw late across the field, a big boo-boo in Quarterback School. FIU's Justin Halley jumped in, and dribbled a gimme pick six.
On FIU's first drive, third and 3 became third and 8 because of too many men on the field. That's the kind of early season mistake coaches make, hate, expect, yet wish they could eradicate from the universe. Then FIU completes a 7 1/3-yard pass on third and 8. The same thing happened on FIU's second possession, 9 1/2 yards to T.J. Lowder on third and 10. Ron Turner exploded at the officials over the spot or the lack of measurement.
Between those drives, UCF took a 7-0 lead on a drive that should've been a three-and-out. Bortles broke containment (a loose term for FIU the first two games) on third and 15 and scrambled for 19 yards.
Four drives into the game, that's four plays FIU could've made to score, get the defense off the field or keep the defense off the field as well as keep game scoreless and the field balanced. I didn't even include the two drops, one of which would've been a first down. Instead, after a 16-yard J.J. Worton punt return, UCF set up only 44 yards from 14-0 and the snowball began a-rollin' in the second quarter.
Turner went traditional football coach uptight on fourth and 2 from the UCF 40. He ordered up a punt. Afterwards, he defended the move the traditional way, talking percentages. To me, this is where you have to feel the game, go off chart as well as remember who or what you are. The score was 17-0. UCF had scored on its previous two possessions. FIU had driven 35 yards, propelled by a roughing the passer penalty, yes, but it was the Panthers' best drive of the night thus far. A struggling offense needed its spirits rebooted by a coaching staff showing confidence in them.
Instead, FIU punted and got a net of 20 yards when Michael Wakefield, standing inside the 5, couldn't locate the ball and it bounced near him, then into the end zone. Momentum had been available for a moment. But when FIU failed to ask Momentum to dance, UCF returned from the punch bowl and said to Momentum, "Get down on it" -- first play, Bortles deep to Rannell Hall beyond Randy Harvey (told you, they'd pick on him when needed) for 59 yards. Soon after, 24-0.
I'm not sure why sophomore cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon didn't play. I know he wasn't happy about it. He Tweeted "First college game I'm not playing in, smh I'm bout to go home man!"
Once again, the offense looked much better in the hurry-up. Quarterback Jake Medlock actually made some nice throws, particularly two to redshirt sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lowder. Still, he missed two throws to sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Jasper that count as disheartening -- behind Jasper on a blitz for what would've been a first down and just flat missed Jasper deep when he didn't realize he had time to set his feet on a scramble outside the pocket. That would've been a touchdown.
E.J. Hilliard went three for three in relief of Medlock. Unlike last week, when Hilliard looked like the right rhythm section for this offensive band and Medlock looked like Spike Jones drummer playing with Thelonious Monk, the numbers don't correlate to what happened on the field. This still needs to be an open competition, however.
(Jasper's made his preference known on Twitter. He retweeted an FIU fan declaring to Hilliard "We want E.J. Hilliard...I started that chant fool. We need you in NOW.")
On defense, what happened is what everyone knew might happen. A secondary down two starters got flambeed by a good quarterback and experienced wide receivers with size and speed. A defense that got no rest eventually got pushed around somewhat by a strong offensive line.
This isn't hard, folks. UCF has better players who are more mature mentally and physically, guided by a staff headed by a good coach in his 10th year at the school. Maryland had better players who were more mature mentally and physically. So will East Carolina, Marshall and Middle Tennessee. This isn't a Disney movie where some player or coach discovers the latent greatness in those around him. This is real life, when what greatness there is on this roster, will take time to develop.
Kill time during games playing The Blame Game -- is this Pete Garcia's fault for firing Mario Cristobal, for halting staff and football operations work for the month after the firing or for not making sure there are enough resources for academic support? Is this Cristobal's fault for gaps left on the roster, for recruiting kids who flopped academically (spare me the excuses, footballers -- other athletes who spend just as much time as you do on their sport, if not more, handle their business)? Is it the fault of those players once counted upon to ameliorate the pain of rebuilding and only have exacerbated it by off-the-field failures?
