February 08, 2015

Some things about Saturday

Weirdness abounded Saturday night on Replacement Lime Court at FIU Arena.

The game briefly stopped while a little girl crawled under one of the new cabanas to retrieve a ball knocked under there. For the first time in all the basketball games I've covered courtside (my first was 1987), my computer got smacked by a ball. Poor job by me -- I saw the ball coming, but wanted to finish the thought I was writing -- but good show by the Dell, which never stopped working. The iPad with the in-game stats got knocked two screens silly.

On the court, instead of FIU turned scrambly by a press, UTEP looked overwhelmed when FIU raised its defensive energy in the second half. Instead of FIU looking like eight Shaquille O'Neals at the free throw line, the Panthers dropped in 15 of 19, an excellent 78.9 percent. Meanwhile, three times in the second half, UTEP players missed both free throws and the Miners finished 18 of 32, a near-comedic 56.3 percent.

After the game, FIU senior guard Dennis Mavin said, "It's frustrating because you want to win, but at the same time, it just shows we can play with anybody in this league and we're a tough team like anybody else."

Daviyon Draper, who had 21 points, seconded that with "We can play with anybody in this league, just some of the small things need to be cleaned up. We can definitely see improvement from the beginning of the season to now."

Mavin explained his hopping, well-defended, off-balance three-pointer at the horn off an inbounds play that began with 2.4 seconds left.

"The play wasn't even for me," he said. "I was supposed to come up, all the attention was going to be on me and it was going to be a flare screen for Kris (Gulley). But somehow it messed up. It wasn't the look was supposed to get because I wasn't supposed to get the ball."

Also, Conference USA's leading scorer in conference games left the game in the first half after taking a tumble to the floor. UTEP got a foul on the five-on-four power play as Mavin writhed.

"I just got tripped up and fell on my (left) hand," he said. "My hand's been bothering me for two weeks now."

I'm really sorry I missed the halftime acknowledgement at one of this week's home basketball games of the swimming & diving team's undefeated dual meet season, the first in FIU history. You know, when the team was brought out on the court, drizzled with applause and wished luck at the Conference USA meet. I know Athletics wanted to do this for them because the next really good event crowd probably will be the next men's basketball home games, by which time the water women will be starting the water fight with Rice and Western Kentucky at the conference meet in Knoxville.

Wait, that didn't happen? Oh...

FOOTBALL

The statheads at ESPN came out with their first FPI power ranking for 2015, based on offense, defense and special teams efficiency, returning starters and (most subjective of all) recruiting rank.

FIU's 87th and fifth in Conference USA behind Marshall, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee State.

 

February 06, 2015

FIU Alumni Association Prez: Athletics needs "a major leadership change."

FIU Alumni Association President Frank Pena read into the minutes of the Jan. 26 Alumni Association Board meeting a statement that recommends "a major change happens in the leadership of the Department of Athletics. The sooner these changes would happen, the better."

http://www.CollegeAD.com published the statement first this morning.

When I reached Pena Monday morning, I asked him if he wrote the statement as Frank Pena, FIU graduate, or Frank Pena, head of a 20,000 member alumni association.

"As both," he replied. "I did it as an alumnus, but I also did it to represent views of countless alumni. Whether it's at church, at the dentist's office, you run into FIU alums wherever you go. One of the first things they bring up should not be the poor state of Athletics. They should bring up some of the victories we have in Athletics or they should bring up some of the great things we're doing.

"That's why I'm saying what's been happening with Athletics over the last several years has been a distraction. It shouldn't be the conversation we have. People know I bleed the Blue and the Gold and they always want to have an FIU conversation. I'm finding more times, the conversation is 'What is going on in Athletics?'"

Pena emphasized the statistics-filled statement wasn't inspired by personal issues with FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia but was about Athletics' "leadership and the results."

"I've been involved with FIU as a student since 1994. I've stayed involved as an alumnus. The love I have toe the institution is immense," Pena said. "I think FIU is the engine of the South Florida community and Dade County. We're doing so many good things. I feel Athletics, instead of being a partner in the University, has become a distraction. And something needs to be done.

"As alumni, it's our responsibility to support our university. Sometimes, by bringing up something that might be construed as a negative, it is supporting the university. And it is taking a stand. I felt that, as alumni, we need to take a stand when something's not working right. By the metrics we laid out -- academics, fundraising, wins & losses and fan support -- we're not doing our job."

I asked the Office of External Relations Monday if President Rosenberg had any response to the Alumni Association president's recommendation.

FIU External Relations Director Maydel Santana-Bravo sent an e-mail Monday afternoon that read, "President Rosenberg has spoken with Frank Pena multiple times. The feelings and concerns of all of our alumni are very important to us. We want to thank them for their support.

