The original plan approved by the Board of Trustees in December accounted for two practice fields, one natural grass, one phony grass, to be built south of FIU Baseball Stadium and the Nature Preserve. But a boldface slip-out clause comes on Page 8 of the Jan. 6 facility program document in PDF form: "The Project will include consideration of lower cost, alternative sites, such as at or adjacent to the soccer stadium, Tamiami Park, etc."
Word on the information superhighway is the new site is over the Nature Preserve. That prompted this petition and a flurry of Tweets and Facebook posts saying, "NOOOOO!"
I expect to hear soon that the school's given men's soccer coach Scott Calabrese a new deal after his second FIU team won the Conference USA tournament, spent part of the season ranked and lost a tough NCAA tournament road game to Tulsa. Calabrese gets a bump in pay from his $55,000 salary.
That's $55,000 in Miami. Up in Lexington, where you could buy several nice houses and the nearby Waffle House for the cost of one Kendall 3/2 with small side yards, University of Kentucky coach Johan Cedergren makes $105,000. South Carolina's Mark Berson's making $108,060 in a cheap market. OK, that's Kentucky and South Carolina, members of the SEC plutocracy who slum it in Conference USA to play the people's game. So, let's look at Charlotte...
Men's soccer head coach Kevin Langan makes $70,840. In Charlotte.
For those who've asked, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia's contract expires Oct. 15. If he's re-upped, look for it to happen over the summer.
When writing this story on recruiting Florida vs. recruiting International, I thought the following from volleyball coach Rita Buck-Crockett deleted from my recorder. So, obviously, I didn't use it. But Buck-Crockett's built both volleyballs, sand and indoor, with a mixture of players.
""If we need an instant game changer, then you're probably going to get that quicker by recruiting an international to come in as a freshman or a junior college, experienced player," she said. "If you have a program that's built, then you can bring freshmen that you're training and get them involved."
Expect a couple of transfers to be announced from Rutgers and Tennessee soon.
Curious about how FIU ranks among its Conference USA peers since moving from the Sun Belt Fun Belt in 2013, a curiosity prodded by several people inside and outside the athletic department asking the same thing, I did a little record hunting.
Now, obviously, the best answer to the above would be found by compiling the records of each CUSA school in each sport that FIU plays, weighting for things like missed conference tournaments, NCAA runs, conference tournament runs, individual brilliance (such as FIU's Meghan MacLaren tearing up the 2015 conference golf tournament). But all that would take up way too large a portion of whatever time I have left on this plane of existence. So, here's what I did:
I ranked the schools on overall and conference records since 2013 in football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and then a wild card sport -- each school's best sport in which FIU also participates.
You play to win championships, so when ranking in conference play, the title winners eat first. When I assign point values later to determine an overall ranking, conference play will get greater weight. You get more credit for beating your peers than you do gorging on lesser punks.
I see the obvious flaws. With a relatively small sample size, one great or abysmal season can swing the results too hard in one direction. That's even more the case with schools that entered CUSA after the Great Sun Belt Migration of 2013 brought FIU, FAU, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State to the league. But, outside of Intelligent Benevolent Dictatorship, no perfect systems exist.
Here's the rankings for each sport:
1. Marshall – 33-8, three bowl wins
2. Western Kentucky – 20-7, two bowl wins.
3. Rice – 23-16, two bowl appearances, one win.
4. Louisiana Tech – 22-17, two bowl wins.
5. Middle Tennessee State -- 21-17, two bowl appearances.
6. Old Dominion – 11-13
7. North Texas -- 14-23, won one bowl game.
8. UTEP – 14-23, one bowl appearance
9. UTSA – 14-22 (ranked behind UTEP and North Texas despite a smidge better record because UTEP’s extra loss came in a bowl game and North Texas’ extra game was a bowl win).
10. Southern Mississippi – 13-25, one bowl appearance
11. FAU – 12-24
12. UAB – 8-16 (loses tiebreaker with FAU on, you know, the program being dead, then revived to two-season coma).
13. FIU – 10-26
14. Charlotte – 2-10
1. Marshall -- 20-4, one conference title
2. Western Kentucky -- 12-4, one conference title.
3. Rice – 15-9, one conference title.
4. Middle Tennessee State – 17-7
5. Louisiana Tech -- 16-8
6. UTSA – 12-12
7. Old Dominion – 7-9
8. Southern Mississippi – 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over UTEP, North Texas and FAU based on a Conference USA West Division title.)