Whatever you decide the answer is, right now, this team is going to have to work very hard for whatever it gets. This season, the Panthers will live The Struggle.
After my cell phone battery drained waiting to ask NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock about what safety Johnathan Cyprien has done to move up his draft board to the No. 3 safety, I saw I had a text message from a source that former FIU coach Mario Cristobal was bouncing from his still-new University of Miami job to Nick Saban's Alabama staff to be offensive line coach.
I know Cristobal considered it a tough decision as he pondered late last week whether or not to make this move. Not so much on football and resources, obviously, but leaving South Florida for Tuscaloosa.
As for Cyprien, Mayock said he's part of the deepest draft for safeties in the last three or four years and thought he made great sense for Washington to draft.
"He could start immediately for the Washington Redskins," Mayock said. "He can play both (free and strong safety) but I like him at free."
And Washington's probably got a broader mind toward Sun Belt talent than most organizations. They have to deal with Dallas' DeMarcus Ware (Troy) twice a year and just got a sixth-round steal in FAU running back Alfred Morris.
Junior guard Jerica Coley put in 63 points in wins over Troy and Western Kentucky, shot 54.8 percent from the field in doing so, pulled in 14 rebounds and added six -- assists, steals and blocks, each. So the Sun Belt named her Player of the Week for the fourth time this season.
Just throwing out contract comparison numbers for the present and past football coaches. Ron Turner's not costing FIU much more money than Mario Cristobal would have this year. Of course, Turner's most recent track record as a head coach ended when Michael Vick still could hum "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?" without drawing sidelong glances.
The pool of money for assistant coaches is supposed to remain the same as last year, then rise thereafter
Turner: Five years, running out in January, 2018.
Cristibal Endng in June, 2017
Turner: $50,000 each mar. 1
Cristobal: $25,000 each June 30
Turner: $25,000 for over 940
Cristobal: $15,000 for over 940 (raised from $10,000 by the extension)
Turner: $25,000 for over 2.5
Cristobal: $15,000 for over 2.5 (raised from $10,000 by the extension)
Wins Conference Outright or Conference Championship Game
Cristobal: $20,000 (added by extension)
Bowl Game Participation
Cristobal: $20,000 (raised from $10,000 by the extension)
Wins Bowl Game
Conference Coach of the Year
Hey, I don’t have that!
Turner: $10,000 for participating in a conference championship game. Of course, there was no conference title game in the Sun Belt.
Cristobal: $15,000 for being ranked in the final USA Today/Coaches Top 25 poll. Added at the last extension.
WILLIAMS CLEANSING HIMSELF
You can bet the official FIU bio for linebackers coach Tom Williams holds to the facts as closely as his resume did this time. Williams might still be Yale's head coach had both been the case there.
Instead, Williams resigned in 2011 after three seasons. The New York Times found that his resume claim of being a Rhodes Scholar candidate, repeated on his official Yale biography on the web site and presumably the media guide, was false. Also false was a claim on his Yale biography that he spent a season as a free agent San Francisco 49ers linebacker.
Williams spent last season at UTEP coaching the secondary. Now, after a mass staff change there following the 2011 season, he comes to FIU. Before being head coach for the Yalies he had been a defensive coordinator at Stanford, Hawaii and San Jose State, associate head coach at Stanfod and linebackers assistant with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
But now Williams is at FIU putting time and distance between the Fibs and Now. He's doing the same thing Bobby Petrino's doing at Western Kentucky on a smaller scale. Williams just got caught fibbing. Petrino got caught fibbing in a bouillabaisse of motorcycle, ex-volleyball player legs and a state university job (thus, state university money).
The sad thing is Williams has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Stanford. He played there. He went on to some all right coaching gigs. He has a wife, kids and two degrees from the school with the most envied athletic-academic combination in the country. Impressive enough. Why try sprucing that up?