"Building an athletics program takes years and we are moving in a positive direction."

There was no comment from Garcia through FIU Athletics.

Pena's statement, in full:

Download FIUAthleticsStatementfromAlumniAssociationPrez

Free-For-All Friday

I doubt an FIU coach came into this season with more optimism softball's Gator Rebhan.

Rebhan, an assistant under Jake Schumann last year, gets a Division I job after two decades of coaching travel softball and high school softball in South Florida. And the roster, which loses only three players from a 33-win team and includes seven of his former travel softball players, has enough talent that Conference USA coaches voted FIU co-favorite with UAB to win the championship on Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium in May.

Rebhan told the Board of Trustees Athletics Committee last fall that the Panthers could be a 40-win, Conference USA champion. He saw no reason to back off of that Thursday afternoon. 

"We're very capable of reaching that. We're a very athletic team," Rebhan said. "Our pitching is strong. Our defense is strong and fast. Our hitting, one through nine, should be solid. We don't have one thing that stands out. We're well-balanced. Their attitude is excellent. They're really loose, which is good."

Hours later, the Panthers backed up their coach by crushing Houston in its season opener 8-1. Sophomore Stephanie Texeira, last year's Conference USA Freshman of the Year, bashed out a double, a home run and four RBI. Freshman Ashley Belans doubled in another two runs. Panthers bats ruined Houston starter Shelby Miller the way they would a Shelby Mustang, sending her back to the garage totaled after one and a third innings.

Meanwhile, junior Corrine Jenkins diffused nine hits over seven innings. The Jenkins-Shelby Graves right-handed combination will be backed up by Brianna Bartuccio, a transfer from Austin Peay. 

Sophomore Ashley Leon played second base ("defensively, she's phenomenal" Rebhan said), had two hits and hits second. Rebhan figures she'll shore up the second spot, which he considered an FIU weakness last year. Then, it's FIU's Pitchers Pounders: Texeira, sophomore Gabby Spallone and senior Krystal Garcia.

Texeira came out of Gulliver with credentials -- the first high school All-American to come to FIU -- and exceeded them last year. She hit .408 with 11 home runs, 41 RBI and a .736 slugging percentage. According to FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, Texeira let him know she wanted Rebhan as their know coach and he listened. Spallone also made C-USA's All-Freshman Team after hitting .319 with seven home runs and 33 RBI.

Friday, up at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Alabama, FIU gets Lamar and McNeese State. Saturday, the Panthers face Eastern Kentucky and Alabama. Their first home game is a week from Friday, against Memphis. 

FOOTBALL

CoachingSearch.com reported that FIU wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach Cam Turner would be skipping to the NFL's Carolina Panthers to be assistant to the wide receivers coach. So, let's recap...

Cam Turner coached The Citadel's wide receivers and special teams for one season. That was his experience as a hands-on coach when new FIU head coach and father Ron Turner ("the best quarterbacks coach in the country" according to Pete Garcia upon hiring) hired Cam Turner to be the quarterbacks coach AND the wide receivers coach in 2013.

Ron Turner was disappointed with the quarterbacks in 2013, disappointed with the wide receivers in 2013 and 2014, disappointed with the whole passing game both seasons. But the guy in charge of those two units in his second and third years of hands-on coaching gets lifted to an NFL staff headed by Ron Rivera. That's Ron Rivera, defensive coordinator for Chicago during some of the same years the Bears offensive coordinator was...Ron Turner.

BASKETBALL

Pete Pelegrin was calling Thursday's game for the PantherVision webcast when Kris Gulley, in pursuit of a loose ball, crashed across the table, knocking off Pelegrin's glasses and scattering some of the radio equipment.

It worked as metaphor for FIU's 14-turnover, outscored-by-20 second half in the loss to Texas-San Antonio

February 05, 2015

A few thoughts on 2015 Signing Day

Thoughts on National Signing Day:

The overemphasis on athletics in the black community is an overall chronic illness debilitating all of society. Yet the repetition of a message appropriate for all allows even people like me to enjoy the whole Signing Day production at Booker T. Washington High guilt free. The message: this is just a start, an opportunity. Don't just go to college, graduate from college, prepare for life and helping your community.

This wasn't just said once or twice. But over. And over. And over. To the point that if you don't get it, you were never going to get it.

Something else struck me that points up the hypocrisy in college-affiliated football at the FBS level. Coaches love to talk about the "character" of their signees who stayed with long ago commitments, but have no problem trying to get somebody else's long-committed player to flip.

What if National Signing Day got spread over two days, the first day for Group of 5 conferences and the second day for Power 5 schools? Just thinking about getting some of the attention-hogging behemoths out of the way so the schools with less of a football tradition can get more attention. Today's FIU afternoon Signing Day media session consisted of me, FIU Student Media, FIU News and one Channel 4 cameraman/reporter. 

