June 12, 2015

...and Comings

Year Three, time to see. Time to see progress that can be spotted at a glance. Time to see recruiting significantly improve as relationships develop. Time to see a foundation for the future formed by a consistent way of doing things.

That's where both football coach Ron Turner and men's basketball coach Anthony Evans find themselves in 2015. Turner's recruiting class looks like an improvement over 2014, at least at the highest end, but we'll see when the pads start popping. Evans announced his third class last week, three freshmen and three junior college players.

I stopped by Evans' office to talk to him about what he expected from each of them.

Guard Donte McGill, 6-3, 185, Phoenixville (Pa) Mont Clare Academy, Goldey-Beacom College, Vincennes University -- "Coming from Vincennes, been in a winning program. I think he can help us offensively. Definitely losing Dennis, we tried to bring in some guys who could help us scoring-wise and I think he's one of them who can give us some points. Really good in transition, Nice mid-range game. Shot 38 percent from 3-point range."

Forward Elmo Stephens, 6-7, 200 (somebody feed this young man before they lose him through a shower drain), Auburndale High, Tallahassee Community College -- "Good player, really good three-point shooter. Definitely someone who can spread the floor. When 6-10 Adrian (Diaz) is being double-teamed, he'll be able to knock down shots and create his own shot. Another person we're looking to give us some offensive punch."

Forward Cam Smith, 6-7, 210, Tallahassee Leon, Tallahassee Community College -- "Really coming into his own. He blew out his knee coming out of high school. Sat out the year before, then played last year. He's got a ton of talent. Definitely someone I feel can come in and give us a contribution in points, rebounding, defensively, to go along with helping Adrian and Daviyon (Draper) and those guys out."

Now, to the freshmen. "Those guys, obviously, we want them to come along. I don't know how quicly that'll happen. All three will come in and contribute. We know they're freshmen and they will go through their ups and downs."

Forward Michael Douglas, 6-5, 190, Sachse (Tex) High School -- "More of a shooter, really athletic."

Forward Eric Turner, 6-5, 193, The Villages Charter High School -- "Averaged 24.0 points per game in 2013-14. He's a scorer. Can get to the basket, shoots the three. Very athletic. Was recruiting by some high major schools, so it was a great addition for us."

Guard Kimar Williams, 6-1, Philadelphia Constitution High -- "Philly Public League Player of the Year. He just brings that toughness. He played in a really good league."

I asked Evans how he got such a player out of the Philadelphia are to come to FIU. Evans smiled, "Relationships."

He explained Constitution High coach Rob Moore coached at Bodine High School when Pendarvis Williams (no relation to Kimar) went to play for Evans at Norfolk State. McGill's from Newark, Delaware, about 45 miles from Philly. 

Three of the six being from junior colleges prompted me to ask Evans if the percentages of junior college recruits to freshmen will drop from 50 percent.

"I think the thought with it is sustain, at this point and bring in guys who can help us with immediate needs," Evans said. "Obviously, we brought in three freshmen who we feel we can build on. That's what we like to do. When they're juniors, we should be able to bring in freshmen and continue. Junior college will always be an option. Not that it'll be a 50-50 thing. When there's a need, we will go out and recruit." 

Evans didn't say what follows on the record or indicate it privately. No one representing Evans said this. But, you don't have to be a a real-life Sheldon Cooper to do the math:

FIU's not a destination job for a young coach with a still-mobile family. Few so-called mid-major jobs are destination jobs. Most are springboard jobs -- you're on the board for a few years, then either get propelled upward to a head coaching job with a fatter budgeted program or or you splash back down into being an assistant.

All you need to get a positive bounce off the board one or two seasons of unexpected winning basketball. Your name gets hotter than a Warren Buffet stock tip. A job opens up, you're on it with the inside track. That's what happened when Richard Pitino left FIU in 2013 after one 18-15 season for a $1.2 million per year job at the University of Minnesota. That same year, Andy Enfield went from Florida Gulf Coast to USC (the one in LA) after two seasons as a college head coach and one trip to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 15 seed.