Embellishing on top of Williams actual accomplishments is the equivalent of going for a fake punt on fourth and 22 from your own 25 with a couple of minutes and change left in a game you're leading 10-7. Oh, wait, Williams did that, too. At Yale. Against Harvard. Harvard stopped the fake short, then won 14-10.
I haven't spoken to a single football player on the record about the firing aside from safety Jonathan Cyprien on the day he was invited to the Senior Bowl and went through graduation. As far as the players still in school, it's against FIU's policy to conduct on the record interviews outside the oversight of the media relations department or a coach.
To me, this policy treats these athletes, some of whom are grown men and women, some of whom have and support children, like second-graders needing to be coached through a Christmas assembly. I do, however, respect said policy because I don't want to get any athlete or media relations person in the doghouse or the unemployment line. Some coaches can be a little control freaky.
Now that doesn't mean some football players haven't stopped by wherever I happen to be working and informally chatted, asking what I think and letting me know what they think. Because I don't want athletes to feel that whatever they say to me when we're just yakking without notebooks and recorders out is going to wind up here, I'll just say the consensus is about what you'd expect: they liked Mario Cristobal and his staff, not thrilled about the firing, but are open-minded about the new coaching staff.
It's not as if these young men just found out about Santa Claus, The Great Pumpkin and Te'o's girlfriend. They've been at high schools during coaching changes and they know FIU can be Wackyland. I don't sense an exodus certainly not on a percentage level with what Richard Pitino had to overcome after taking over the men's basketball program after the Isiah Thomas firing.
A bigger concern than transfers might be academic eligibility. That's where the "stop work" orders of December for the assistant coaches and support staff could boomerang right onto FIU's butt. Those folks, more so than at schools with bigger budgets and better organizational infrastructure, needed to ride some kids to academic eligibility the way Eddie Arcaro rode horses to the wire. Without that jockeying, don't be suprised if some kids don't make it.
As some coaches note, being a student-athlete isn't a skate these days, especially at a school without an army of, ahem, "tutors." While talking to women's basketball coach Cindy Russo for Saturday's article on Jerica Coley (read it at your own risk), she said she thought her team with four Dean's List students was "stressed out." They'd missed the first week of classes on the road, were back home for the second week, then will be on the road next week for games at Louisiana-Lafayette Tuesday and at South Alabama on Saturday.
"Their tanks are empty and minds are full," Russo said.
I just spent my Friday night going through the last six days of blog posts and logging IP numbers (yeah, I live on South Beach, but I'm also in my 40s avec kid, who I'm up and getting ready for school daily).Those of you with multiple names to one IP number, all comments by all names in the last six days will be deleted. You can repost them again under one name. That's fine. This isn't about the content of your post. Clearly, my standards for "offensive" are pretty idiosyncratic.
I just want the electronic Fletch act out of this Comments section.
Sources close to former FIU coach Mario Cristobal, a former University of Miami player, graduate assistant and assistant coach, say he's not officially a University of Miami assistantagain yet, but will be soon, probably by the end of the day.
Now, the question becomes: what sanctions will the NCAA come down with and what reaction will it bring from head coach Al Golden? Because if Golden goes, don't rule out Cristobal being lifted into that position.
On FIU's end, size matters -- of Cristobal's paycheck. Whatever he'll make at UM this year cuts into the $906,386 FIU owes him just out of base salary (one year automatically plus a second year with that amount reduced by whatever he makes in another coaching job).
FIU owed former basketball coach Isiah Thomas $660,000 upon his firing last April. In 2012, the school with the second largest athletic budget in the Sun Belt Conference (around $23 million), the budget with the largest percentage in the nation coming from public money or student fees, managed to do at least $1.1 million worth of head coach firing.
That speaks for 40 to 50 percent of next year's Conference USA football TV money.
