July 19, 2012

Details on Cristobal extension

Some highlights from FIU football coach Mario Cristobal's contract extension (sorry we didn't get these things last night, but, hey...):

Cristobal's base salary stays the same in the added year, 453,183. He got another $50,000 bonus, to be paid in two installments, from a $100,000 annual program operating cost bump. The other $50,000 of that money will go to assistant coaches base salaries. So in the last two Cristobal extensions, the assistants have gotten an increase of approximately $160,000 from program operating cost increases.

While this keeps Cristobal in the middle of the pack as far as Sun Belt coaches base salary, almost all of whom live in places with cheap costs of living, sources say he didn't think it would be right to ask for much more money with the state education system so economically troubled.

Cristobal did get performance bonus raises: bowl game bonus to $20,000 from $10,000; 940 APR bonus from $10,000 to $15,000; 2.5 team GPA average up from $10,000 to $15,000; new bonuses for finishing in final USA Today Coaches Poll Top 25 of $15,000; and $20,000 for an unshared conference championship.

The buyout clauses remain the same.

Not in the contract, but apparently a leading concern at the negotiating table when this all was first being discussed last winter was the completion of the north side enclosure. Both for stature among other schools -- remember, when all this started, it wasn't a lock FIU would be wanted by Conference USA -- and recruits, it was felt FIU Stadium needed to look like an actual stadium.


July 18, 2012

Cristobal signs another extension; men's soccer schedule out

I'll have more details this evening -- I'm officially on vacation and planning to observe working silence for a few hours this afternoon -- but FIU has added a year to football coach Mario Cristobal's contract to 2017 and given him another raise a year after bumping him up to over $453,000 on base salary.

Realistic about FIU's limits, I don't think Cristobal was looking for the big payday for himself, but did want the football equivalent of occasionally sending flowers and candy when it's not a birthday, anniversary or Valentine's Day -- more money for assistants, some upgrades on facilities befitting a program trying to work its way up.

I'll break this down when I get a peek at the contract or at least the highlights, hopefully later today.


The men's soccer schedule came out Wednesday.

Kenny Arena's first season as FIU men's soccer coach opens with a for-fun exhibition at Barry Aug. 16, then a home game that counts against Bryant University (is the prime major there building and servicing air conditioners and heaters?) on Aug. 24. They have one home game in September, Sept. 16 against Missouri-Kansas City. Their next three home games are Oct. 6 against Alabama-Birmingham, Howard and defending Conference USA champion SMU.

Memphis comes in on Oct. 27 and a home game against Tulsa ends the regular season on Nov. 3. Between those games is a short ride up to FAU Oct. 30.

Early in the season, the Panthers play five consecutive road games: Aug. 31 at North Florida, Sept. 2 at Jacksonville, Sept. 7 at Wisconsin, Sept. 9 against Illinois-Chicago and Sept. 14 against Furman. Their first Conference USA match of the season will be at South Carolina Sept. 29.

July 16, 2012

Sun Belt coaches pick FIU No. 1 (again); coaches & media pick Williams as Defensive POY

COMMIT: Chandler Burkett, defensive end from Panama City Bozeman, committed to FIU Monday afternoon.

Back to Sun Belt Media Day...

The Sun Belt preseason football poll of coaches picked FIU to win the conference title by a narrow margin over defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. Half the 10 coaches gave FIU first place votes with No. 1 votes also going to Arkansas State (two), Louisiana-Lafayette (two) and Western Kentucky. FIU was the preseason co-pick last year along with Troy.

Asked about keeping his players minds right when so much points to them rolling through The Belt, FIU coach Mario Cristobal said, "I think you said it best right there -- "again." Human nature is what it is, but in this case, human nature might serve us well. We kind of have seen this picture before. Had a great start, stumbled a little bit, then got back on track. I think that's going to serve as a great example and great experience as well."

The vote for Western came from Western coach Willie Taggart, who drew snickers last year when he voted his team No. 1 as they came off a two-win season. He looked like an Old Testament prophet when they came in 7-1 in the Sun Belt.

"I can't pick anybody else but us," Taggart said Monday. "I don't know those other teams. I'm not around those teams. I don't know what they did in the offseason."

The All-Sun Belt team, selected by the coaches and some media folks (including me), included seven FIU players.

FIU got three on one side of the ball (junior running back Kedrick Rhodes, senior offensive linemen Rupert Bryan and Caylin Hauptmann) and four on the other (defensive tackle Isame Faciane, defensive end Tourek Williams, linebacker Winston Fraser and safety Jonathan Cyprien). Williams pick as preseason Defensive Player of the Year signifies how dominant FIU's defense is expected to be this season, especially in Sun Belt play. That's FIU's anticipated edge over Arkansas State (great offense, young defense), Lafayette (great offense, young and iffy defense), Western (questionable no-Bobby-Rainey offense, good defense). So far, just asking general questions about defenses and defensive players in the shoot-'em-up Sun Belt, the players and coaches have brought up FIU instantly.

