January 21, 2015

A DC Swap?; Universe Irony; Wet Bucks

These things happen sometimes. Somebody takes Job A, leaving Job B open. The person who most recently had Job A needs work and sees an opening at Job B. When it's all done, it looks like a good old fashioned Ken Stabler-for-Dan Pastorini trade.

Paul Chryst left the head coaching job at Pitt to go back to Wisconsin. First reports put Matt House, Pitt's defensive coordinator the last three years, in the U-Haul as Chryst moved back to Madison. But then Chryst decided to keep Badger incumbent Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, new Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi hired FIU's defensive coordinator Josh Conklin and linebackers coach Rob Haley.

So, now, House has no home and FIU doesn't have a defensive coordinator. Wonder if that match is being made.

House's defenses ranked 34th and 33rd nationally in 2013 and 2014, although it helped greatly in 2014 that Pitt's pounding carnivore style of offense ranked fifth in time of possession, shrinking possessions per game and holding down total defense numbers.

Just a thought...

MISS UNIVERSE

Reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler visited the FIU volleyball team Tuesday. Though she clearly fit in by height if not athleticism, does anybody see the irony in the symbol of the event costing FIU Athletics around $540,000 visiting one of the athletic department's most underfunded teams?

Michael Vasquez's Sunday Herald article quotes FIU AD Pete Garcia, in an interview at least a week past, as estimating the pageant will bring "close to $400,000" to FIU. A Friday release by FIU Athletics estimated $330,000.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Perusing e-mails from a records request, I saw that FIU Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Jessell contributed $4,000 in November to FIU's water women for "the acquisition of training equipment," according to Jessell's e-mail to several athletic department folks. That'll be matched by Athletics to give $8,000 to the swimmers for new training equipment.

If you were wondering -- I was, I figured you might be too -- Jessell's salary is $329,250, according to Florida Has a Right to Know. Still, that's not that's not chump change he's throwing in the pool.

 

January 19, 2015

Another FIU Freshman Honored

Not a bad year for the newbies on campus.

Freshman quarterback Alex McGough started 11 games for the football team while freshman running back Alex Gardner tied redshirt junior Anthon Samuel for the led the team in rushing. Freshman swimmer Silvia Scalia and freshman diver Rebecca Quensel each have compiled four Conference USA performer of the week awards.

And now redshirt freshman forward Kiandre'a Pound has four Conference USA Freshmen of the Week awards. Pound averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in FIU's losses at Western Kentucky and Marshall. 

Another Phone Suggestion

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, vs. Florida Gulf Coast, Saturday, 11 a.m.

Tennis, vs. Liberty, Sunday, noon

It's 36 degrees this morning in Albany, New York, the state capital where the University of Albany football team went 7-5 this season playing at the FCS level.

In his first year on staff as assistant head coach/linebackers coach was Bernard Clark, well known in these warmer parts as a former golden era (not Golden Era) Hurricanes linebacker and twice an FIU assistant. Clark applied to be a part of Ron Turner's first staff two years ago. FIU's got a linebackers assistant coach spot available, one that paid Rob Harley $102,000 last year with no state income tax. Clark's done that job several places, with varying levels of success.

Might be worth the kind of getting-to-know-you phone call FIU never made to then-Central coach Telly Lockette, now coaching running backs at Oregon State...

 

 

 

January 18, 2015

Pressing Matters

There used to be a saying among basketball coaches that "you can't press a good team." My first 21+ years in basketball country provided little evidence to the contrary, save No. 14 Cleveland State upsetting No. 3 Indiana in the first round of the 1986 NCAA tournament. I still believe an experienced, well-drilled team dismantles all but the most athletic presses and traps. 

But "experienced" and "well-drilled" rarely describe even the best college-affiliated basketball teams these days. So many rosters get a remix each year. Players declare for the draft as soon as somebody tells them they have a shot. There's almost as much player movement between schools as there is between NBA or NBA D-League teams. Coaches seem to find it easier to get a team trapping and pressuring properly than getting a lineup proficient at dismantling it.

FIU can be a good team. They'd be better than 9-9 without spending eight consecutive road games during 44 days between home games. They're also a new mix of players -- Adrian Diaz, Kris Gulley, Daviyon Draper, Tashawn Desir, Ray Rodriguez all playing significant minutes this year, none on the floor for FIU last year.