So why not play heavily in JuCo land? Few places give the coach the benefit of time to build a program anyway. Might as well try to build a winner quickly, then hope an opportunity opens to do a George and Weezy.


Forgot to add late night...

Tampa Gaither High's Shane McGough, brother of FIU sophomore quarterback Alex McGough, announced his verbal commitment to FIU via social media. Shane plays on both the offensive and defensive lines, 6-2, 265, and is unrated by any of the recruiting sites we usually quote.


June 11, 2015


So, here's the final count for FIU in the Major League Baseball draft, at least, among those who've worn the blue and gold:

*Junior 1B/2B/SS Edwin Rios, sixth round, 192nd overall, Los Angeles Dodgers

*Junior righthanded pitcher Danny Dopico, 11th round, 322nd overall, Chicago White Sox

*Senior shortstop Julius Gaines, 33rd round, 995th overall, Seattle Mariners

*Junior righthanded pitcher Gianni Zayas, 35th round, 1,055th overall, Seattle Mariners (My mock draft had Zayas going 1,043rd. Can't imagine how he slipped...)

*Senior third baseman Josh Anderson, 38th round, 1,126th overall, Arizona Diamondbacks.


Punter/quarterback Luke Medlock came out of spring fourth at best on the quarterback depth chart behind sophomore Alex McGough, freshman Christian Alexander and redshirt freshman Bud Martin, who looks about 73 times better than he did a year ago. Former Homestead and Booker T. Washington quarterback Maurice Alexander expects to compete for a job, too, when he arrives in August.

Nobody who threw a pass for Fordham in 2014 remains on the 2015 roster. That's where Medlock landed as a transfer, the school announced Wednesday. Sam Medlock, a long-snapper, remains on the roster. Senior Jake Medlock, also a quarterback, transferred to Valdosta State for his senior year, 2014. 

June 10, 2015

Baseball Bits with Dopico & Julius

The Major League Baseball draft picked another Panther, righthanded relief pitcher Danny Dopico, Wednesday. He went in the 11th round, 322nd overall, to the Chicago White Sox. I almost put that in the headline just so I could use "Chisox."

Senior shortstop Julius Gaines was honored by Conference USA with one of the conference's Spirit of Service Awards. The honor shines a light on the athletes doing the best jobs of community service while also excelling academically and athletically. Gaines 500 volunteer hours led the baseball team and makes me wonder when he slept. He has a 3.63 grade point average as a recreation and sports management major while, of course, starting all but one game for the conference championship baseball team.


June 09, 2015

Dodger Blue Loves Edwin Rios

And so is Rios' current value set by t0he Los Angeles Dodgers drafting him in the sixth round. FIU's junior first baseman (and second baseman and outfielder) made First Team All-Conference USA this season after finishing third in the nation in home runs (18) and second in Conference USA in RBI (56).

June 04, 2015

NCAA Gives Big Yay to FIU Service

Regular people contribute money to help causes or charities. Serious people contribute time.

In addition to staying in good academic standing, FIU requires its athletes to give to the South Florida community with that most valuable, irreplaceable commodity -- time.

The NCAA recognized FIU athletes' devotion with its first Team Works Award for the school that put in the most community service hours from Jan. 5 through Mar. 19.


June 01, 2015

TV Time

Four of FIU's eight conference games get the television once-over on the schedule announced by Conference USA Monday and one non-conference game will get Big Ten Network coverage.

The conference opener at Louisiana Tech, Sept. 26, will be on Fox College Sports. Fox Regional Networks will carry road games at Middle Tennessee (Oct. 17), Marshall (Nov. 14) and the home game against Western Kentucky (Nov. 21). After FIU opens the season against Central Florida on CBS Sports Network on Sept. 3, the Panthers go to Bloomington to face Indiana on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. (8 p.m? Whatever happened to 1 p.m. kickoffs that get everybody to Kilroy's and the DunnKirk area by sundown?)