Bigger dance hall, swankier dance partners, but the shoes are the only thing FIU coach Richard Pitino wants as a major change for tonight's game with No. 5 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center.
Pitino said he spotted the South Beach model adidas at a summer AAU game. The adidas rep at the game welcomed Pitino's request that FIU get some and Pitino decided they would make their FIU debut at the Louisville game. (Thanks to Joey de la Rosa for contributing his shoe and a steady prop-holding hand to the above shot).
Otherwise, he wants to keep everything the same as most games, despite the fact they'll be playing in front of 10 times the crowd they usually face and FIU's highest ranked opponent since No. 1 UCLA in the 1995 NCAA tournament.
"It's an opportunity for us to get better," Pitino said after Wednesday's morning shootaround. "Regardless of who we're playing, that's been the goal from Day One when I took this job. Let's get better every single day. This is another opportunity."
Louisville shouldn't be familiar just to Pitino. FIU players should recognize the Cardinals' high pressure style.
"It's funny because we play the same defense as they do," Pitino said. "When we're going over scouting, I'll tell them to get into Louisville's "White Press." All of a sudden, they're playing harder and it's more aggressive. I want to tell them, 'Guys, that's our defense, too! Play that hard every single time!' So we may switch the name of our press to "Louisville' instead of "White" to see if it'll work and carry over. It's good for them to see those guys playing the same style defensively, showing them that we can do it, we've just got to play a little bit harder."
I know I'm usually up on the swimming thing and I knew about this one yet it still slipped through the cracks. Sonia Perez broke the FIU record in the 1000 freestyle with a 10:11.36 at Nova Southeastern's Sharks Invitational, won the 200 Individual Medley, the 400 IM and the 1600 free.
So the Sun Belt awarded Perez her second consecutive Swimmer of the Week award and her third of the year.
Called in our lawyers this morning. What I've asked for doesn't take long and in an information age, should take a few minutes. Pop a colada and get it done.
That is, it shouldn't take that long if said records actually still exist...
Junior guard Jerica Coley received her sixth Sun Belt Player of the Week award, the most by an FIU women's basketball player.
Coley put up 39 points against Dartmouth Saturday and 22 against Central Florida, both wins. Perhaps most impressively, she hit 24 of 25 (96 percent) free throws. She's sixth in the nation with 22.1 points per game.
Tuesday, I received an update that everything I wanted from athletic director Pete Garcia and former head football coach Mario Cristobal's files were being compiled.
Now, as I had specifically separated Garcia's evaluations as being more urgent than everything else -- they were first requested July 14 --I eagerly anticipated seeing them in my e-mail box yesterday. Hey, I'd been with The Herald about a decade when I asked for copies of all of my evaluations. It didn't take five months. It didn't take five hours. It took closer to five minutes. If they'd had to scan them, that would've been maybe 10 minutes.
My e-mail box remains light on Garcia's evaluations. So what reasonable conclusion can we reach about said evaluations and how much should I trust what I eventually will receive?
Camp Mitch sources confirm the Rivals.com report that Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz interviewed for the head football coach job Monday. CBSSports.com reports that Diaz removed his name from consideration Tuesday.
My thumbnail analysis of Diaz can be found a few posts ago. The opinion remains that if FIU wants to sell the next hire as a guaranteed upgrade on Cristobal, they'll want someone with head coaching experience who'll look good in front of the national college football media in early January when they're in town for Notre Dame vs. Alabama.
Bobby Petrino gets $850,000 a year base salary from Western Kentucky to replace Willie Taggart. Taggart got five years, $5.75 million from the University of South Florida. Obviously, the price of a coach with a good track record did what the price of cheese did in the past year.
What does that mean for FIU, who needs someone with a college head coaching track record to justify even partially the firing of Mario Cristobal?