Surprisingly, kicker Jack Griffin got outvoted by Lafayette's Brett Baer, whose punting and kicking was responsible for Lafayette upsetting FIU last year at The Cage. I voted for Baer as a punter, a position that went to North Texas' Will Atterberry.

Akansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin, last year's Sun Belt Player of the Year, was the preseason Offensive Player of the Year. The rest of the offense: running backs Rhodes and Lou-La's Alonzo Harris; wide receivers Ark State's Josh Jarboe, Troy's Eric Thomas and Lou-La's Javone Lawson; tight end Western's Jack Doyle; offensive line Bryan, Hauptmann, Ark State's Zack McKnight, Lou-La's Leonardo Bates, North Texas' Cyril Lemon.

The defense aside from the aforementioned FIU players: defensive linemen Troy's Tony Davis, Western Quanterus Smith; linebackers Troy's Kanorris Davis and Western's Andrew Jackson; defensive backs Ark State's Don Jones, Lou-La's Melvin White and Troy's Brynden Trawick. Western's John Evans was the return specialist.

We're at Sun Belt Media Day and will have more from it throughout the day (we hope).

May 04, 2012

The answer was D)

A few quick things from this afternoon's official announcement that FIU would be joining Conference USA:

*The FIU-FAU football game is up in the air after 2012 because FIU doesn't know how many conference games it'll play and has other committments to honor.

*Mario Cristobal looked terribly happy. As he said, recruits like exposure for themselves and to know their families can see them on TV if they can't make the game. C-USA's TV deals are much better than the Sun Belt's.

*Pete Garcia pointed out that despite the closest school being Alabama-Birmingham or Southern Mississippi, travel costs actually could wind up better for FIU because teams can fly into major airports instead of flying in and going for a bus ride.

 *The Sun Belt issued a statement from commissioner Karl Benson that both FIU and North Texas "were cooperative and kept and open line of communication throughout the process."

March 09, 2012

Hilton runs 4.36 at Friday's Pro Day

T.Y. Hilton began FIU's Pro Day this morning, attended by scouts or personnel men from all 32 NFL teams, by running an unofficial 4.4 (media timed) and a second 40 that FIU folks got at 4.36. Hilton didn't run at the NFL Scouting Combine because of a quad injury. More than the speed in shorts -- NFL teams have his football speed on tape -- he needed to show recovery from another minor injury.

Of the spring practice scrimmage that preceded the Pro Day, head coach Mario Cristobal said, ""The offense, at least the No. 2 offense, came out strong. The first team defense played especially well. They put a lot of pressure on the offense to perform and perform on third down. Not too many friendly third down sitatuions.

"The offseason as it should, has paid off a bunch. It's the smallest injury report we've ever had and we played hard. We played 100 plus plays today, not including special teams. I believe we had four penalties, which is still four too many, but in terms of a game, it's a little bit of an improvement."

"(Quarterback) Jake (Medlock) came out and did some good things. I thought (freshman quarterback E.J. Hilliard) really flashed today, made some big throws. Both (wide receivers) Glenn Coleman and Wayne Times took a couple of routine plays, made a guy miss and made the defense pay for it. That was against the (No. 2 defense). We had success against the ones as an offense as well, but not the same amount of success. We didn't bust that big play against that No. 1 defense. A little bit of that, too, is when you have guys like Richard Leonard and Jonathan Cyprien who can hunt down a guy after a tackle is missed. It makes a difference."

February 09, 2012

Late Night with another David from Indianapolis' north side

 Barely awake after arising 20 hours ago with a coughy kid for the second day in a row. Hopefully, I'm still more coherent and grammatically better than, say, Twitter.

For no other reason than it's winter, this is on my Winter Dance Party playlist and I couldn't find a proper video of "Stay Up Late."



The men, FIU's Thomas Wolfe Bunch -- they get deep with the whole You Can't Go Home Again concept -- hosts North Texas Thursday at 7 p.m. on the Sun Belt Sports Network. A bench full of NBA scouts should be in The Branch to check out the Mean Green's 6-8 Tony Mitchell. Mitchell's trying to Eric Heiden the Sun Belt conference game statistics, leading in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage. He's sixth in free throw percentage, but nowhere to be found among the steals leaders, a group headed by FIU's Jeremy Allen (2.3 per conference game).

In the women's game, you've got the Sun Belt scoring leader, FIU sophomore guard Jerica Coley, who's still second in the nation in scoring (24.3 per game, 24.6 per conference game). Coley leads FIU in almost every major individual category except steals, the category now topped by forward Fanni Hutlassa's 50 takeaways.