9. UTEP 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over North Texas and FAU on combined head-to-head record)
10. North Texas -- 9-15 (head-to-head tiebreaker over FAU)
11. FAU -- 9-15
12. UAB – 5-11
13. FIU – 7-17
14. Charlotte – 0-8
MEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL
1. Louisiana Tech – 68-19
2. UTEP – 55-27
3. Old Dominion – 53-32
4. Middle Tennessee State -- 51-31
5. UAB – 49-32
6. Western Kentucky -- 28-18
7. FIU – 38-40
8. North Texas 36-42
9. Charlotte – 17-28
10. Marshall – 27-52
11. UTSA – 25-50
12. Rice – 24-53
13. FAU – 21-53
14. Southern Mississippi – 41-36 (placed down here for two years of self-imposed postseason bans after fundamental NCAA violations, such as completing homework assignments for recruits).
MEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE
1. UAB -- 20-15, one Conference USA title
2. Louisiana Tech – 31-6
3. UTEP -- 27-9
4. Western Kentucky -- 12-7
5. Old Dominion – 23-12
6. Middle Tennessee State – 22-13
7. FIU – 16-19
8. North Texas -- 17-21
9. Charlotte – 7-12
10. UTSA -- 13-23
11. Marshall – 12-23
12. Rice – 10-26
13. FAU – 7-27
14. Southern Mississippi -- 17-18 (See above)
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL
1. Western Kentucky – 40-7
2. Middle Tennessee State – 60-20
3. Southern Mississippi – 60-22
4. UTEP – 52-25
5. UAB – 41-33
6. Old Dominion – 44-37
7. FAU -- 38-34
8. Marshall – 38-37
9. Charlotte – 22-22
10. UTSA – 34-40
11. Louisiana Tech – 33-42
12. Rice – 24-49
13. North Texas -- 23-48
14. FIU -- 20-54
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE
1. Western Kentucky – 17-2, one conference title
2. Middle Tennessee State 30-5, one conference title
3. Southern Mississippi -- 27-8
4. Old Dominion -- 21-14
5. UTEP – 21-15
6. Charlotte – 10-9
7. UAB – 18-17
8. Louisiana Tech – 15-20
9. UTSA -- 15-21
10. FAU -- 14-21
11. Marshall -- 11-24
12. Rice – 11-25
13. North Texas -- 11-25
14. FIU – 6-29
1. Rice – 79-42, one NCAA at-large bid
2. Southern Mississippi – 71-43-1
3. FAU – 70-44, one NCAA at-large bid
4. UAB – 68-46
5. UTSA – 68-51
6. FIU – 66-51
7. Old Dominion – 63-54
8. Middle Tennessee State – 63-54
9. Western Kentucky – 24-28
10. Louisiana Tech – 40-62
11. Marshall – 40-63
12. Charlotte – 38-60-1
North Texas & UTEP – No team
1. Rice -- 45-15, one conference title
2. FIU – 29-31, one conference title
3. Southern Mississippi – 38-21
4. Middle Tennesse State – 37-24
5. UAB -- 35-25
6. FAU -- 33-26
7. UTSA -- 33-28
8. Old Dominion – 30-30
9. Marshall -- 22-37
10. Charlotte -- 21-38
11. Western Kentucky – 10-19
12. Louisiana Tech – 13-46
North Texas & UTEP – No team
WILD CARD SPORT
1. Western Kentucky – Volleyball. 62-10, 30-2 in conference, two conference tournament titles.
Winning the Conference USA title earned FIU some personal All-Region wall decorations for three players this week, just as it earned men's soccer coach Scott Calabrese the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Southeast Region Coach of the Year last week.
(And it should earn him a new contract. Got to check on that...)
Anyway, junior defender Marvin Hezel made First Team All-Region. Senior midfielder Danny Gonzalez got on the Second Team. Sophomore forward Luis Betancur made the Third Team.
Conference USA tournament champion FIU opens the men's soccer tournament Thursday at Tulsa. The winner gets the tournament's No. 7 seed, Notre Dame, on Sunday.
"Any team that's in this tournament is going to be very difficult team to play," FIU coach Scott Calabrese said. "We're unfamiliar with Tulsa. We haven't played them in recent times as they left (Conference USA). So we're going to have to study them, prepare for them and we'll be ready."
As for if he thought FIU would get a seed, Calabrese said, "I think we're very close. If you look at the RPI, we were one of the teams right on the bubble to be seeded. It doesn't surprise me we didn't get seeded. Had we been the 16th seed, I also thought that was possible."