That said, Saturday night, in a game between the two Conference USA schools without dedicated video people in their athletic departments, the Panthers looked completely discombobulated by Western Kentucky's press, improperly so. When Daviyon Draper said after the game that the press surprised the Panthers, I thought not sure why it should have, but I'm glad it did. I'd hate for a team to look that stunned seeing something they knew was coming.

Then, FIU either couldn't figure out who was supposed to stay back and help or when they got through, didn't know what to do with the numbers and space. FIU coach Anthony Evans said afterward he thought the Panthers got complacent in the second half and stopped attacking overall.

FIU maintained a lead most of the time Adrian Diaz sat with first half foul trouble, then slowly lost it before halftime. Diaz wound up playing only 25 minutes. After his second consecutive game with limited minutes by two early fouls, Diaz said he's got to stay out of foul trouble. The questionable quality of Thursday's calls on Diaz created a karmic situation satisfied by the way the refs turned a blind eye to Diaz repeatedly committing his fifth foul. Saturday, there wasn't much to beef about either way.

The Panthers have 12 days to sharpen themselves against the defensive schemes that caused their offensive malfunctions three of the last four games. This would've been the second travel partner game week, when you have one conference game because you're playing your travel partner, FAU in the case of FIU.

(For those unfamiliar with the travel partner system, it works thusly -- when FIU plays on a Thursday at, say, Marshall Feb. 26, FAU will play at Western Kentucky. Saturday, Feb. 28, FIU and FAU will switch opponents, just as Marshall and Western Kentucky did this week. So, there's only one conference game travel partner week, which was the first week of conference play and will be this week for everybody but FIU and FAU.)

The moving of the game from next Saturday to Feb. 3 to accommodate the Miss Universe pageant creates the almost-fortnight gap followed by five games in 10 days. At least the last two, Feb. 5 against Texas-San Antonio and Feb. 7 against UTEP, are at home.

Great crowd again, by the way. I think three of eight cabanas were in use.

January 17, 2015

Dealing With Streakers

Here's what both FIU basketballs face today against Western Kentucky:

Neither gender of Hilltoppers has lost to a team from outside the state of Kentucky since Thanksgiving. The women lost to Mississippi State Nov. 23 and the men lost to Stony Brook Nov. 25.

The last basketball game Western Kentucky lost was to Louisville. That's correct for either gender. The women lost to now-No. 4 Louisville 89-67 on Nov. 25 (apparently, the last truly bad day for Western basketball). The men's team lost to now-No. 6 Louisville, 76-67, on Dec. 20.

Since then, they've gone 18 for 18, 12 in a row for the women and six in a row for the men. The women sit just outside the Associated Press Top 25, atop the "Others Receiving Votes" group. The chances at Western for still-struggling FIU clearly rank around "Chaminade."

Western's men, who face FIU today on Lime Court at Formerly Sunblazer Arena, don't have that stature, but have been playing the best ball in Conference USA along with Louisiana Tech.

FIU could cause them problems, especially 6-10 Adrian Diaz inside. Western's got 6-10 Aleksej Rostov and 7-1 Ben Lawson to counter Diaz, but they combined for just over 27 minutes per game. Diaz plays 29.3 but unless he gets in foul trouble, look for him to get 35 or 36 minutes. Also, he'll need to help defensively on 6-6 senior forward George Fant, last week's Conference USA co-Player of the Week.

Both teams observed Casual Friday after winning overtime games Thursday night. Another reason besides winter weather the FAU-FIU travel partner swing ranks as the confrence's favorite: just get on the bus the next day for an hour. No lounging around in cramped airport seats. No possible plane issues. Western came down and broke a sweat.

FIU coach Anthony Evans put his name on the bottom of a letter asking for the same kind of crowd that filled the arena's lower sections for Thursday's win against Marshall. Could help -- before Thursday, the Hill People's last game outside Kentucky was Dec. 13 and they've played only five road games all season.

 

January 16, 2015

Home Balling

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A happy Panthers bunch grinned and hugged through the alma mater Thursday night as if not quite ready for the come down usually already embraced by the time this closing credits tune sails.

And why not? In their 66-62 overtime win, they really made two comebacks to win in the kind of game where you usually get only one shot.

Down 38-21 early in the second half, FIU went on a 12-0 run as the Panthers got to Marshall on the defensive perimeter. As Marshall works inside about as well as NASCAR (and, frankly, aren't the most basketball intelligent team at either end), taking away the three turned the Thundering Herd into the Blundering Herd.