Though FIU's still listing the offensive coordinator job publicly as open, Tim Cramsey's still getting the job.

But FIU does need a new director of football operations after Andrew Green left to head the athletic department at Riviera Prep, a middle school and high school that opened its Coral Gables-area high school this year. Job? Handle everything. Travel logistics, recruit visits, whatever.  


Softball opens its season Friday night at home against Michigan State, the night before the now-sold out Diamond Dinner. If senior Ashley McClain puts up another year in range of last year's numbers -- .409 average, .696 slugging percentage and 12 home runs -- where would that rank among this year's FIU individual athletes? Ahead of or behind Coley, kicker Jack Griffin, T.Y. Hilton? Equal to, surpassing or far behind ridiculously dominant diver Sabrina Beaupre?

Odd thoughts while fighting off a face plant on my keyboard....nite nite.

January 31, 2012

Pete Garcia says...

Here are some things from a Monday night conversation I had with FIU AD Pete Garcia.

His reaction to the day's events: "Rutgers handled everything in a professional manner. I'm very happy Mario decided to stay. I agree with him that he's building something special here."

"Obviously, money isn't everything, especially when you're like Mario, who's from down here, who has worked down here to build something over the last five years."

When I asked about the still-ongoing talks for another deal, he said, "We've talked about things, but this wasn't a leverage thing. It was never about that."

Nobody knows completely what's going on in Cristobal's head. But I find myself thinking of my Herald colleague Dan LeBatard, a 43-year-old Cuban-American born, raised, educated, working for 22 years of post-college life in South Florida where he has family. Dan has said often -- and I know it to be true -- that he's had a number of opportunities to leave South Florida for much more lucrative, higher profile jobs in sports media, but he stays because he's happy in this area.

Cristobal is a 41-year-old Cuban-American born, raised, educated and working for most of the last 20 years in South Florida, where he has family. He works for an AD that he's known for 20 years and has a program he rebuilt and of which he's emperor. He and I have talked about that moment on the drive home to Miami Beach when you're coming over one of the causeway crests and you take in the beautiful breadth of the bay, boats, buildings. You can't help but smile and think how lucky you are to be driving toward that scene every day because it's home.

Never underrate comfort and happiness.


January 30, 2012

Source: Cristobal's staying

A source close to Mario Cristobal texted me about 10 minutes ago to say Cristobal is staying at FIU.

Smart move to make the choice and get it out today before recruits started to answer those phone calls and texts that come in every time a head coach gets linked to another school. This is the second time in two months Cristobal's chosen FIU and his hometown over what would've been a signifcant raise and a job with a higher profile program in a higher profile conference. And make no mistake Rutgers had chosen Cristobal as their No. 1 choice.

Silence Speaking Volumes

Since Friday, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia and FIU football coach Mario Cristobal have observed a sort of media silence on the reports that Rutgers was interested in Cristobal. This comes with Cristobal, who just last week hired a new offensive coordinator at FIU, trying to corral a potentially strong recruiting class with some precarious elements.

So, there's no surprise that there's a Newark Star-Ledger report out today saying an announcement of Cristobal as Rutgers head coach is imminent. Silence speaks volumes. Especially in some parts of New Jersey.

Cristobal denied the Star-Ledger report this afternoon.

Oh, and Blacsheep, I delete all your comments because I got tired of the racism in some. So, I decided to delete all of them in a de facto banning from comments.

Silence isn't golden

Before Greg Schiano hung up the phone from letting Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti know he'd need a new head football caoch, the rumor mill had FIU coach Mario Cristobal as one of the favorites for the job.

This would be a bombshell any time. Having it happen days before National Signing Day could be an ICBM into what's shaping up as a fine recruiting class.

That's when somebody should've said something.

This seems like the time for an "I will not be the Alabama head coach" even if talks are occurring (a source close to Cristobal says they aren't, although the Newark Star-Ledger reports differently). FIU needed to squash these rumors as their reaction is being watched by several kids with other coaches in their ears and on their phoes: "Yeah, you liked him, but, next year, some Rutgers kid will like him., too"

Sources close to Cristobal said he hasn't been contacted by Rutgers. A Newark Star-Ledger Sunday evening article said the opposite. Whatever, it's late in the recruiting day for this to be or remain an issue.


FIU had the Mini Dazzlers at each of their last two home basketball doubleheaders. I'm an old school father who's pretty liberal in teaching my daughter on matters of reproduction and not being ashamed of your body. Still, tarting up a bunch of little girls tarted up with too much makeup and too little attire, then letting them do a routine that includes pop-that-stuff hip thrusts is flat out creepy. It was creepy when the Heat had their kiddie version of the Heat dancers. It's really creepy at FIU.