Why can no CD or digital recording of The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" duplicate the sound mixing of the 45 with the horns really blasting on the bridges? (I didn't say all the thoughts were about Signing Day...)

Now, to FIU's class...anybody who has read this space through any of the three Signing Days since I took over the lease knows I'll quote recruiting rankings, but that's it. If you want somebody to sing you gospel, go to Mahalia Jackson or James Cleveland, not Rivals.com. These are 17 and 18-year-olds. It's why the drafts in Major League Baseball and the NHL have a higher bust quotient than the NBA and NFL.

All day, media peers said to me, "FIU's really got a nice class coming together" and I agreed. When I saw some of the signees in action during the high school season, they made me look up their names. They lost Ocie Rose -- a flip two different people told me might happen, one of whom texted "Blame Miami. They took James King from FAU" -- but got Kenyatta Anderson, who is almost as highly rated. An even trade based on that.

FIU needed more vintage South Florida zoom on offense. Central's omnithreat Anthony Jones provides that better than anyone else out of Dade County in this class. Austin Maloney can move chains and the scoreboard. Olin Cushion reminds me a little of Richard Leonard, with a 3.7 engine instead of a 5.0 -- not the biggest cornerback, but one you'd just as soon avoid altogether. I can't judge how high school linemen can translate to college. I watched one game of Deion Eakins' and thought "Big, but what else?" for a quarter. Later, I found myself saying to the television, "Y'all need to run behind him more, he's moving something over there in the run game. And his pass rushers might as well just stand there after the snap because they look like Toyotas caught in a snow drift."

So, I don't understand the 97th conference rating and seventh rating by C-USA. I don't understand 108 and 8 ratings from Scout.com, except that they didn't give FIU credit for Anderson. Rivals.com annually possesses the most Panther love and ranked the class No. 88 and No. 8 in conference.

As South Park Johnnie Cochran said in laying out the Chewbacca Defense, "It does not make sense."

Nor does it matter. The players I heard the most staff excitement about in FIU's highest-rated recruiting class, 2012 -- just-get-him-the-ball Johnnie Durante, Signing Day linebacker flip Patrick Jean, defensive tackle Darrian Dyson -- have gone strike one, strike two, foul tip. Except for the defensive backs, the 2013 class would've gotten more respect if they'd been 16 Poindexters and a Sheldon. Yet one of those defensive backs never made it to campus while tight end Jonnu Smith's one of the best in the country at his job; guard Jordan Budwig is 24 of 24 on starts; and middle linebacker Treyvon Williams anchors FIU's best unit. 

So, check back in three years for a more accurate slotting.

Christian Alexander, quarterback, 6-3, 205, Lakeland Christian Varsity. Three/two stars by 247Sports.com, three stars by Scout.com, two stars by Rivals.com

Andrew Jones, wide receiver/running back, 6-0, 190, Central. Three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.com and Scout.com. Strong in this one the Hilton Force could be.

Fermin Silva, outside linebacker, 6-2, 225, Central. Three stars by 247Sports, three stars by Scout.com, two stars by Rivals.com. Anybody else think in a few years, FIU's linebackers could be the Marshall-Singletary-Mama's Boy Otis of Conference USA?

Neal Mars, offensive lineman, 6-3, 270, Orange Park Fleming Island. Two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals

Collin Olsen, running back, 6-1, 225, Port Orange Spruce Creek. Two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals.

Mark Hutchinson, wide receiver, Zephyrhills Wiregrass Ranch, 6-2, 205. Two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. A chain mover, similar to Ellingson.

Mac Carey, tight end, Tallahassee Leon, 6-1, 231, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Jestin Green, defensive back/wide receiver, St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy 6-2, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Milord Juste, defensive end, Palm Beach Gardens, 6-0, 240, two/three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals

Julian Williams, WR, 6-0, 185, Georgia Military Prep, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Andrew Burgess, OL, 6-6, 300, Neptune Beach Fletcher, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Deion Eakins, OL, 6-3, 315, Jacksonville Trinity Christian, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Sage Lewis, LB, Monsignor Edward Paace High, 6-1, 210, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

R.J. Harris, OL, Tallahassee North Florida Christian, 6-3, 260, three/two stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Emmanuel Lubin, CB, North Miami Beach, 6-1, 170, three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Maurice Alexander, QB, Booker T Washington, 5-11, 170, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals. He makes good choices and I like his accuracy. I still need to watch a couple of Booker T. games I've got on the DVR.

 

Olin Cushion, DB, Central, 5-8, 160, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Watched Central a few times and apparently those opponents decided this was not the man to mess with because I didn't see much of him in pass coverage. Opponents threw at the other side of the field. He played bigger than his measurables in run support.