Center Adrian Diaz's points (two) matched his fouls (two) in the first half.

"When he's in foul trouble, I try to take him out," FIU coach Anthony Evans said. "Especially if he gets two quickly, we can't afford for him to get the third early because in the second half, I have to play more conservatively. So once he got two, he and Dennis (Mavin), I took them out and we had to ride it until halftime."

Early in the second half, Diaz's fouls edged ahead. Marshall's 6-9 Cheikh Sane threw himself into the part by throwing himself to the floor as Diaz got position for a rebound of a Marshall miss. A Diaz pass deflection launched Mavin to a hoop-and-harm three-point play on a fast break the previous possession. Now visibly roused by the bad call, Diaz blocked Sane the way an older brother blocks a younger one and whipped a pass out to Kris Gulley for another fast break layup.

At the next media timeout, with FIU closed to 38-31, FIU assistant coach Louis Rowe appeared to be telling Diaz to calm down and Diaz seemed to be saying, "I'm all right, I'm all right."

"Dennis was penetrating, getting to the basket," Evans said. "They were going to pay a lot of attention to him. They were downing the ball screen on the side so I thought the best advantage for us was a middle ball screen. Once he started doing that, he was able to penetrate, dish to somebody else, dish to Adrian. So it started to create some havoc with them."

After FIU closed to 38-33, Marshall got together a 9-2 run to go up 47-35 with 11:41 left. Running out of time wasn't so much a concern as running out of mental gas. Pick your sport, teams making big comebacks often have one in them, if that. If they get back into the game, they can ride that positive momentum and energy until either the end or the other team answers. If the other team answers, then you get saggy shoulders, the drained feeling. It's why it took until last weekend for an NFL playoff team to erase two 14-point deficits to win. Marshall had answered.

And the Panthers had something else for The Herd. Mavin ran off eight consecutive FIU points in the middle of a 16-4 FIU run that ended with a Diaz leaner in the lane to put FIU up for the first time all game 51-50.

The Panthers deserved to win. They outsmarted and outgutted Marshall. But they did get two important pieces of zebra help.

Diaz got his fourth foul with 10:16 left in regulation. Apparently, to get his fifth, he would've needed to use weaponry and insult each referee's mama. You can say that's karmic balance for some of the lousy calls on him earlier. Or, you could point to Marshall's laughably pathetic six for 16 from the line -- making FIU's 16 of 27 (59.3 percent) look like a team of Rick Barrys and Steve Alfords -- and 10 for 39 shooting from two-point range to conclude it flat didn't matter.

Also, the Mavin miss that Diaz jammed home for a 63-62 lead with 58 seconds left in overtime, the most important overtime bucket? Mavin didn't just travel on penetration. He ran for a first down.

The final book of game statistics and play-by-play didn't include an official attendance. A second quad set of cabanas now grace the east side of the court, giving the house eight cabanas to not sell. That moved the pep band over to Section A, the Lincoln Road section, while keeping their playlist back in 1967-87. That helped fill in the student section, on the south side. So, there was good noise for the first home game in Originally Sunblazer Arena since America had hope Annie wouldn't be the disaster it was.

 "Hopefully, for our game Saturday, they'll all come back," Mavin said.

Just looked this up: last season's official average attendance, 1,474, placed FIU 265th in the nation and earned athletic director Pete Garcia a bonus of approximately $7,613.

This is the track team boarding a bus for their workouts. Behind them sit two of the four massive, parking lot cramping trailers that have something to do with getting FIU Arena ready for Miss Universe. Not sure why the scene struck me as metaphor, but...

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January 14, 2015

Miguel Cabrera at Diamond Dinner? And FIU Gets Some Juice

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Men's basketball, vs. Marshall, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Men's basketball, vs. Western Kentucky, Saturday 6 p.m.

A Camp Mitch source says The Miguel Cabrera Foundation -- yes, the foundation of the future Triple Crown winner the Marlins traded away back in their more penurious days -- will sponsor the 2015 Diamond Dinner fund-raiser for the baseball and softball programs. Cabrera himself tentatively is scheduled to attend.

The Diamond Dinner, at the Graham Center Ballroom, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., will include Brooks Robinson as the this year's keynote speaker.

SPONSORSHIP

The athletic department's letting everyone know about their sponsorship deals these days. The latest is JuiceBlendz, a 10-year deal worth $345,000 according to the school (that's $34,500 per year, for those of you bad at moving decimal points).