January 26, 2012

Camp Mitch sources say: Tim Cramsey new football OC; Copeland update

Sources out at the Mitch Madique Campus say Tim Cramsey will be FIU football's new offensive coordinator.

Cramsey, a former University of New Hampshire quarterback, just spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater. The last two seasons, he was the offensive coordinator.

Expect FIU to accelerate to an up-tempo style of offense in the Oregon mode, cranking off lots of plays, trying to get some cheap scores and big plays out of defensive fatique or disorganization in the face of speed.


Speaking of speed, Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast quarterback-to-be-wide receiver Travares Copeland posted on Facebook,

"Daammmmmnnn I'm glad I'm not going2 RUTGERS.......head coach going2 NFL smh well ((fiu)) or ((west virginia)) Morgan town or Miami??????"

Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is taking the head coaching job with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nice timing, doing that a week before National Signing Day. You'd think Rutgers commits' cell phones were made of plastique, the way they'll be blowing up the next few days asking, "You still sure?" 

And, before you ask, yes, you can expect them to come after Mario Cristobal, who did some time as a Rutgers assistant. You can bet that'll be used by other schools in the final days as FIU fights for what looks like a good recruiting class together. I don't see Cristobal making that move, however.

December 29, 2011

To quote The Marx Brothers and Phil Collins....

"Hello, I must be going."


This is my first post since last week because I've been doing that Hanukkah/Christmas thing with the family as well as being stuck in Dolphinland up in Davie. The latter is where I'll be spending this week, back around Camp Mitch more next week (I hope).

But, as for this week...

A) Despite the doubts of a lucid commenter on a previous post, I still trust my sources close to Mario Cristobal who say progress is still being made on an extension. I'm curious to see if the school pusts a little more financial bass in the escape clause.

B) The women's baskteball team's Sun & Fun holiday break tournament offers two chances during the holidays to see sophomore guard Jerica Coley. FIU opens against Albany Thursday night and faces either Charlotte or Auburn Friday.

C) Men's ball heads to the last place in the Sun Belt anyone wants to go when they're having basketball trouble, Middle Tennessee State. This team that's been on the road for all but three games so far plays one half like they just listened to "We're An American Band" and another as if they just listened to "Turn The Page" with little pattern.


December 22, 2011

A few belated thoughts on Marshall 20, FIU 10...

The Mario Cristobal business took up my time Wednesday when I planned to finish and file this. That, I'm sorry about.

I usually do the postgame blog during the wind down of game night, often filing in the wee hours. It’s one thing to do that, get three to four hours sleep, then drive 15 minutes to The Cushman School or to an airport, 20 minutes to Still Joe Robbie Stadium To Me to help cover a Dolphins game, or drag my daughter 20 minutes in a wagon to Flamingo Park or handle the back end of a sleepover. I can caffeine power through that. It’s another to do that before driving four hours while phoning and texting to find out what’s up with the head football coach. Same reason I started the postgame blog, but didn’t finish and file before a 90-minute, predawn drive on unfamiliar roads to the Memphis Airport following the Arkansas State loss. It’s not smart or safe.

For those who have a problem with that, sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry, you’ll just have to get over it.

FIU looked rusty physically, stale otherwise. Five pre-snap penalties, more missed makeable throws, blocks, reads than usual. Ironically, in answering a question of mine about bowl game rust last week, Mario Cristobal said you have to come out with something new even if it’s just for show or a talented team studying you for three weeks eats you up.

I could be wrong, but it seemed the biggest new wrinkles with FIU offensively were in personnel. Redshirt sophomore Jairus Williams got targeted on the first series. Redshirt junior wide receiver Mike Jean-Louis made his first catch of the season. Running back Robert Boswell was out there in the fourth quarter in five-wide sets. Some defensive guys got unusual playing time.

“Lot of injuries,” Cristobal said after the game. “We had a fractured shoulder, a couple of other guys dinged up, a couple of possible concussions. You never want to run the risk when a guy gets dinged up and you’re not certain about how he’s responding.”

Unfortunately for FIU, the game’s most valuable substitute turned out to be Marshall left tackle Jordan Jeffries. Starting left tackle Ryan Tillman hopped toward the sideline after the game’s first play. Jeffries played the rest of the way and, in the fourth quarter, it was Jeffries who fell on Marshall running back Travon Van’s fumble one play after the blocked punt gave Marshall the ball at the FIU 23. Without that play, there’s no Tyler Warner field goal and no touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson with 30 seconds left.

Defensively, FIU looked as if it showed more pre-snap movement. Marshall was only six of 17 on third down and their 59-yard total offense advantage is right there on their final possession, the 60-yard final drive to that second Dobson touchdown. Both defenses hung in well. Marshall tackled well, a big key to the game. The Herd felt in the games they gave up points by the peck, they had too many blown tackles. They were strong practitioners of that lost art Tuesday.