FIU might have another couple of conference games in the to-be-announced 30 that'll be broadcast by American Sports Network, which last year showed a couple of games everywhere except South Florida. So far, six FIU games will be televised.


Preseason Projections

Edwin Rios' ground out that ended the baseball season began the scollege-affiliated football preseason. The preseason magazines drew us to the Coral Gables Barnes & Noble on the way to Saturday's baseball action.

Athlon's, Lindy's and The Sporting News sit on the stands. Phil Steele, producer of the most accurate and (not coincidentally) exhaustively researched preseason guide, just shipped his guide off to the printer for July 1 store release.

Steele released his four-deep preseason All-Conference USA teams Monday and it reflects the general perception of FIU going into the season. 

On offense, he cites only junior tight end Jonnu Smith on the First Team (duh) and junior guard Jordan Budwig on the Fourth Team. The other side, however, includes senior defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine on the First Team, sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint and senior cornerback Richard Leonard on the Second Team (Second Team for Leonard?) and senior linebacker Davison Colimon on the Fourth Team. He puts Leonard as his First Team punt returner and senior Clinton Taylor as the Fourth Team punt returner.

Athlon Sports ranks FIU 112th nationally out of 128, fifth in the C-USA East and projects the Panthers to run in place -- second consecutive 4-8 overall and 3-5 conference records. I think they went with chalk in figuring FIU to beat FCS team North Carolina Central, Old Dominion and No. 128 Charlotte at La Cage and a conference upsets somewhere in there.

Their all-conference Panthers were Smith, Wakefield and Leonard on the first First Team, with Leonard at punt returner and cornerback and Colimon on the Second Team.

This year's quote from a conference opponent's assistant coach -- "They were much better last year than two years ago, but their passing game was almost nonexistent" -- might not come off well, but it's an encouraging butt-slap compared to last year's slap-in-the-face quote.

Lindy's likes FIU at No. 98 nationally and fourth in the East. While not throwing out a record, the magazine states becoming bowl eligible (six wins) would be a stretch for FIU. Lindy's two-deep preseason all-conference teams look similar to Phil Steele's, but put Colimon and Budwig on the Second Team and Leonard on the First Team. Lindy's ranked Smith as the nation's No. 1 tight end for college fantasy football.

The Sporting News says fifth in the East with Smith, Leonard and Wakefield as their preseason all-conference players (TSN made only one team).

Very Few Thoughts on Columbia 4, FIU 3

*Amazing how many balls well hit by FIU Sunday either died on the way to beyond the fence or nearly assaulted fielders, who used their gloves for run defense and self-defense. Junior first baseman Edwin Rios, in possibly his last game as a Panther, crushed three balls. One got dropped near the right field fence in the first inning, one got caught after a long ride to deep left center field and a third found Columbia counterpart Nick Maguire's glove.

*For the third consecutive game, FIU scored in the eighth inning. Had the Panthers scored two runs Sunday, as they did Friday night against the Hurricanes and Saturday afternoon against East Carolina, we might still be playing the afternoon game. And but for FIU doing what everybody does, a bigger inning might've been there.

In the eighth, down 4-2, senior Brian Portelli got a leadoff walk. Senior Josh Anderson singled. With first and second, nobody out, sixth in the order Sophomore JC Escarra was coming to the plate. Senior Julius Gaines was on deck. 

The book says have Escarra bunt to move the runners into scoring position. It's what coaches from Forest Manor to Marlins Park do in that situation. It's what FIU did Sunday. Escarra bunted the runners over, Gaines walked on four pitches. After Adam Cline took over from Columbia freshman reliever Harrisen Egly, a sacrifice fly scored Portelli and pinch hitter Spencer Levine grounded into a fielders choice.

As Escarra squared to bunt, I asked out loud in the press box: why? Why not let Escarra swing away? Why give Egly an out? Why not make him show he can still get a guy out?

Because that wasn't assured. Egly had retired only one of the previous five batters. He'd walked two. He''d gone to full counts on two. Freshman fissures? Just losing his stuff after two innings work? Whatever, FIU decided to give up an out to put runners in scoring position for Gaines, who was 0 for 11 in the regional. 