I covered Butch Davis' financial situation in a previous post (never mind what he's told FIU). He's getting $590,000 from North Carolina each of the next three years. Whatever another school pays him to coach is subtracted from Carolina's end. If Davis does his friend Pete Garcia a solid, FIU can get Davis cheap and Davis still gets his $590,000.
Houston Nutt's not eating government cheese either after a $6 million buyout from Ole Miss. Randy Shannon got only one year into a new four-year deal when UM sacked him. He sued to get his money.
In other words, guys who don't necessarily need the money. Bobby Petrino got fired with cause by Arkansas and Western needed somebody to replace Taggart. USF ponied up to get Taggart to leave a place where he had been successful and ignore his other opportunities.
And Cristobal, who was making $453,183 as a base, isn't one of the final two at Temple, so that payoff savings isn't coming to FIU yet or via Philadelphia.
Trying to find out if it was any of the above available three -- or if it was someone else -- who met with Pete Garcia and Board of Trustees head Albert Maury on campus this week.
Panama City Bozeman defensive end Chandler Burkett got a visit from Maryland recently, but he's staying with his FIU commitment for now. From what I hear, current FIU players also are playing from the Wait-and-See playbook, although junior defensive tackle Isame Faciane did Tweet that he was considering transferring.
Butch Davis definitely let it be known Thursday he didn't want FIU's head football coach job. I don't know where ESPN's Joe Schad got his information for his report that Butch was out, but I know I wholly trust where I got my info.
Before that, however, I heard three different applicants' representatives were told not to bother inquiring, this would be Butch Davis' job. And 640AM midday host Andy Slater put out the idea that Thursday was a setup to make FIU athletic director and longtime Davis pal Pete Garcia look heroic by reeling in Davis when all appeared to be lost.
If that sounds ridiculous, note what UM players say they remember from 2001: being told by Davis he wasn't going anywhere, then seeing Davis and Pete Garcia on television the next day getting off the plane in Cleveland together to accept jobs with the Browns.
SportsByBrooks, who's a hawk on college football, says Davis was using his position as Tampa Bay's special assistant to get information on FIU's players from Mario Cristobal before the firing. A very well-placed source says, "That's a reach. No room for Mission:Impossible 5."
I saw Davis at several FIU practices in 2011. I can't say the same for 2012 -- maybe I saw him at one or two -- but FIU's about as welcoming as any school to NFL scouts dropping by to watch practice and ask questions.
Despite what I just said on 640AM's The Andy Slater Show, perhaps ESPN Joe Schad's report from earlier today is correct.
About two minutes into my nuked turkey marsala lunch, heard through the Camp Mitch grapevine that rippling through the FIU hierarchy is that former University of Miami and North Carolina coach Butch Davis doesn't want FIU's head football coach job. Now, that doesn't mean he can't change his mind later, but, for now, he's out.
Also heard that a) perhaps FIU's attention has turned to Florida State offensive coordinator James Coley, a Miami native guy who coached at Norland High a decade ago when the Vikings were a power and b) some big muckety-mucks at Camp Mitch aren't happy with the way Pete Garcia handled this. Not like he's going to get rung up or anything, but it doesn't do to make the muckety-mucks unhappy when you're rolling the dice.
Half the assistants south of Olney, Illinois might be blowing up Pete Garcia's phone. Garcia said to me yesterday this wasn't the same job Cristobal took in 2007. He's right. Ironically, Cristobal's a large reason for that. Still, FIU's seen as a stepping stone, unless someone truly loves living and working here. Some people get attached to their starter house and it becomes the family home.
I knew Mario Cristobal flew into Atlanta last night. According to what former FIU commit Brett Sheehan, a Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill quarterback, Cristobal was in the Sheehan home last night.
Clearly, he didn't know he was about 12 hours from "former FIU head football coach" Mario Cristobal.
"Very puzzling," he said Wednesday afternoon by phone, his low, halfting tone of voice screaming of his surprise.