Marshall’s offense just came up with the two biggest plays and Marshall’s kicking game won that matchup.

Heck, Sam Miller even had good coverage on the first Dobson touchdown. That play points up FIU’s size liability at cornerback, however. Several times this season, Miller or Jose Cheeseborough or Richard Leonard has been on the spot, but been too overmatched in size to prevent the catch, even by interference. Not everybody can have a big beast like Ronnie Lott at cornerback (people forget he came into the NFL as a corner and actually was even better there his first few NFL seasons than he was as an all-time great safety), but a few more inches of height or length on Miller might’ve prevented that 31-yard touchdown right before the half. Rakeem Cato made a near perfect throw, as he did on a couple of big plays, including the heave with a leaping James Jones in his face that Jermaine Kelson caught with one hand for a 25-yard gain in the first quarter.

The punting numbers look equal at a glance: 40.1 for Marshall’s Kase Whitehead, 40.0 for FIU’s Josh Brisk; three inside the 20 for each; longs of 46 for Whitehead, 48 for Brisk.

Whitehead’s punts seemed to describe The Arch in St. Louis. Brisk’s described a parabola. FIU couldn’t get off one return. Marshall’s Andre Booker returned four punts for 57 yards. In a defensive battle, that’s valuable land. As FIU lined up for the punt that would be blocked, I thought, “They need a good punt to change the field. The way this is going, Marshall’s going to be in position on this possession or next to win with a first down and field goal.”

One offensive wrinkle that might’ve helped FIU – an under center quarterback sneak. Look at the third quarter turn of events.

Hilton scooped a pass over the middle before going down somewhere around the first down line. Officials marked it, measured it and found FIU a midget’s forearm short of a first down. Fourth and a wrist.

FIU calls timeout to challenge the spot. I’ve seen spots changed in the replay era. Far, far, FAR more often, I’ve seen the spot remain via replay confirming the spot; inconclusive evidence (the most common one for something that as judgmental as a spot); or officials just being stubborn about supporting the judgment of one of their own. Sure enough, the spot didn’t change.

FIU punted. At your own 43, 10-10 with 6:41 left in the third quarter, when you’ve gotten stuffed on third and short earlier and aren’t the best short yardage team, punting is the safe move in a field position game. Safe doesn’t always get it done, however. FIU basically used up a timeout, always a valuable commodity in a tight game, to send a message that it’s not confident its offensive line can gain a loaf of bread against Marshall.

Marshall, meanwhile, faced with fourth and 5 on FIU’s 35 with 38 seconds left and a 13-10 lead just needed a first down to end the game. Instead of settling for the decision, they went for the knockout and got the 35-yard touchdown pass from Cato to Dobson.

Smart move? Debatable. I saw Denver do the same thing against Pittsburgh during the Steelers’ Steel Curtain era in the 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff game, the game that made a star out of Denver linebacker and now longtime ESPN studio analyst Tom Jackson. Similar pattern, too, run by a receiver with a similar last name (Jack Dolbin). A safe move? Oh, no. Any number of things could’ve gone wrong for Marshall on that play. Cato could’ve been sacked for a loss that would’ve given FIU the ball at the FIU 40 or better, a couple of nice passes from Jack Griffin field goal range. He could’ve been sacked for a loss and fumbled (See, “Central Florida,” “Jeff Godfrey,” “Tevin Blanchard,” “Isame Faciane”). The pass could’ve been blocked by a lineman and intercepted.

Instead, it was the Joe Frazier left hook that dropped Ali in the 15th round of their first fight. It clinched the decision for Marshall.

FIU ends the season 8-5, having led in every game and with 39 of 44 on their offensive and defensive two-deep returning. Most college programs would take that setup.

December 21, 2011

Source: FIU & Cristobal in negotiations for extension

A source close to FIU head football coach Mario Cristobal said FIU has been in aggressive negotiations involving a contract extension and other football program improvements. Cristobal received an extension through 2016 and a raise the day before training camp started, in August.

Various media reports out of Pittsburgh have Pitt moving on from Cristobal to Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.


Thursday at The Branch will see the long-awaited arrival of 6-11 Joey De La Rosa out of The Bronx, St. Raymond's Academy and Orlando's Montaverde Academy. He'll play against Bowling Green in FIU's third home game of the season.

Jerica Coley went for 17 points and Fanni Hutlassa had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but FIU still lost 58-53 to Middle Tennessee State Wednesday in their first Sun Belt Conference game of the season.

December 19, 2011

A few words from the president...

Post Beef O' Brady's Bowl luncheon, after talking to FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg about the impact bowls and the football program have had on the school's visibility, I asked him if the Pitt rumors were unsettling and has Mario Cristobal told him that he would be FIU's coach next year?