The four-pitch walk to Gaines, after which Egly got yanked, didn't make the bunt choice look any better. If Egly's going to attack anyone in that situation, it's a slumping singles hitter he's facing with one out. Get him and Columbia's a long way to escaping the inning. Egly came close to the plate on maybe one pitch to Gaines. My 96-year-old grandmother could've stood on the Metrorail tracks and called those pitches.

Not saying Escarra definitely would've gotten a hit. He'd grounded out against Egly in the sixth and was 0 for 3 for the day. But, with the pitcher starting to fall apart, I kind of like Escarra's chances to do something positive that didn't involve an out: walk, hit, get hit.

*These last two weeks helped baseball coach Turtle Thomas not just keep his job for another year, maybe earned him an extension, but also got him $6,000 in bonuses: $2,000 for winning Conference USA, $2,000 for participating in an NCAA Regional and $2,000 for a team 2013-14 APR over 925.

Earlier this season, when FIU got ranked in the Baseball America Top 25, Thomas received an extra $2,000. The baseball program overall gets $5,000 in extra retail product from Adidas for winning Conference USA.

*Speaking of Adidas, in the regional, using Adidas bats solely, FIU managed seven runs and 20 hits in three games. Now, certainly, the Former Sunblazers faced better pitching in Coral Gables than they did at the Conference USA tournament they treated like the Baseball Furies. Still an interesting contrast.



May 31, 2015

Very Few Quick Thoughts on FIU 2, East Carolina 0

*Saturday counts as karma for sophomore pitcher Chris Mourelle.

Too much of this season, Mourelle's received less support than a single mama with a deadbeat daddy. We've discussed the lack of offensive support. Occasionally, the defense doesn't help him either, especially on the FIU dirt that combines the cement hardness of 1970s artificial turf with the randomness of a natural field. That's a problem for a guy like Mourelle, who has the fewest strikeouts per inning of any FIU regular pitcher, but keeps opponents banging out a stream of grounders.

(Always makes me think of 1976 Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones, who played with Dave Winfield and a young Ozzie Smith on some otherwise bad, bland San Diego Padres teams. I used to cringe when I'd see Jones throwing at my beloved Big Red Machine, which he reduced to working out the Padres infield for nine innings.)

Sunday, Mourelle got defensive help, not harm. In the sixth inning, Josh Anderson made a nice pickup and throw of a bunt that successfully moved the runners over. But without that slightly off balance throw, East Carolina has bases loaded, no outs and maybe Mourelle doesn't get out of the inning. The sliding catches by Zack Soria and Jack Schaaf in the fifth and ninth innings kept runs off the board also.

In all, no errors and no walks. The only gift East Carolina got was a hit batsman by Mourelle.

*FIU needs to visit Miss Rudolph to get that lefty voodoo removed. As soon as East Carolina brought in freshman righty Joe Ingle to relieve senior lefthander Reid Love, I thought, "Game." Sure enough, the Panthes drove in the necessary runs when Ingle left a couple of pitches higher than he wanted.

At least an emergency trip to any chicken killers won't be necessary late Sunday afternoon. If the Panthers win Sunday afternoon, they'll face Hurricanes righthander Enrique Sosa Sunday night. 

*FIU used only four pitchers Friday and Saturday and haven't allowed a run in 16 consecutive innings. The Former Sunblazers' preserved their arm arsenal about as well as they could for coming out of the losers bracket and needing three wins over two days.

*Columbia's played two marathon games that of little note otherwise. FIU's played two swift games, one that drew the best crowd of the regional thus far, the other being the best game. Just based on that, the officially impartial press box -- and people who like to read game stories in their morning print newspaper -- might share a few quiet smiles if FIU's the team that comes back to play the Sunday night 7 p.m. game.

I always love a little slow Ray on Sunday mornings...