FIU's RPI ranked 16th in the nation. None of the four CUSA teams -- FIU and the three Top 25 teams, regular season champion Kentucky, South Carolina, Charlotte -- received a seeding.
Calabrese, the co-winner of Conference USA's Coach of the Year, has a year left on his contract. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said the school will extend Calabrese. Also, the coach and team will be honored at halftime of Monday's men's basketball game against Florida Memorial.
Midfielder Patrick Lopez's goal off a header in the 75th minute gave FIU the only goal it needed in Sunday's Conference USA championship game against Marshall. The 1-0 win gave FIU it's first Conference USA men's soccer title, the third conference title for the Panthers athletic department in 2015 (Swimming & Diving, Baseball, Men's Soccer) and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Midfielder Daniel Gonzalez was named Offensive MVP of the tournament. Goalkeeper Arthur Clapot was the defensive MVP. Lopez and defender Marvin Hezel also made the All-Tournament team.
FIU's last NCAA tournament appearance was 2004, the same year as their last conference title (Atlantic Soccer Conference). The NCAA announces the tournament pairings Monday afternoon.
"(Marshall) did a good job of limiting our space around the midfield," FIU coach Scott Calabrese said. "Once we got into position, you had to make a perfect pass and a perfect run. Still, we were close to scoring in the run of play. And they were dangerous on the counter and very dangerous on set pieces. They have a couple of guys who are good in the air.
"The statistics might look lopsided, but there were times in the game when we had to sharp defensively."
As conference titles go, this might be FIU's most impressive in any sport -- ever.
Conference USA's one of the best soccer conferences in the country. The last National Soccer Coaches of America Association poll included three CUSA teams (No. 11 Kentucky, No. 17 South Carolina, No. 24 Charlotte) and Old Dominion in the Others Receiving Votes. None of them made the conference tournament final. FIU knocked off Old Dominion, 4-2, and Kentucky, 1-0. Marshall took out Charlotte and South Carolina. Of the seven teams in the conference tournament, six had been ranked in the Top 25 at some point in the season.
I asked Calabrese when he thought FIU could finish on top of this savage battle royal of soccer.
"I think there were signs early on with how well we competed with UNC and Wake," Calabrese said, referring to close losses to teams now ranked No. 4 and No. 1, respectively. "It was clear we had players who could compete at that level. As the season went on, when we fell behind and were able to fight back into games, it showed we had the desire to win."
Whether within games or in the season, Calabrese liked the way FIU answered when challenged. They lost to Charlotte 1-0 in a game Calabrese felt they controlled. That was followed by a 4-3 loss to UAB when the Blazers came back from a 3-1 halftime deficit. Less than 20 minutes from a third straight loss, goals by Gonzalez and Lopez gave the Panthers a 2-1 win against Old Dominion.
"Every good team deals with adversity," Calabrese said. "What you do with it determines your season. We always fought our way back."
OK, you knew it could happen, maybe even felt it probably would happen, hoped it wouldn't happen, but it did. Marshall took FIU to Fiftyburger and got a Shutout Shake with it.
Playing on the road against a team that's better than they are anyway and on a day heavy with feeling, the Panthers gave up big plays early and got nothing steady going offensively. Then, they got crushed.
Obviously, the soccer team can't make up for 52-0 when it faces Marshall in the Conference USA Championship Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., although FIU will be heavily favored. The Panthers smoked The Herd 5-1 earlier this season.
There won't be an official FIU watch party for that. There was for Saturday's game, at Carolina Ale House in Doral. I arrived early in the first quarter with Marshall up 7-0.
I've been in Miami long enough to know: heavy rain=light crowd, even indoors. There were 17 people there. That's 17 more than I saw or recognized from Athletics. Nor did I see the advertised giveaways of two basketball courtside tickets or two suite tickets for next week's regular season finale. And I heard that the circle of televisions on the game weren't on the game until after kickoff.
What's was up with that? The advertisements for the Watch Party didn't say canceled in case of rain.
Despite all the jokes about 1-0 soccer scores, FIU doesn't know anything about 1-0. The Panthers didn't win a single game by that score this season. Heck, they only managed two shutouts, 3-0 over Stetson and a 0-0 Senior Night game against New Mexico.
No. 11 Kentucky knows about 1-0. In fact, the ultra-defensive Wildcats beat FIU by that score in the regular season finale. They conceded only one goal in Conference USA play all season.