He replied, "I'd rather not comment on that. All I can say is I think it goes with the turf. When your'e successful, everybody loves you. So, I think that's a great thing. But, the particulars, I'm focused. I'm focused."

For what it's worth...


From Sunday in St. Pete

I apologize. I thought I had posted this last night. Apparently, I had only saved a draft. It's been a long weekend...

I know that which you seek. I know what you want. So, here it is....


Oh, and I think FIU will still have a football coach after Wednesday.

That said, nobody wants to totally squash the Mario Cristobal-to-Pitt talk, there's a lot of smoke coming out of Pittsburgh and they haven't reopened the steel mills. Cristobal acknowledged talk about his future would grow with the FIU program, but clammed up beyond that, feeling anything said would only feed the rumor mill.

Whatever offer Pitt does come up with, if they decide to offer Cristobala big hunk o' money, FIU likely won't be able to match financially. By the way, Todd Graham's reported total compensation was to be $2 million, but that was with if he hit every bonus: undefeated, national championship, curing the common cold, etc. Still his base was nearly triple what Cristobal makes now. FIU would have to give Cristobal something else. Time's a precious commodity and security is nice, but will a combination of the two just stave off this until the next noted program loses a coach? There might be something else in the way of program funding that could help keep make FIU a comfy place to stay.

Also, remember what I wrote before the season about the family ties: Cristobal has two young children and many a smart football coach says you better keep your wife happy because they're carrying the ball for your homestead like Walter Payton. Having the family in town can be a factor for the next few years. More money can buy nannies and au pairs, but not everyone's comfortable with that, especially after you've had a blood family support system. 


December 16, 2011

(A little more on...) Cristobal and Pitt

A couple of reports out of Pittsburgh have Cristobal interviewing for the job today. I have no confirmation of that and one source says flatly, "There was no interview with Pitt."

FIU practiced today. There's an official visit from junior college offensive lineman Delmar Taylor, a Miami Beach High graduate and FIU verbal commit, and home visits with recruits later. The FIU football party heads over to St. Petersburg Saturday at noon.

But surely Pitt will do some background checking on Cristobal. In the last year, Pitt saw one head coach leave for Arizona State after a season and his immediate predecessor, Mike Haywood, last only 16 days before Pitt responded to Haywood's arrest on a domestic violence charge by firing him in January.

Cristobal should come back clean on that check. Also, it helps that FIU's players don't wind up in the miscreant section of the police report. 


A source close to Cristobal said Friday morning any statement that there had been contact betwen Cristobal's agent and the University of Pittsburgh about the Pitt head coaching job was "all speculation."

For his part, Cristobal insisted that with the plethora of coaching rumors, he'd never comment on any job openings aside from FIU and his focus remained on FIU and Tuesday's bowl game.

As mentioned in my last post, compared to what Pitt was paying Todd Graham, now departed for Arizona State, Cristobal's out clause payment is just north of chump change.

Here's the funny part: Pitt would be perceived as a step up for Cristobal. It's a soon-to-be ACC program with a history of national championships, legendary players in a city that's truly drenched in football (go Christmas shopping during a Steelers' game. You'll have the store to yourself, but good luck getting someone to ring you up, even during radio commercials).

But, right now, if FIU was bowl gaming against Pitt (as nearly happened), while Pitt would be favored, I'm not sure I wouldn't take FIU. And if you told me they would be playing early next season, I might pick FIU there, too.

Then again, that's exactly why Cristobal's name comes up with every job opening east of the Mississippi.


Defensive back Davison Colimon tweeted that he remained strong in his FIU committment despite hot pursuit by Middle Tennessee State.

Some Football Stuff

Today's story: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/15/2548479/bowl-win-for-golden-panthers-could.html

You know it's a loose day at practice when AC/DC plays during some of the early team drills and players from the two-deep dance and sway to hip-hop on the PA system during the scout team scrimmage. On the sidelines were some local television cameras.

This was a "Monday" practice for Tuesday's game, albeit one without the responsibility of classes or tutors hanging over players.

Running back Kedrick Rhodes said his ankle wasn't quite 100 percent healthy, but he would be starting Tuesday. Mario Cristobal promised some new wrinkles would be added to the offensive and defensive schemes even if just for show, reasoning you can't give an opponent three weeks to get ready for you and come at them with the same stuff you used during the regular season.

Speaking of Cristobal, some of the lists made by the media covering the University of Pittsburgh have him as a potential target for the head coaching job that opened up when Todd Graham went to Arizona State. Cristobal's name gets thrown around with every opening, but wouldn't this have thrown another layer onto this game had South Florida beaten West Virginia and Pitt wound up in St. Pete against FIU?