Now, before you think that's straight cash, homey, it's signs online, at FIU Stadium, at Still Unsponsored FIU Arena; sample table space at some events; and in-game promotions.

Which reminds me, the $2.6 million five-year Adidas deal...

That breaks down to $520,000 per year. Talking with some folks who've lived with these numbers at the mid-major level, Adidas will devote about $155,000 per year to just the football team. And the FIU Stadium suite costs about $40,000.

So that's $195,000 right there, or about 37.5 percent of the yearly deal, leaving $325,000. There's also signs around Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium, Lime Court at Originally Sunblazer Arena and FIU Baseball Stadium as well as online advertising. Not exactly sure what that's worth, but after you subtract that, you get what's left over yearly for the other 17 sports.

 

 

 

January 13, 2015

Scalia (Again) & Quensel (Again) Get C-USA Weekly Honors

Freshman swimmer Silvia Scalia won the 100 backstroke, 200 back and 200 individual medley in a meet with Texas Christian and Central Connecticut State. Then, at the FIU Relays, she set a Biscayne Bay Aquatic Center record  of 54.78 in the 100 back while leading off the 400 medley relay and was part of the victorious 800 freestyle relay team.

Freshman diver Rebecca Quensel's 305.2 score in the 1-meter event and 288.28 in the 3-meter event are the best in Conference USA this year. Quensel also won the 3-meter in the meet earlier in the week.

And that's why Scalia is Conference USA's Swimmer of the Week for the fourth time this season and Quensel is Diver of the Week for the fourth time this season. 

January 12, 2015

Who The Heck Is Luka Mustafic?

He's the new FIU and UAB Blazer Invite shot put record holder after shoving the shot 18.01 meters (59 feet, 1 inch) to win the event by a fat 1.7 meters (about 5 feet, 7 inches) in his first FIU meet this weekend.

Here's also who Mustafic is:

A 22-year-old junior from Croatia whose U.S. college career began at Virginia Tech, where he finished fourth in the 2012 ACC outdoor championships in the shot and third in the 2012 indoor championships. He made All-ACC for the latter and Academic All-ACC, so he's something the track team needs in the circle and in the classroom.

From there, Mustafic transferred to Florida, where he finished ninth in the 2013 SEC Indoor Championships. He threw for Croatia in the Under 23 European Championships in 2013.

 

 

January 09, 2015

In The (Cat) House

Didn't get to talk to early enrollees quarterback Christian Alexander, defensive end-linebacker-to-be Fermin Silva or all-purpose explosive Anthony Jones today after I ran into them on campus as they went through early enrollment and orientation. So, the story I had planned got scrapped.

Still, they're in the Cat House already along with Carol City defensive back Tyree Johnson, a 2014 recruit. Some brief physical impressions:

Alex McGough looked the quarterback part the moment he dropped back last spring. Alexander, also considered a "pro-style" quarterback, really looks the part just walking across the room -- looks bigger and thicker than his official 6-3, 205, but not ponderous. Just as FIU coach Ron Turner described him, "a smart kid, good athlete, more a thrower than a runner." Turner also pointed out he was a five-year starter at Lakeland Christian, starting as a eighth grader.

Silva's got the wingspan of an outside linebacker, although his defensive line experience might help in the middle. Plenty of good middle linebackers had great length.

Jones lists at 6-0. That's a lie. I'd be surprised if he's 5-10. But another 10 to 15 pounds without losing speed gives you about what T.Y. Hilton gave you -- a speedster with moves and vision (remember, he was a running back this year) who'll make opposing coaches reach for the Pepto with every punt or potential reverse. He's not a guy you give the ball to every play, but his big play potential can affect each play.

"You want to get guys that win," Turner said. "We've got a lot of guys who have won numerous state championships."

And FIU's got one Central, two Booker T. Washington and one St. Thomas Aquinas commit still on board.

I was critical here of last year's Dade recruiting under Turner. Obviously, it's improved greatly this year. The big change this year is A) FIU coaches are more visible and establishing deeper relationships and B) FIU brought in assistant coach Kerry Dixon from FAU, where he recruited Dade County for the Owls.

How important have they been? Check out this blog by Manny Navarro, who covers both high schools and the University of Miami for The Herald (when he's not covering the Marlins, too).