Terry Bennett, RB, Jacksonville Atlantic Coast, 6-0, 205, three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.

Austin Maloney, WR, Columbus, 5-11, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. I said it on the Herald video and I'll say it here -- if he came with darker skin, he'd have been at least a whole star rating higher. Strong, nice technique for a high school receiver with enough speed to beat you deep without you being asleep.

Kenyatta Anderson, CB, Gulfport Boca Ciega, 6-1, 170, rated two stars by 247Sports, three stars by Rivals, three stars by Scout.com 

Tyree Johnson, DB, Carol City, 5-9, 165, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Originally part of the 2014 class, gray-shirted last year. 

 

February 04, 2015

The 2015 FIU football National Signing Day Signees

 

 

All comments by me are from what I've seen of the player (and I haven't seen many -- neither have you) or read of the player. Ratings are presented without comment.

Neal Mars, offensive lineman, 6-3, 270, Orange Park Fleming Island, two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals

Collin Olsen, running back, 6-1, 225, Port Orange Spruce Creek, two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals.

Mark Hutchinson, wide receiver, Zephyrhills Wiregrass Ranch, 6-2, 205, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. A chain mover, similar to Ellingson.

Mac Carey, tight end, Tallahassee Leon, 6-1, 231, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Jestin Green, defensive back/wide receiver, St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy 6-2, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Milord Juste, defensive end, Palm Beach Gardens, 6-0, 240, two/three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals

Julian Williams, WR, 6-0, 185, Georgia Military Prep, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Andrew Burgess, OL, 6-6, 300, Neptune Beach Fletcher, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Deion Eakins, OL, 6-3, 315, Jacksonville Trinity Christian, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals

Sage Lewis, LB, Monsignor Edward Paace High, 6-1, 210, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

R.J. Harris, OL, Tallahassee North Florida Christian, 6-3, 260, three/two stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Emmanuel Lubin, CB, North Miami Beach, 6-1, 170, three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals

Maurice Alexander, QB, Booker T Washington, 5-11, 170, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals. He makes good choices and I like his accuracy. I still need to watch a couple of Booker T. games I've got on the DVR.

 

Olin Cushion, DB, Central, 5-8, 160, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Watched Central a few times and apparently those opponents decided this was not the man to mess with because I didn't see much of him in pass coverage. Opponents threw at the other side of the field. He played bigger than his measurables in run support.

Terry Bennett, RB, Jacksonville Atlantic Coast, 6-0, 205, three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.

Austin Maloney, WR, Columbus, 5-11, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. I said it on the Herald video and I'll say it here -- if he came with darker skin, he'd have been at least a whole star rating higher. Strong, nice technique for a high school receiver with enough speed to beat you deep without you being asleep.

Kenyatta Anderson, CB, Gulfport Boca Ciega, 6-1, 170, rated two stars by 247Sports, three stars by Rivals, three stars by Scout.com 

Tyree Johnson, DB, Carol City, 5-9, 165, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Originally part of the 2014 class, gray-shirted last year. 

 

Honey, They're Home...

At the end of a long, eventful day at Camp Mitch, men's basketball head coach Anthony Evans, center Adrian Diaz and guard Dennis Mavin talked about home crowds and strange schedules.

They'd just stomped FAU, which played like something you'd see out of Fred Sanford's yard (the Owls missed more bunnies than Elmer Fudd), with one dominating half of solid defense and crisp offense, then one half of not falling asleep out of exhausted boredom. I've never seen a final score less reflective of a game than Tuesday's 64-56 Panthers win.

They spoke of being happy to be back in front of another good, into-it crowd at FIU Arena, their first home game in 18 days. Energized by that crowd, too, and good thing for the third game in a five-game, 10-day stretch that, like the 18 days between home games created by moving the FAU game to Tuesday for the Miss Universe pageant.

(When's the last time a Division I team with its own on-campus home arena had a blocs of 44 days and 18 days between home games in the same season?).

That started with 12 days off.

"We tried to work on the things we weren't doing well. Defensively. Offensively, shoot a little more," FIU coach Anthony Evans said. "I think it was evident during the game in Charlotte, guys got hot. Just trying to do things to keep the team as on point as possible. When you have a long layoff, hyou worry about rust. I think (Old Dominion) played really well when we played them. It took us that first game to get back into some sort of rhythm."

Also, FIU moved the ball. Sometimes, watching the Panthers on offense, you see five guys seeming to operate as independently as five University of California campuses. Not so Tuesday.

Evans said he'll keep practice to under an hour today and Friday to keep legs fresh for Thursday's game against Texas-San Antonio and Saturday's contest against UTEP.