Make that two, as FIU advanced to the Conference USA title game with a 1-0 win over Kentucky Friday night. Daniel Gonzalez first half penalty kick held up for the Panthers, which play the winner of South Carolina-Marshall Sunday at 2 p.m. for the championship and NCAA bid.
FIU's first appearance in the Conference USA tournament since 2007 will go at least one more round after the Panthers knocked out Old Dominion, 4-2, Wednesday afternoon. Next up comes No. 1 seed Kentucky, which had a first round bye.
The Panthers scored the match's first two and last two goals for their second win of the season against Old Dominion.
If you have Veterans Day off or if you're of a mind to be a corporate time-stealing weasel (not in the pejorative sense), you might want to click here to see No. 5 seed FIU vs. No. 4 seed Old Dominion in the first round of the Conference USA men's soccer tournament.
You'll see two Conference USA All-Academic Team members wearing the Former Sunblazers colors. Junior defender Marvin Hezel's a First Team All-CUSA defender and on the all-academic team for his 3.31 GPA in international business. Goalkeeper Arthur Clapot started three games in goal and has a 1.08 goals against average. More impressive: a 4.0 GPA in marketing.
Men's soccer, the best of fall sports at FIU back when the PC and DM comprised half the campus classrooms, returned to that station this fall with a 9-6-1 season and the first Conference USA tournament berth since 2007.
The CUSA coaches recognized this by voting Scott Calabrese Co-Coach of the Year along with sxxxx from regular season champion Kentucky. Defender Marvin Hezel got First Team all-conference honors. On the Second Team: midfielders Daniel Gonzelez, Ismael Longo and forward Luis Betancur. Defender Stefen Bohm made the All-Freshman team.
FIU plays Old Dominion Wednesday in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.
Men's soccer preceded the rest of the athletic program in joining Conference USA, which is sort of a conference for programs without a conference (nod to Men in Black's Casablanca exchange). And it preceded the rest of the program in failing to make its CUSA tournament, which it last did in 2007.
Or, rather, 2015. This weekend's results, including beating No. 9 Old Dominion Saturday, clinched a place in the Conference USA tournament for the men's soccer team.
It also moved FIU up in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll to just outside the Top 25. FIU's sits first among Also Receiving Votes with 32 points, seven points behind No. 25 Monmouth.
Old Dominion stayed ranked, falling only to No. 14. That keeps CUSA with four teams in the Top 25: No. 12 SMU, Old Dominion, No. 16 Kentucky, No. 22 South Carolina.
FIU men's soccer stock looks like it's pulled from the bull markets of the program's first glory era, the 1980s.
In the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, the Panthers zoomed from No. 24 to No. 14. Since the last poll posted last Tuesday, FIU beat Marshall 5-1. I'm not sure if some coaches sent in their ballots last week before FIU stomped FAU 7-2 Monday night, so that might factor into the 6-2 Panthers Jordanesque vertical leap.
Put up a hat trick in a conference game, you'll probably be in line for conference offensive player of the week if you do anything more than navel cleaning the second game. So, when FIU junior Luis Betancur followed up his hat trick in the No. 24 Panthers' 7-2 scorching of FAU with a goal in Friday's 5-1 stomping of Marshall, Conference USA could've started doing the press release.
Conference USA's Offensive Player of the Week for women's soccer split her scoring evenly. Fifth-year senior Scarlet Montoya picked up one goal and one assist in each of FIU's wins last week, 3-1 over UTSA and 3-2 over UTEP. She stuck in free kick for the last minute game winner against UTEP.
Before we get to the ball-and-butt kickers that have been the nationally-ranked men's soccer team, here's a couple of quick hits.
Freshman safety Tyree Johnson proudly announced via Twitter that he's making his first collegiate start today against Louisiana Tech.
Video coordinator Brian Duval's on this trip. Also let's hope unlike the last road game and last week's home game, the ESPN1210 radio broadcast team of Mike Levine and Wesley Carroll will be able to analyze the game at halftime. The last two weeks, they've been forced to spend halftime talking to a stream of Burger King executives, suite buyers and other assorted FIU hangers-on who have nothing to say about the game being broadcast.
Pregnancy is the reason last year's Conference USA Freshman of the Year Kiandre'a Pound will miss this season. Pound and her boyfriend, junior football safety Wilkenson Myrtil, found out three weeks ago that she's in the family way.
Looking on the on-court upside, a very good player doesn't use up a year of eligibility during the transition year that usually follows a coaching change.
The five-game win streak No. 24 FIU takes into today's match with Marshall has its roots in the two-game losing streak against soccer royalty North Carolina and Wake Forest that opened the season.