 

Ballers On Campus

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, FIU Relays, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Women's Basketball, vs. Alabama-Birmingham, Sunday, noon

Elsewhere on The Herald news platform, it was noted that the HBO show Ballers shot over at the University of Miami. We must note here that, before going over to Coral Gables, the show shot at FIU Stadium and used FIU staffers as extras for scenes of practice.

While on the subject of on campus, I'm hoping to talk to the early enrolling football recruits today, all of whom are on campus and going through the registration process (for those eternally predicting last minute flips).

Pitt officially announced Josh Conklin as its new defensive coordinator this morning.

 

January 08, 2015

Oh, And Near Biscayne Bay...

the FIU swimming & diving team is still undefeated.

The aquawomen blew out TCU, 212-88, and Central Connecticut State, 239-61, to move to 7-0. Freshman Silvia Scalia won the 100 backstroke, the 200 back and the 200 individual medley. 

 

 

 

Conklin, Harley to Pitt; Hilliard to Valdosta State; Where Russo Is

In his season season as FIU's defensive coordinator, Josh Conklin became the highest paid assistant coach in FIU history ($200,000) and did a pretty good job of earning it.

Though working with better talent than most of us "experts" anticipated, Conklin had more than a little something to do with a defense that put up fat stretches of good football and collected turnovers like boys collect Hot Wheels -- first in the nation in fumble recoveries, fourth in total turnovers gained. Defense and special teams scored or set up 110 points for FIU and the Panthers had at least one defensive touchdown in each win.

Linebackers' coach Rob Harley coached the biggest surprise, a rapidly rambunctious group of mostly young linebackers. Before FIU, he'd been a graduate assistant on the coaching staff that included defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, now the head coach at Pitt.

FIU sources confirmed a Sports Illustrated report that Conklin will be taking the same position at Pitt. The source also said Harley will be going with Conklin.

FIU's two quarterbacks for 2012 and 2013 were Jake Medlock and E.J. Hilliard. Medlock transferred to Valdosta State last year with one year of eligibility remaining. Now, Hilliard will be doing the same, he announced via Twitter Thursday.

As early enrollment begins Friday, FIU should be welcoming Lakeland Christian All-State quarterback Christian Alexander, Central running back Anthony Jones and Central defensive lineman-projected linebacker Fermin Silva. 

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

The flu that's sweeping Florida put FIU women's basketball coach Cindy Russo on the injury report for Thursday's 75-60 loss to Middle Tennessee State.  

January 07, 2015

Football season opener at UCF Sept. 5

Central Florida's made official that the season opener for the state's two largest universities will be Sept. 5 at UCF. This is the game UCF asked FIU to postpone this year so the team from Orlando could have a bye week after playing Penn State overseas. FIU filled the gap with Wagner.

FIU goes to Bloomington for the first of a home-and-home with Indiana Sept. 12. They get what should be a layup against UMass on Oct. 3. Between those two games, the Panthers still need another game. Wonder if Booker T.'s available...

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Larry Dennis started the last five of the nine games he played this season for FIU, but hasn't played since the FIU win against Florida Gulf Coast in which he had no points and one rebound in seven minutes. Dennis declared on social media he had no problems with anybody nor did he have problems in the classroom. He didn't feel he was getting any better as a player, so he's transferring to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

 

January 06, 2015

Scalia C-USA Swimmer of the Week (Again)

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, vs. Central Connecticut, TCU and FAU, Thursday, noon

Women's Basketball, vs. Middle Tennessee State, Thursday, 6 p.m.

Swimming & Diving, FIU Relays, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Winning the 50 backstroke (26.51 seconds) and the 500 freestyle (5:03.83) at the FIU Sprint Invite along with a second in the 50 butterfly earned freshman Silvia Scalia her third Conference USA Swimmer of the Week Award. 

By the way, FIU's last two meets before the Feb. 18-21 Conference USA meet: at FAU, Jan. 30 and at the University of Miami, Jan. 31.

 

 

FIU's Best Team Makes A Top 10; More Leaving Football

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, vs. Central Connecticut, TCU and FAU, Thursday, noon

Women's Basketball, vs. Middle Tennessee State, Thursday, 6 p.m.

Swimming & Diving, FIU Relays, Saturday, 1 p.m.

CollegeSwimming.com's mid-major rankings for the entire fall semester puts FIU at No. 10 among the nation's mid-major schools and No. 3 in Conference USA.