February 03, 2015

C-USA Swimmer & Diver of the Week: Scalia (Again) & Quesnel (Again)

Freshman Silvia Scalia's the first swimmer in Conference USA history to win five Swimmer of the Week awards after getting yet another one Tuesday.

No surprise after Scalia won three individual events -- 100 backstroke, 200 back, 200 individual medley -- against the University of Miami Saturday and the 100 back against FAU. She was also part of the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay winners against FAU and the winning 200 medley relay against the Hurricanes.

Freshman Rebecca Quesnel shares her sixth Diver of the Week honor with FAU's Alexa Eakins, who edged her in the 3-meter Friday. Quesnel won the 1-meter and put up a 300.90 score against UM in hte 3-meter Saturday. 

Beckham's People: We'll Think About It

Miami-Dade County approved the measure telling Mayor Carlos Gimenez or associates of Carlos Gimenez to go talk to FIU about using FIU Stadium as a temporary home for International Soccer Sex Symbol FC or whatever the David Beckham group's Major League Soccer franchise will be named. Beckham's been having problems finding a spot on which to build a privately-funded soccer joint for Miami's second swing at an MLS franchise.

This could be a most convenient and profitable occurrence for FIU Athletics. The official Twitter feed for Miami Beckham United (proves he's a neophyte to Miami, where NOTHING is united) says over four Tweets, posted this morning:

"Things are progressing in Miami & we are very much on track in our plans. Beckham is very positive about the future of the club & he continues to enjoy incredible support from the people in Miami. Right now, our focus is on identifying the location for a purpose built stadium that will be the team's permanent home. Careful consideration will be given to FIU when we address the opportunities for a temporary facility."

When Beckham toured FIU back in 2013, he smiled, said nice, non-committal things then didn't mention FIU again while pursuing sites in or around downtown. Aside from size, FIU Stadium's almost everything MLS says it doesn't want. But FIU athletic director Pete Garcia possesses a Squidward's worth of tentacles in local government. Don't be surprised if the county tries to horse Beckham's group into a deal with FIU with some light political blackmail around the building of a permanent site.

That would be government teamwork worthy of the name "Miami Beckham United."

FOOTBALL

Tem Lukabu is the new linebackers coach. Lukabu coached Colgate's outside linebackers last season. The two seasons before that, he was an defensive assistant with Tampa Bay's linebackers in 2013 and defensive line in 2012. That's when Lukabu shared a staff with FIU head coach Ron Turner.

 

 

Who Did You Vote For?

The Miami-Dade County commission will vote today on a resolution that will tell representatives from Mayor Carlos Gimenez's to reach an agreement with FIU to use FIU Stadium as a temporary home for the Miami David Beckhams Major League Soccer franchise, according to ESPNFC.

MLS says it wants a stadium in urban areas, where fans can march from residences or stagger to/from drinking establishments. The Beckham group, clearly not understanding the down-the-rabbit-hole, out-of-your-wallet nature of Miami-Dade politics, expressed shock at being rebuffed in its first two attempts at getting a spot downtown.

 

February 02, 2015

The 2015 Football Schedule

Five home games, seven road games, no bye weeks. The athletics department bean counters ought to be happy, however -- of the seven road games, the Panthers can get on the bus, Gus, for two.

The demise of Alabama-Birmingham leaves Conference USA with another 13-team football season.

Sept. 5 -- at Central Florida. FIU did UCF a solid by agreeing to move this game from 2014 to 2015, giving the Knights a bye week after their overseas game with Penn State. Good measuring stick right out of the gate.

Sept. 12 -- at Indiana. Let's make this clear: I grew up in Indianapolis caring almost as much about IU football as IU basketball (it's against state law to care equally as much). My four years in Bloomington described the kind of college experience many people hope to have. They included covering the two best seasons of IU football in my cognizant lifetime.

And I will laugh from Kilroy's all the way back to the 305 if FIU takes down Indiana. It would be a win against a Big Ten school, mediocre as the Hoosiers football tradition is, but also Indiana thinks it bought a win. IU paid to get out of a game with South Florida to enter into a home-and-home with FIU that nets $800,000 to the Panthers.

Sept. 19 -- North Carolina Central. This year's FCS supplement for bulking up wins and statistics.

Sept. 26 -- at Louisiana Tech. FIU brings back its defense. West Division champion Louisiana Tech brings back running back Kenneth Dixon (1,299 rushing yards, 5.1 per carry). I'm tingly already.

Oct. 3 -- at UMass. You've got to come home with the bacon (or chowdah) from this game.

Oct. 10 -- UTEP. If Bill Clark wasn't Conference USA Coach of the Year for what he did at UAB (RIP for now), then it's Sean Kugler for turning UTEP from stink bomb to bowl team.