"When you play Chapel Hill and Wake Forest, you have to defend well," FIU coach Scott Calabrese said. "You have to defend from your forwards, your midfield, back and you have to get good play from your goalkeeper. The biggest change this season is all 11 players on the field was committed to working hard to defend. That's reflected in the goals against, but also the goals scored because we tend to win the ball higher in the field."
The Panthers' team effort is such that when I asked Calabrese for who he'd call standout players aside from the obvious -- defender Marvin Hezel, leading goal scorers Luis Betancur and Daniel Gonzalez -- he couldn't. He pointed out FIU's had 10 different goal scorers and "all 11 are defending."
Clearly, he's happy with where the team is seven games into his second season at FIU.
"The goal for our teams as coaches was to try to create a positive environment where players were committed to each other and committed to high standards," he said. "I seen the players have committed themselves to things on and off the field."
Volleyball -- Thursday vs. Bethune-Cookman, 1 p.m.
Volleyball -- Thursday vs. Central Florida, 7 p.m.
Women's Soccer -- Friday vs. UC-Irvine, 7 p.m.
Volleyball -- Friday vs. Seattle, 7 p.m.
Football -- Saturday vs. North Carolina-Central, 6 p.m.
Volleyball -- Sunday vs. FAU, 1 p.m.
Women's Soccer -- Sunday vs. Florida, 1 p,m.
The men's soccer team took care of an Ivy League quinella over the weekend, dumping Penn and Princeton to stretch their winning streak to four games. The 4-2 Panthers impressed enough folks to move up to just outside the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Top 25, 27th with 29 voting points. FIU's two losses were on the season-opening road trip to No. 3 North Carolina and No. 7 Wake Forest.
On a weekend during which senior Lucia Castro surpassed 1,000 career kills, volleyball won the Stetson Invitational with wins against Stetson (3-2) and Mercer (3-0). Senior Gloria Levorin slammed 19 kills and made 11 blocks for the 6-2 Panthers.
Thursday and Friday's Panther Invite features FIU in three matches over two days, timed perfectly for skipping class or taking in an athletic contest before starting the weekend.
Women's soccer -- Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.
Men's soccer -- Saturday vs. Princeton, 7 p.m.
The opening lines, out of Vegas and the offshore sites, installed FIU as a 7.5-point underdog to Indiana. The Hoosiers struggled to beat FCS foe Southern Illinois at home after game-time suspensions of nine players, most of them on defense.
Still, that seems a strangely large line for favoring IU or putting FIU as an underdog.
As I watched the replay of Thursday's game, I realize forgot to address the two-point conversions in the postgame blog.
The second two-point conversion try, well, yeah -- 15-14 to 16-14, so what? You still lose on a field goal and you're a touchdown behind if you give up a touchdown. Might as well go for 17-14.
As for the first, during the game, I thought, "Oooo, just take the point." Later, though, the logic came clear. It wasn't about momentum, but math and cold-eyed reality.
After Alex Gardner's 7-yard run pulled FIU to 14-9, each team had allowed one real touchdown drive in two-plus quarters. UCF got a quick, 26-yard touchdown drive off the Alex Gardner fumble. You should hope you'll reach the end zone again. You can believe you'll reach the end zone again. But you have to know there's a decent probability you won't reach the end zone again.
A customary conversion still leaves FIU needing a touchdown to avoid defeat. Getting two would've left FIU just a field goal short of tying the game. The two teams allowed only one more score, as it turned out (that it was an FIU touchdown is immaterial -- we're talking about what the coaching staff knows at that moment in the third quarter).
Going for two at 14-9 describes greedy if you're in the first half of a game where points flow at a normal pace. But in the situation facing FIU, the Panthers made a smart move.
Alex Lamars, a National Weather Service meteorologist, updated his College Football Climatology for 2015.
The two FBS schools in Miami-Dade County tie for second in Average Rainfall from September to November and fifth in Most Rainy Days from September to November. To find the leader in both those categories you have to go all the way north...to FAU.
After two almosts in ACC country last weekend, the men's soccer team rebounded with two wins this weekend. Sunday, FIU went over to Deland and put DeFoot into Stetson's DeBooty 3-0. Brad Fountain, Santiago Patino, who assisted on Fountain's goal, and Jamar Campion-Hinds scored for the 2-2 Panthers
The women (2-3) got it done late again. Madlen Weinhardt, who assisted on the overtime game-winner in the season opener, struck in the 81st minute to give FIU a 1-0 win against Miami of Ohio.