FIU finished second in last year's conference meet to Rice, currently at No. 9. Western Kentucky is the top-ranked C-USA school at No. 4.

FOOTBALL

Whether you want to characterize it as a Martha Stewart housecleaning, a Jimmy Johnson roster turnover or a Soviet-style purge, the football program's shedding players from the previous regime.

Wide receiver Fred Porter and linebacker Luis Rosado have joined the list of the leaving, although Rosado's departure has to do with time.

Porter walked on for two seasons before being put on scholarship during his redshirt sophomore season of 2013 as he caught eight passes for 92 yards in FIU's pop gun offense. Porter caught nine for 91 last year among a wide receiving corps that left head coach Ron Turner dissatisfied. Off the field, Porter achieved academically. The reaction I heard to his going on scholarship last year could be summed up as: oh, good, he's a really good kid. 

According to Fred Porter, Sr., his son had been accepted into FIU graduate school, but got a phone call just before receiving his undergraduate degree in December that his scholarship wouldn't be renewed for a fifth year. He's also been informed this year's scholarship doesn't continue for the rest of this academic year, thus putting off the start of graduate school

Rosado's FIU official bio says he redshirted in 2012, thus making 2014 his redshirt junior year. I heard that's what he expected also. But he actually played as a reserve in the 2012 season opener against Duke, thus eliminating the redshirt and making 2014 his senior season. He had knee issues in 2012, although that's not the reason he didn't play more.

It's remarkable there weren't more eligibility misunderstandings from that year. After the Mario Cristobal firing, the stop work order given to the coaching staff and operations and the stream of football operations directors the first few Ron Turner months, there were necessary clerical things that didn't get handled for a while. In a strictly football sense, I can't see FIU jumping through many NCAA hoops to attempt to get Rosado another year with their current linebacking corps and who they've got coming in this recruiting class.

So as of right now, those who won't be back as seniors or fifth-year seniors are: Porter, quarterback EJ Hilliard, wide receiver Dominique Rhymes, wide receiver De'Andre Jasper, wide receiver Richard Burrows and running back Lamarq Caldwell.

You could take a cynical view and note that each of those players disappointed the coaching staff on the field. Off the field, none were knuckleheads or program problems. Quite the opposite in a few cases.

Then again, as head coach Ron Turner said in the season wrapup Q&A posted here last month, there's no assurances fifth-year seniors return to the program -- they have to want to return and the program has to want them to return.

 

 

January 05, 2015

Jerseys, Warmups, Shoes, Pound & Wide Receivers

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, vs. Central Connecticut, TCU and FAU, Thursday, noon

Women's Basketball, vs. Middle Tennessee State, Thursday, 6 p.m.

Swimming & Diving, FIU Relays, Saturday, 1 p.m.

FIU announced they've signed a five-year deal with two one-year options with addidas that'll allow the athletic equipment and apparel manufacturer to keep clothing all FIU teams, as they have done since 2005. The deal's announced as being worth $2.6 million.

That includes uniforms for FIU's sports teams;  a suite at FIU Stadium; and signs at FIU Stadium, FIU Arena and FIU Baseball Stadium.

WOMEN'S HOOP

For the third time this season, 6-foot redshirt freshman forward Kiandre'a Pound has been named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week. She averaged 14.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in FIU's 1-2 week.

FOOTBALL, PAST & FUTURE (?)

USA Football chose FIU commit Austin Maloney, a 5-11 wide receiver out of Columbus High, for its Under 19 team that'll play Team Canada in the 2015 International Bowl Feb. 7. Maloney gained 939 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on his 59 catches this season and returned a punt for a touchdown.

Wide receiver Glenn Coleman, who graduated as a student in December, and safety Justin Halley will play for the American side in the Medal of Honor Bowl Game Saturday in Charleston, South Carolina. Especially for Coleman, who averaged 20.3 yards per catch on his 23 catches, this is a huge opportunity to showcase his talent for NFL scouts.

 

January 04, 2015

Jones, Silva staying with FIU; Knowles flips

Central High was the second best team in Dade County, the best in Florida Class 6A and one of the best in the nation.

And now it appears FIU will keep all its commits from Central, despite late love being shown two, one especially, from the other FBS football school in town.

Defensive lineman-probable linebacker Fermin Silva and running back/wide receiver Anthony Jones will enroll early this Thursday along with Lakeland Christian quarterback Christian Alexander. I think FIU will have to wait until Signing Day to celebrate getting Central cornerback Olin Cushion.