Anyway, Graham was making a reported $2 million per year in total compensation. If you're willing to lay that kind of jack out for a coach, the buyout of Cristobal's contract, $453,183 wouldn't be much of a problem. Not saying either has pursued either at this point. Just saying the extension Cristobal signed the day before 2011 training camp started would be a low hurdle that would be taken in stride.

FIU's renaming the weight room Friday after Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.

December 13, 2011

On Quarterbacks and Bowl Practices; volleyball recruits (avec video)

Jake Medlock or Wesley Carroll at quarterback for FIU next Tuesday night in the Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl against Marshall?

"Both of those guys are doing a good job," head coach Mario Cristobal said. "We'll let it play out for a few more days, see where we're at. Heck, they've seen enough film on both guys that they'll be preparing for both quarterbacks. I don't think it changes anything for them or us.We'll keep repping those guys. Whoever looks best will go."

They run the same offense, but they run it different ways, which is why I'm sure FIU would love to keep the decision as secret as Formula 7X as long as possible. Medlock's the better runner, creates more space for the rest of the running game and was improving his accuracy before the shoulder bruise. Carroll's more experienced, generally a better decision-maker -- a huge edge in this offense -- and can do enough damage to win if he's hot for just two quarters.

Practicing for bowl games is a funky business. NFL coaches complain about the unnatural rhythms of Super Bowl preparation and that's bang-bang compared to bowl game prep. Bear Bryant once said he never figured out how to properly set up bowl game prep. Even taking into account The Bear's typical poor-mouthing, it's not an easy business.

"Many teams around the country don't have these practices, six of them are in our conference and a couple of others are opponents for next year," Cristobal said last week. "They're going to hear us use the word "develop" a lot. whether a guy is an all-conference or all-American guy or whether he's on the scout team, we can never ever stop developing."

Cristobal feels these practices afford the opportunity for the younger players to get in more work with more specialized attention, which should help in special teams for the bowl game (Marshall's teams play concerns FIU) and in setting the team up for next season. He said the early practices they've found a couple of young players who can play special teams next Tuesday.

"I thought last year's 15 days did wonders for us. Giancarlo Revilla is an example. What he did last year in thos epractices determined what he was in the spring adn what he was coming in as a starter. These practices are priceless."

Wide receiver T.Y.Hilton and kicker Jack Griffin received honorable mention notice on SportsIllustrated.com's All-America team.

ESPN's announcing crew for the game will be Mike Patrick on play-by-play, Craig James on color, Jeannine Edwards in the thankless sideline reporting role.


During the early signing period, FIU signed Ashlee Hodgskin, Gloria Levorin, Gabriela Roman, Hayley Miller.

Hodgskin, a 5-10 setter from Windemere, went to three high schools in four years.


Levorin's a 6-1 middle blocker from Padova, Italy. Playing for Logitronic Fidas Vicenza, she was the 2009 MVP of the Bleu Girl League. She also was the MVP in 2008-09 for her scholastic team.

Gabriela Roman, 5-11, is a hitter from Puerto Rico, a member of 2011 Puerto Rico's Junior National Team.

Hayley Miller, a 5-4 defensive specialist, was a three-time all-county pick at St. John's Creekside High.




December 04, 2011

Some Things About Saturday...

ADDING ONTO THE TOP: Several folks have told me they've heard a Division I quarterback out of Miami, a spectacular sophomore with a spread option skill set, isn't terribly happy with where he is and might want to transfer back home. If he did, it wouldn't be to the offense in Coral Gables.


FIU got what everybody connected with the program wanted because athletic director Pete Garcia got proactive. As I wrote months back, I think Garcia's done an excellent job in understanding what a pivotal year this is for the football team and athletic program overall.

Garcia's been talking to the Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl for over a year, lobbying hard the last two months and building an overall relationship with them and the bowl folks at ESPN, owners of the game. If you're a college football program that still could use some broader exposure, there are worse friends to make.

"The fact that ESPN had us on national TV seven times in the first eight games...I keep (talking) about ESPN because they believe in us," Garcia said. "We've got a great relationship with them and we've got to do everything we can to keep that relationship going."

As stated on a blog going into last week's season finale, FIU gives ESPN fun football: big plays, speed, usually some drama. Frankly, if I were ESPN, the only thing I'd want to tell FIU as far as its games on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU is let's not do Tuesday anymore -- on TV, the crowd for the Troy game came off as embarrassing for a good program.

I asked Garcia how much he thought he the online fan blitz of the Beef O'Brady's folks affected the bowl's decision.

"I thank all our fans for their enthusiasm and support. We take our hats off to them. But this is something without winning the eight games, I'm not even sure if we had won seven, if we would've gotten the invitation. I've got to give credit to our football team for putting us into position to be invited. The quality of football they're playing...I don't want to single any one player out, but we play pretty exciting football and TV likes that."

"It's a team effort. We're the FIU family." 