Oct. 17 -- at Middle Tennessee State. My preliminary pick for the East Division.

Oct. 24 -- Old Dominion. Now, it's ODU coming to FIU with an inexperienced quarterback after four years of Taylor Heinicke.

Oct. 31 -- at FAU. On Halloween. With both teams still entertaining bowl hopes.

Nov. 7 -- Charlotte. FIU gets a home cupcake on the same weekend the women's soccer team hosts the Conference USA tournament. 

Nov. 14 -- at Marshall. Let's see if they go from Thundering Herd to annoying Green Hornets without Cato.

Nov. 21 -- Western Kentucky. Remember the Sun Belt version of the Hilltoppers? Defense, severely limited quarterback while running a running back up the statistic charts and into the ground. Yeah, now they're Air Brohm with Drew Doughty. Unless the Over/Under exceeds 70, jump on the high side to get your Christmas and Hanukkah gift money.

February 01, 2015

Flip-Flop & A Flap

Friday, I asked Ron Turner what he wanted most in recruiting this season.

"Always offensive and defensive line, that's first and foremost," Turner replied. "That's what you want to do. Either in numbers to get your depth or to get better players."

Of this week's two flips of FIU linemen commits, offensive linemen Richerd Desir-Jones (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) to Florida and Richard Williams (Miramar Everglades) to FAU, only the Williams one surprised me. Jones' visit to Florida this weekend was common knowledge when Turner said this Friday while answering a question:

"We had some guys who were committed and 'I think I need to look at this school' and I said, 'Well, I'm looking elsewhere, too.' Because I want guys who want to be here and believe in what we're doing. The guys we've got do. A lot of guys in this class have a lot of other options or potential options. Not all were offered by other schools, but they've had interest and taken visits, a good chance they would've been offered. Some were offered by some pretty impressive schools. They stuck to what they wanted to do. That's a sign of character."

I thought of Desir-Jones. I also thought of Deion Eakins, a long-committed offensive guard out of Jacksonville Trinity Christian who's getting preferred walk-on whispers in his ear from Oregon. But I really thought of Desir-Jones. Did Turner expect to lose Desir-Jones so made George Constanza preemptive breakup noises?

 

The upshot is I'm looking at four offensive linemen so far in this class and two defensive linemen, both of whom might wind up on offensive line. (Fermin Silva will be an outside linebacker). Interesting how schools such as Florida and the Hurricanes have poached FIU commits in the last few weeks. 

One more thing -- Turner won't spend a scholarship on a punter or kicker coming in, but he said any new masters of the foot will have the chance to kick or punt their way onto scholarship.

Also, The Herald learned Saturday that wide receiver Fred Porter got the remainder of his scholarship for this year reinstated. So, he'll have the first semester of his graduate school paid without loans. Porter graduated in December, but was told he would no longer be on scholarship and wouldn't be back next season as a fifth-year senior.

 

January 31, 2015

Oh, So Close, But Still...And-0.

FIU 150, University of Miami 149. The Panthers swimming & diving team ends the dual meet season with their first undefeated dual meet record, 10-0, by one point in the first dual meet or game between the schools in over four years.

Or by .09 seconds. Nine-hundredths of a second. Less than the time of the blink of an eye.

After FIU's Aquawomen left UM choking on wake in the 200 yard events -- medley relay, backstroke, breaststroke, individual medley -- led by senior Johanna Gustafsdottir and freshman Silvia Scalia; and after the Hurricanes figuratively clubbed FIU with the diving board in the 1-meter and 3-meter events the difference in the meet turned out to be the second place touch in the closing event, the 400 freestyle relay.

FIU freshman Paulina Zelazna outtouched Hurricanes senior Heather Arseth at the finish to bring FIU's A team (sophomore Jenny Deist, senior Klara Andersson, freshman Letizia Bertelli, Zelazna) home in 3:28.61, 1.95 seconds behind UM's A relay. More importantly, Zelazna touched those nine hundredths of a second ahead of the Hurricanes' B relay, giving FIU four points for second instead of just two for third.

Sometimes, you just get what you need and get out laughing.

In the end, the relays cancelled as my fellow Hoosier native Mike Emrick would say. UM's 13-4 advantage in the 400 free relay mirrored FIU's 13-4 advantage in the 200 medley relay. Scalia, Andersson, Bertelli, Deist won by .14 in 1:44.69 with Juliana Pettinger, Chase Harris, Maria Lopez, Ally Mayhew coming in third in 1:47.76.

What didn't cancel? Scalia, Gustafsdottir and just-added-freshman Kyna Periera.