Jones and Silva earned some sweet nothings from Coral Gables recently, but have announced they're sticking with their commitments to FIU. Jones played running back this year and raced for 1,007 yards and 23 touchdowns on 134 carries, caught 32 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns and took his only punt return back to the house.

Over his last two seasons, Silva had 109 tackles, one forced fumble, two recovered fumbles and one interception. 

Edison safety Robert Knowles, late to many eye sights because he played on a team that contended only to finish the season, flipped his recent FIU commitment to the University of Miami. You can use all the good players you can get, but if FIU gets both Cushion and Booker T. Washington's Ocie Rose to Signing Day, they shouldn't feel short on the defensive back front.

And, again, somebody better give assistant coach Kerry Dixon and anybody else involved in recruiting Homestead and/or Liberty City a raise. 

January 03, 2015

Went to a Conference Party...

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, FIU Sprint Invite, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Women's Basketball, vs. FAU, Sunday, 6 p.m.

Swimming & Diving, vs. Central Florida, Texas Christian, FAU, Thursday, noon

Women's Basketball, vs. Middle Tennessee State, Thursday, 6 p.m.

No longer the new kids on the block, FIU's still given less of a chance in the Conference USA basketball jungle than New Kids on the Block would be. But in the mid-major hoops world, all hoop dreams remain in play until you lose in the conference tournament.

At least the 7-6 FIU men know they'll participate in that this season, making the conference schedule about something more tangible than media guide filler. As for the 3-8 women, though they played perhaps their best game of the season in beating Bowling Green 68-55 in Tuesday's consolation game of the FIU Sun & Fun Classic, they're still piecing together who best fits with whom and where.

Redshirt freshman Kiandre'a Pound, clearly FIU's best Panther, lacks the range and playmaking ability omniweapon Jerica Coley had, but she's a smooth, confident scorer with height (6-0), build and athleticism that pushes her high end above Coley's. Over the last six games, Gulf Coast Community College transfer guard Destini Feagin has established a place on the perimeter and her scoring numbers the last four games have been, in order, 3, 6, 10 and 15 points.

The erratic offensive games of point guard Taylor Shade and senior center Marita Davydova don't cause FIU as many problems as the Panthers erratic team defense. Whether slow afoot, on the help or on the rotation, the Panthers' defense arrives on Miami time far too often. Usually, when you see a team giving up 45.8 percent shooting from the field (335th out of 343 Division I teams), they aren't outrebounding teams by 8.1 per game. Check out the teams ranked 333rd (Saint Francis, PA), 334th (Alabama A&M), 336th (Loyola Maryland) and 337th (Grambling) in field goal percentage defense. Respectively, they average -14.6, -11.4, -8.2 and -18.4 in per game rebound margin.

Fellow Sun Belt refugees Middle Tennessee State, last year's regular season and tournament champion, and Western Kentucky have the best RPI. Western (11-2) and Marshall (8-3) have the best records going into conference play. 

On the men's side, "I think it's a great league," FIU men's coach Anthony Evans said. "Obviously, UTEP, La Tech (the preseason favorite), Old Dominion have been playing really well. Charlotte, too. Then, I think there's a second tier of teams and we're probably in the mix."

Evans knows what he's going to get from fifth-year senior guard Dennis Mavin and center Adrian Diaz every night. I asked him who else needs to gain that regularity of production to move FIU into that upper echelon of C-USA.

“The other guys, the Daviyon Drapers, the Ray Rodriguezes, the Jason Boswells, Marco Porcher Jimenez, if those guys continue to improve, then it helps us because now we’ll have more people they have to worry about than just two guys,” Evans said. “That’s what our numbers say. If those guys are making shots and playing well, I think we’re a really good team.”

 

January 01, 2015

Silva Tweets Jones Staying With FIU

Happy New Year?

Central defensive lineman Fermin Silva, who verbally committed to FIU a while back and looks like a good fit with the nasty young bunch at FIU, Tweeted that running back/wide receiver Anthony Jones had chosen to stay with his FIU commitment.

Jones, exactly the kind of explosive player FIU needs, threw up a "U" after scoring during the Class 6A state title game. To reporters afterwards, Jones expressed some long held fondness for the ACC school in town and said he wanted to enroll early whereever he goes.

This is something that might not be decided until classes start and Jones is enrolled somewhere.