Garcia kept giving props to the football team, as if needing to hammer home that the team had a good season: "I want to brag on our football team a bit. They're 8-4. That's not only the best record in Florida. They are the only football team south of Orlando and Tampa going to a bowl game."

Earlier, Cristobal was finishing answering my question about comparing the feeling this year to last, he also threw in a reference to FIU's unique position locally. He said the way last year ended, with a tough loss to Middle Tennessee, made it hard to fully enjoy the bowl game invitation that came the next day.

“What makes this one just as special is that we won our last game at Middle Tennessee with a better regular season record. And the ability to play a game right here, in our home state that speaks volumes. To represent the city of Miami and South Florida in a postseason game. I haven’t checked who’s playing where, but I do believe we’re the only South Flroida team representing in the postseason. It speaks volumes of our athletic department, our student-athletes and the university.” 

Check out Bowl Central at http://www.fiusports.com for oodles of Beef O'Brady's Bowl information stuff.

Also want to say again -- it's in the comments of the previous blog -- why there wasn't a headlined story online sooner than a few hours afterwards Saturday.

This season, this blog is where I've put breaking news first. On a few occasions, I've updated this blog several times until it's time to write the story that'll appear online or in print, then I've come back to the blog later for a more analytical look at the news. I've done it that way because it's faster, allows more flexibility in posting (a few blog posts, including Saturday's first, were made off my BlackBerry while doing Daddy stuff) and it's the way I've seen it best handled in other places at this paper and others.

That's the way I did it Saturday. Could I also have taken much of the same information, juggled it around a bit and done a regular story that would've appeared online earlier? Yes. But I didn't. I was slammed and felt the news was out there in a blog post that would be noted on the front page of the site and the sports site page. As it was, I wound up filing the last item 30 minutes late, an eternity in this business. If you want to say the "tease" to the blog post off the front or the one off the http://www.miamiherald.com/sports page should've been more prominent, maybe you're right.

I just grabbed the print Sports section. Top story, stripped across the top, Dolphins vs. Raiders. It's an NFL Sunday, folks. Two columns, one by Dan LeBatard on NFL violence and one on Howard Schnellenberger's last game coaching. Below the fold, my column on FIU/Orange Bowl/bowls, focused on FIU. You can say that's playing FAU over FIU, so it's bad story placement. Or you can say that's a column on the last game of, arguably, the most significant figure in modern South Florida college football, without whom neither program would exist (see my postgame FIU-FAU game blog or my pregame print/online story), so it's correct story placement.

To say I or The Herald were trying to "sit on the story" or downplay it is ridiculous. I wrote about FIU's bowl situation several times in stories that ran online and in print -- it was the advance story for the Louisiana-Monroe game -- and even more often on this blog. Though Thursday was my day off, I blogged as soon as the West Virginia-South Florida game ended with the result, a few things about the game and what it meant for FIU's chances to get to St. Pete. Saturday, as soon as the Cincy game ended, a blog post went up saying that alone might've been enough to get FIU into the St. Pete game. I texted, called furiously Thursday, Friday and Saturday, hoping to find out FIU's bowl fate as soon as possible for both professional and personal purposes (in 24 holiday seasons of this profession, I've been extremely lucky to be home every Christmas and all but two New Year's Eves.).

No blog appeared Friday nor story in Saturday's paper advancing Saturday's games and what might happen for FIU. I was on furlough Friday. That means I'm off, no pay and not allowed by company policy to have anything to do with The Herald. My Twitter account is personal. I chose that furlough date back in September.

Some of FIU fans' dissatisfaction with The Herald I understand from living it as an FIU beat reporter back when 70 percent of the buildings on campus now were no closer to reality than being on the Brady dad's architect drawing table. It wasn't a "we hate FIU" attitude at The Herald, but just a mindset that FIU was the other Division I program in town, the one without a football team, with good baseball, soccer and women's basketball teams. I'm not sure anybody cared enough about FIU to hate FIU. It wasn't even a full stand alone beat. I got into some blistering arguments with editors -- all of whom have gone on to retirement, other papers or their reward in the hereafter -- over decisions they made out of habit. ("I did it right the first time. You butchered it. You made the mess, you clean it up!" a 22-year-old me snapped often in a running argument with an editor over one story.)

I'm sure slights have happened that nursed anti-Herald feelings in the many years between then and when I re-took this beat in June. But I'm also sure there's been a plethora of good coverage from each beat reporter and The Herald. Good coverage isn't always pretty. I'm comfortable with most of what we've done since June. Nobody's ever going to be perfect and complain when you want here. You can be mean, just keep it clean (relatively).

But when I or The Herald doesn't handle something in the manner you like, do me a favor and at least assume an absence of malice on our part. I'm not sure who in The Herald has time or energy for malice these days. I sure don't.


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