Scalia won the 100 back in 55.56, 2.19 seconds ahead of junior Karin Tomeckova in second. Mayhew came in fourth to give FIU a 15-4 advantage in that event. And, of course, she won the 200 back in 2:00.23, with Tomeckova in third and junior Becky Wilde in fourth. But it was the Scalia-led 200 IM sweep -- her in 2:04.89, Gustafsdottir in 2:06.36 and Wilde in 2:09.61 -- and 16-3 event win that put the Panthers up by 10 with only the 400 free relay left.

Gustafsdottir won the 200 breaststroke in 2:19.88 with Jean Madison and Harris in third and fourth. Periera, who joined the team this semester, won the 500 free in 4:58.45 with Skye Carey in third, then broke Sonia Perez's school record with a victorious 10:06.53 in the 1000 free. Courtney VanderSchaaf and Nadia Farrugia came in third and fourth, respectively.

The Conference USA meet is Feb. 18-21 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. FIU finished second to Western Kentucky in the 2013 Sun Belt Conference meet, then second to Rice in the 2014 Conference USA meet.

This should be fun.

  

 

 

 

 

 

January 30, 2015

History Tomorrow? History Tomorrow.

Conquering those who call the Florida Atlantic pool home leaves FIU's swimming & diving team just one win from the first undefeated dual meet season in FIU history.

That win can come when they meet the University of Miami, Saturday, at high noon.

 

Excuse me! Read again! It reads, "HIGH NOON!"

 

That's better.

Anyway, near as I can see, this is the first meeting in any sport between Dade County's two Division I/FBS schools since Sept. 11, 2010 when FIU lost a volleyball match 3-0.

Last fall, of course, came the announcement that the schools reached an agreement to play again in football in 2018 and 2019 with the rivalry resuming in other sports, also.

January 29, 2015

FIU Flippin' Good

 

According to South Florida High School Sports, FIU just flipped Marshall linebacker commit Sage Lewis out of Monsignor Edward Pace High, the high school alma mater of current FIU running back Anthon Samuel. Lewis is rated at three stars by ESPN.com and 24/7sports.com's composite ratings, two stars by 24/7sports.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

 

January 28, 2015

Punting Stone

IMG Academy punter/kicker Stone Wilson announced his commitment to FIU via Twitter Wednesday. Wilson nailed all 22 extra point attempts last year. Kohl's Kicking Camps ranked Wilson No. 10 in the nation among punters in the 2015 class going into the season. Kornblue Kicking ranks him No. 5 among punters, No. 29 among kickers.

After the last two seasons of erratic (at best) punting and occasional offense, FIU should be checking into the next generation of Colquitts for punters. This slots right into a Panthers need. 

Back Home Again...

Ironic, appropriate or both that the first women's basketball home game after Cindy Russo's retirement is against Old Dominion, alma mater of Russo and longtime associate coach Inge Nissen?

You don't need a shot of Old Grand Dad to know that FIU's got a shot at Old D if they find their defense. it's the only area of clear superiority for the Monarchs. In Conference USA play, Old Dominion has given up only 58.9 points per game and 35.9 shooting from the field. FIU's given up 74.5 and 45.8. And that's with a conference-leading three-point shooting percentage defense of 27.2 percent.

Old Dominion's men share four characteristics with the FIU men -- good defense and conference losses to Western Kentucky and at Alabama-Birmingham and Middle Tennessee State. But the Monarchs lead the conference in rebounding margin while FIU is last in assists per game and scoring offense. Not a good combination when you've got a ball stagnant team against a good defense. We'll see whether the 12-day gap swung FIU's offensive game toward the acutely sharpened or the obtusely dulled.

FIU's arena-based teams could move wholly back into their spaces today, the last day any Miss Universe people or stuff should be in the arena or parking lot.

That's according an FIU synopsis of the agreement between the school and Miss Universe.

A seat count from various photos taken late last week after the arena got set up for the contest comes up with 1,118 chairs + an estimated 1,500 bleacher seats on each side. That's 4,118, but the Miss Universe folks got 1,000 comp tickets per night. Preliminaries, Dress Rehearsal and the Finals sold out. FIU's $5 per ticket gets them approximately $46,770.

The Athletics release, which already downgraded the FIU benefit estimate from $400,000 earlier in January to $330,000, included $50,000 to $70,000 in ticket revenue and assumed $140,000 of state matching funds on the First Generation Scholarship Fund.

Anyway, it's back to normal for the FIU Athletics hoi polloi, whose staffing, workload and pay sometimes remind me of this scene from the 1985 classic DC Comics Crisis on Infinite Earths No. 8.

FullSizeRender (7)

 

 

 

2 Panthers Preseason All-C-USA Baseball. And The Team Ranks...?

As we all know, three is a magic number. But it's two that's the operational number for FIU baseball in the preseason Conference USA coaches' rankings and all-conference team.