May 30, 2015

Very Few Quick Thoughts on UM 6, FIU 2

*Senior shortstop Julius Gaines is a man.
In the midst of the worst first inning since the Bad News Bears lost their opener to the Denny's-sponsored Yankees -- two errors defensively, hitting into a double play offensively -- Gaines refused to wallow in self-pity, self-flogging or just self. He went to the mound to steady freshman pitcher Andres Nunez by telling him, basically, don't let my struggles mess up your game.

Afterwards, in a postgame media session he could've avoided if he chose (or coach Turtle Thomas chose for him), Gaines said exactly what most present and paying attention had to think after the four-run first: Nunez started off throwing well. FIU should've been out of that inning with little or no damage. The errors extended things into the badlands.

*East Carolina used five pitchers in losing to Columbia Friday afternoon. FIU used two.

*Nunez allowed one extra base hit. Once his curve got going, he confounded Hurricanes hitters. They didn't hit him hard at all. The decision to start him produced plenty of "Huh?" but with a little more defensive help, he'd have given FIU a pitching gem instead of a rock.

*You won't get that kind of THE-place-to-be energy for every FIU-Hurricanes regular season game, especially if the teams play more often than every four score and seven (minus four score) years ago. But, how could anybody at Mark Light Friday night not want two or three games a year with even half that atmosphere? It clearly demonstrated that whatever issues prevent these teams from playing yearly count as high school clique-type pettiness unworthy of grown folks making six figures a year. To paraphrase Cordelia Chase, get over it -- embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet or go out back and punch everybody's accents out of them.
Then come back and get this thing going again.


May 27, 2015

APR, Adidas, Athletics Cash

As the baseball team practiced (with adidas bats -- more on that later), the 2013-14 Academic Progress Rate numbers dropped. Not literally, but in the modern popular music vernacular.

Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale concerned African-American women and early 1990s relationships, not APR. But, it does tend to describe FIU around this time of the year. It's entirely possible one of the breezes I felt at the baseball stadium today came from the department exhaling over an APR report without any red flags or even yellow flags.

Men's track (indoor and outdoor), women's track, volleyball, softball, golf, women's cross country each registered perfect single-year APRs of 1000. Golf owned the lone perfect multiyear APR.

Proving that bad APR falls somewhere between tires and herpes in durability, men's basketball came in with the lowest multiyear APR, 879. That's still represents progress from 858 in 2011-12 and 866 in 2012-13 and allows basketball to proceed penalty free for the first time since the Richard Pitino-coached season of 2012-13.

Multiyear APR

Golf 1000

Women's basketball 995

Women's cross country 987

Tennis 982

Men's cross country 977

Women's outdoor track 977

Women's indoor track 975

Swimming & Diving 973

Volleyball 973

Softball 971

Men's soccer 970

Women's soccer 969

Men's outdoor track 958

Men's indoor track 956

Baseball 938

Football 933

Men's Basketball 879

2013-14 Single Year APR

Men's indoor track 1000

Women's indoor track 1000

Women's outdoor track 1000

Men's outdoor track 1000

Women's cross country 1000

Volleyball 1000

Golf 1000

Softball 1000

Women's soccer 979

Women's basketball 967

Swimming & Diving 962

Tennis 955

Football 935

Men's basketball 933

Men's Soccer 932

Baseball 931


Businesses show love by showing material and money. As detailed here in the February post "Getting Dressed," the FIU athletic team Adidas loves most is baseball. No other program gets the amount of equipment under Adidas' agreement with FIU Athletics that baseball does. No other FIU head coach gets $4,000 of free product annually as FIU's baseball coach does.

According to Camp Mitch sources, baseball's love of its Adidas clothes and gear didn't extend to the bats. So FIU brought other brands along with Adidas to the plate throughout the season.

Apparently, somebody at Adidas noticed FIU's bat diversity as the Panthers battered Conference USA tournament opponents. That's not a problem unless there's a clause in the agreement between the school and the athletic wear company stating "each Sport...shall exclusively use or wear Adidas products whenever School's athletic teams are playing one of the Sports (including games and practice sessions)..." and that failure to do so constitutes a material breach of contract.