He ran through the summary of FIU football when he arrived -- coming off 0-12, an APR among the worst in the country, about to get slammed with a 30-scholarship punishment and go on five years of probation.
"In four or five years, we quickly put FIU on the map nationally," Cristobal said. "We gave FIU an identity. We went to two bowl games, won a conference title, beat a BCS opponent. The importance of getting into Conference USA was emphasized and we helped do that. It's obviously puzzling and shocking after a year when we had so many critical injuries at key spots and close losses."
Cristobal said he's already getting calls about other jobs. "Obviously people recognize what we've done as a program, one of the better stories over the past couple of years."
He didn't want to say much more. But anybody who knows Cristobal, who looks at his career, realizes that what kept him at FIU was the kids he recruited and that he's 305. He didn't want to move his family from here. And I do know that even as this season spun out, he didn't regret the decisions he made last December (Pitt) or February (Rutgers).
By the way, Carol City's Simeon Thomas, a 6-3 2013 commit that was part of what looked like an excellent haul of defensive back recruits, said on Twitter he didn't know if he was still coming to FIU.
This afternoon, I asked Garcia what if, two or three years down the road, FIU remains at three-to-five wins a season after he makes what many see as a bold move in firing Cristobal. What does that mean for his job?
"I'm held accountable for everything in the athletic department," Garcia said. "My job is to make sure the entire athletic department is headed in the right direction. Right now, I didn't think the football program was headed in the right direction. It's my job to hire a coach that will make us competitive year in and year out and successful. Success is going to bowl games and having winning seasons. That's how our coaches are evaluated and how I'm evaluated."
If that's not the case, he said, "Then I've got to be held accountable."
Garcia hired Richard Pitino nine days after firing Isiah Thomas last spring, although Garcia insists he didn't know Pitino was available when he fired Thomas (see my posts from back then for commentary on that). But Garcia said he hasn't talked to anyone about the job yet, though his cell phone is being blown up, and the timetable is to have a coach in place by the time classes resume on Jan. 7. That leaves one month before signing day. He won't, he insists, speed up the process if it means settling for a candidate on which he's lukewarm.
Garcia has a pal named Butch Davis who needs a job and knows how to recruit in South Florida and to South Florida. And I'm not a fan of personnel or coaching moves to please a fan base, but there needs to be a juicing of excitement about the football program, both in paid attendance and booster bucks because it's the only thing close to a revenue sport FIU has.
Now, as far as the money to pay a name coach...Cristobal worked relatively cheap for the job and the market, making a base salary of $453,183 (various bonuses pushed that over $500,000). According to Cristobal's contract, FIU now owes him $906,366 if he doesn't get a job next season. If he does, FIU owes him one year's base salary plus a pro-rated amount.
Texas A&M paid FIU $500,000 to get out of its commitment for a game next year and FIU's saving the $500,000 they won't pay A&M to come down. The Maryland game gets them another $500,000 or so.
On the field, FIU might lose Collins Hill (Ga.) quarterback Brett Sheehan, one of FIU's first 2013 verbal committments, who had a stellar year. Sheehan retweeted a Scout.com report that quotes him saying he's decommitting from FIU in the wake of Cristobal's firing. Sheehan's rated at two stars by Scout, Rivals and ESPN.com.
SWIMMING & DIVING
I'd planned to spend today writing about how Johanna Gustafsdottir went from being a fat (by swimming standards) burnout victim to an owner of half the FIU swimming record book who feels very much at home in Miami.
As it turns out, my only break in Cristobal coverage is to tell you that Sonia Perez was picked as Sun Belt Swimmer of the Week and junior Sabrina Beupre as The Belt's Diver of the Week.
Perez won the 400 Individual Medley at the Mizzou Invitational setting a new school record of 4:12.95 That and her school record 500 freestyle time of 4:50.32 were among four Sun Belt-best times this season she reeled off at the meet. Beaupre placed third in both the 1-meter and the 3-meter competitions at the University of Missouri-hosted meet.