Two Panthers, sophomore pitcher Chris Mourelle and senior infielder Josh Anderson, made the preseason all-conference team. And FIU sits No. 2 in the preseason team rankings behind defending conference champion Rice, a unanimous pick to repeat.

Rice swept the preseason Player of the Year (senior catcher John Clay) and Pitcher of the Year (junior lefty Blake Fox) awards.

FIU opens the season Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. with the first of a three-game weekend series against Tennessee.

January 27, 2015

Quensel C-USA Diver of the Week(x5)

Freshman diver Rebecca Quensel's 1-meter and 3-meter wins against Florida Gulf Coast Saturday earned her Conference USA Diver of the Week for the fifth time this season. Coincidentally, that makes her the fifth diver to with a season's quintet of Diver of the Week awards.

Sorry that we missed forward Kiandre'a Pound racking up her second consecutive C-USA Freshman Player of the Week award Monday.

January 23, 2015

DC Swap Complete; Senior Swimmers' Sayonara

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving, vs. Florida Gulf Coast, Saturday, 11 a.m. (Senior Day)

Tennis, vs. Liberty, Sunday, noon

Women's Basketball, vs. Old Dominion, Thursday, 6 p.m.

FIU just announced what we hypothesized here two days ago (see the post linked to below) -- the replacement for departed defensive coordinator Josh Conklin, now at Pitt, is Pitt's last pre-Conklin DC, Matt House.

House had been Pitt's defensive coordinator for three years under Paul Chryst. Chryst didn't take House with him when he took the head coaching job at Wisconsin, leaving House available for FIU.

This reminds me of the Dolphins cutting center Samson Satele and signing Oakland Raiders center Jake Grove as a free agent in 2009. After their first season with the Dolphins, the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano ruling tribunal felt they needed a nastier, stronger center. Satele wound up signing with Oakland.

Epilogue: Grove started 10 games with the Dolphins in 2009, got injured during the season and never played in the NFL again. Satele's bounced around the league and back to the Dolphins this season.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Here's the who  being honored on Saturday's Senior Day for FIU's water women: Klara Andersson, Nadia Farrugia, Johanna Gustafsdottir, Jean Madison and Courtney Vander Schaaf.

Here's the what of the who being honored on Saturday's Senior Day for FIU's water women:

Six individual school records, five relay school records, eight individual conference titles and three relay conference titles.

Much of that comes from Gustafsdottir, arguably the best swimmer in FIU program history. But Andersson's FIU's speed queen. Her 23.24 at the 2013 Sun Belt Conference meet remains the school record in the 50 freestyle.

A year earlier, Gustafsdottir began rewriting the FIU record book over her freshmen and sophomore years so quickly, it seemed done by an instant search-and-replace command. Between the 2012 Sun Belt meet, in which she won three individual events and Swimmer of the Year, and the 2012 Mizzou Invite that fall, Gustafsdottir knocked down five individual records and was part of four school record relay teams.

She's lowered all those marks since then, of course. And, though freshman Silvia Scalia eclipsed Gustafsdottir's 100 backstroke record earlier this year, she added the 200 breastroke to her individual Best of FIU list: 100 free 50.01), 200 free (1:46.90), 200 back (1:54.40), 200 breast (2:14.20) and 200 individual medley (1:57.94).

Both Gustafsdottir and Andersson were on the 200 free relay (1:32.09), 400 free relay (3:20.74) and 400 medley relay school record teams (3:40.87). In the 2013 Sun Belt champion 400 medley relay, at the 2013 Sun Belt Championships, Gustafsdottir led off with the backstroke leg and Andersson finished with the free leg. At the same meet, they combined with Dani Albright and Marina Ribi to set a Sun Belt record in the 400 free relay (3:21.67) and set the current record with Jenny Alfani and Jenny Deist at last year's Conference USA meet.

Vander Schaaf was an All-Sun Belt swimmer in 2013, part of a then-school record 200 free relay and swam for distance. She ranks fourth in school history in the 1,650 free (17:08.27), fifth in the 1,000 free (10:21.18) and seventh in the 500 free (4:57.70). Last January, she picked up a Conference USA Swimmer of the Week award.

Farrugia anchored last year's Conference USA meet 800 free relay team (7:13.43) and, like VanderSchaaf, went long -- sixth fastest 500 freestyler (4:56.97) and 1000 freestyler (10:25.24) and third in the 1,650 free (17:04.33).

Madison was the fourth best in the 200 breast (2:17.16) and fifth in the 100 breast (1:04.19).

Madison, Farrugia, VanderSchaaf and Andersson made the Conference USA Honor Roll for having a 3.0 grade point average. Andersson was a Commissioner's Academic Medalist for having a 3.7 GPA.

 

 


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