FIU swung Adidas bats at practice Wednesday and you can bet they'll do so this weekend in Coral Gables.


USA Today's annual college athletics finances report demonstrated little of surprise beyond Oregon taking over the Total Revenue title from Texas.

Of the 230 schools ranked, FIU placed 90th in total revenue ($28,104,962), 92nd in total expenses ($27,542,910), 16th in subsidy ($22,540,365) and 36th overall, second to Eastern Michigan among FBS football schools, in percentage of total revenue that comes from subsidies (80.2%).


Click here to see the current real world job of former FIU running back Darian Mallary.


May 25, 2015

Friday Night (at Mark) Light; MacLaren Finishes T25

The NCAA didn't overthink this one.

FIU, which started the season ranked in some national baseball Top 25s and played like it over the last week in the Conference USA tournament, gets its first shot at the Hurricanes since 2008 in the NCAA tournament's Coral Gables Regional: Friday, 7 p.m., on Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park.

The Hurricanes come into the double elimination regional as the No. 5 national seed with a 44-14 record. FIU, 29-29, rolled up 11 runs per game in the conference tournament against some redoubtable pitching.


Meghan MacLaren moved up four spots to finish in a tie for 25th at the NCAA Women's Golf Championship. MacLaren's 2-over 74 final round Monday gave her a 13-over 301 for the tournament.

Closing Strong

I thought I saw a finishing kick with Juan Pablo Montoya surviving a terrible start and torn up wing to win the Indianapolis 500. Montoya ran third in that regard to some athletic types from Camp Mitch.

An FIU baseball team that didn't seem to have much chemistry or gumption all season showed it in beating Rice twice when it needed to just to get into the tournament and survive the first round of the Conference USA tournament. Then, they looked like the Big Blue & Gold Machine -- a .370 team batting average, 44 runs in four games -- as they blasted through the tournament to their first conference title since the 2010 Sun Belt championship, possibly saving coach Turtle Thomas' job in the process.

What a storybook finish for senior Josh Anderson after a tough testicle injury (is there any other kind?) earlier this year: hitting .467 with three homers and nine RBI.

So, now everybody waits for lunch to find out of FIU stays local to face the rivals in Coral Gables they never play or head for somewhere like Louisiana for the NCAA Regional.

In women's golf, junior Meghan MacLaren as she did in the Conference USA meet, scorched her third round with an even par 72, jumping 24 spots up the NCAA Women's Division I Championships leaderboard into a tie for 29th. Then, she beat Tulane's Gemma Drybaugh in a playoff for the ninth and final individual position that keeps her playing Monday.


May 19, 2015

Rios, Portelli, Dopico All-C-USA Cats

A little baseball before I go watch some baseball on vacation...

Junior Edwin Rios led Conference USA in home runs (18), RBI (55) and slugging percentage (.633) while hitting .314 overall. That's why Rios made First Team all-conference, the lone FIU player to do so.

No Panther hit better than senior outfielder Brian Portelli's .336 average. Junior reliever Danny Dopico piled up 49 strikeouts in only 39.1 innings with a 1.60 earned run average. Both made Second Team all-conference.

FIU opens Conference USA tournament play against top-seeded Rice Wednesday.





May 18, 2015

Gaines All-Academic; FIU Has C-USA's Fastest Man

Yeah, I know this comes late. After dealing with the major job changes now customary when I cover the Marlins and get a lightning fast game, I exhaled into vacation mode (it's late May).

So I didn't get up last night that junior Alton Eliphar, the fifth-seeded finalist, provided FIU's highlight of the Conference USA track & field championships by winning the 100 meters in 10.38. Or that junior Jaylaan Slaughter's 1:00.97 in the 400-meter hurdles got her a second, the weekend's best placement for the FIU women. Phillicia Fluellen's 20-foot, 2 1/2-inch long jump was good for third.

FIU coach Ryan Heberling confirmed what the results sheet suggested when they didn't include, among others, junior long jumper/triple jumper Marcus Ghent, throwers junior Miriam Pierre and senior Raqurra Ishmar -- injuries hit some FIU strengths. Both men's and women's teams finished last in their respective team standings.


FIU senior leadoff hitter and shortstop Julius Gaines' 3.63 grade point average put him on the Conference USA All-Academic Team, announced Monday.  Gaines finished the regular season hitting .266 with 22 RBI.

The baseball team faces No. 1 seed Rice in the first round of the Conference USA baseball tournament Wednesday.


May 16, 2015

More Rice For Baseball

This is why you take care of business early.

Saturday's pair of losses to Rice dropped FIU to No. 8 in Conference USA, but, thanks to Friday's win and a series win at Marshall, no farther.

So the Panthers get into the conference tournament and open Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. against...No. 13-ranked and tournament top seed Rice, against which FIU won two of 12 games over the last four seasons. But, FIU beat Rice when it needed Thursday so Wednesday isn't exactly The Charge of the Light Brigade.


FIU Track & Field at C-USA Meet: Day 2, Points 6

FIU's best events, including most of the throws, launch today and Sunday. Friday featured the 10Ks, hammer throws and the finish of the decathlon and heptathlon.

The men picked up its four points in the decathlon from junior Chris Sullivan's sixth (6,551 points) and sophomore Pablo Espitia's eighth (5,759 points). The women's two points came from Tetisheri Menna's 164-foot, four-inch hammer throw, seventh best.


May 15, 2015



FIU avoided the indignity of missing the Conference USA tournament by taking care of its business in the first of the three-game season-ending series with No. 13 Rice. An 11-1 win, FIU's second against Rice in the last 10 games, finished the job with a flourish. Junior Edwin Rios clobbered another home run, drove in three runs and scored four.

The last two games will be for seeding position in the tournament, which will be next week in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The Panthers remain alive.

Not everyone got out of Thursday so fortunate. RIP B.B. King.



May 13, 2015

Malcom, Officially

FIU officially announced Wednesday what's been known for a few days -- former University of Delaware player and eight-year assistant coach Tiara Malcom is now an assistant under new FIU women's basketball coach Marlin Chinn.

Malcom was a Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and three-time All-CAA player at Delaware. During her coaching years, Delaware won 20 games six times and made the NCAA tournament three times.

The next interesting development with women's basketball: watch the roster turnover. This year's 3-26 team included only two seniors. Let's see how many of the rest are left a year from now.

May 12, 2015

On the Beach

Can a bunch of Owls put a Turtle in jeopardy of the FIU sharks?

I'm hearing two things about the future of FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas.

The First: he's safe. An FIU collapse against Rice this weekend might raze the season by keeping the Panthers out of the Conference USA tournament but won't damage the program foundation. Thomas' contract runs out at the end of the 2016 season, anyway.

Also Heard: a movement whipped up by one significant South Florida business and political figure and one significant baseball figure desires Thomas' dismissal. That's in addition to the FIU followers disenchanted with a program heading toward its second losing season in three years despite being a Division I program in one of the nation's most talent rich areas.

Despite FIU baseball completely escaping disappointment since NCAA appearances in 2010 and 2011, Thomas' seat remained room temperature. To begin, that made economic sense. Thomas' contract states that firing him without cause -- and disappointing seasons or low level NCAA violations of practice time one year don't count as cause -- means he gets the contract balance of his base salary.

Now, that's a relatively minor hit by Division I athletic department standards, just over $104,000. That turns into a major hit if, say, you're an oversubsidized athletic department faced with funding the full cost of attendance for your scholarship athletes next fall. That's the nut facing Conference USA schools beginning in 2015-16 and has FIU looking for revenue streams, creeks, trickles, spit. I won't be surprised if I see someone in one of those blue Adidas shirts with the snarly feline trying to move stuff on Hardcore Pawn

Money should keep Thomas in place until the end of his contract.

Now, in a nod to the baseball team that might be busing from Hattiesburg for the Conference USA tournament back to Miami...





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