Track sprinter La'Shae White got some scratch toward her graduate degree tuition when she received one of the 15 Jim Castaneda Postgraduate Scholarship Awards from Conference USA, the league announced Tuesday.
White, who made the Dean's List seven times in her eight FIU semesters, graduated in April with a degree in physical education-sports and fitness and is going for her master's at the University of Tampa in exercise and nutrition science. The award is a $4,000 scholarship.
The mantle in Casa Garcia might need an addition. In addition to the honors he's already received, including Conference USA Player of the Year, FIU catcher Aramis Garcia received the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award for combining community service with excellent academics and athletic performance.
Garcia volunteered at the 9/11 Day of Service, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Arthritis Walk and during the MLK Day of Service.
As I put in a recent post, Garcia, like women's basketball star Jerica Coley, is a billboard/brochure athlete, the kind schools thrust out front as an ideal example.
Tweeted this Monday, but guess I didn't post it here.
FIU pitcher Chris Mourelle was named a Second Team Freshman All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, adding to a postseason awards list that includes Conference USA Freshman of the Year.
Former FIU soccer star player, assistant coach and head coach Munga Ekatebi will be the new head soccer coach at Broward Colletge. Ekatebi was in the house for the Ghana-South Korea friendly at Sun Life Stadium Monday.
Always wanted to use the old-time headline word "Chisox" in a headline.
Anyway, FIU's 2014 ace Mike Franco got selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball draft Friday. FIU's all-time saves leader Mike Gomez went in the 13th round to the Chicago White Sox.
Later Saturday, with pick No. 978, the White Sox took outfielder Louis Silverio.
With catcher Aramis Garcia's second round selection by San Francisco, that makes four FIU players gone so far in the draft.
I thought I did some nice breaking down of the way FIU coaching pay didn't seem to match up the experience or success of the coach involved. But reader Cory Jarrell, with a blog, some free time and the kind of pretty graphs modern media outlets encourage, really went to town.
The second of two Conference USA players selected in the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball draft, FIU catcher and Conference USA Player of the Year Aramis Garcia went No. 52 overall to San Francisco.
That's the second highest an FIU player has been drafted. Toronto took Josh Banks with the No. 50 pick in 2003.
More than just a player, FIU lost a showcase athlete, the kind of student-athlete schools like to put on billboards and put in front of the Athletics Committee as the epitome of what a student-athlete can be: well-comported, good on the field and the classroom. Garcia and Jerica Coley fit that role perfectly. Who's next?
For comprehensively researched college football previews, Phil Steele's yearly production stands above others to the point of peerlessness. Here's Steele's rankings concerning FIU:
Within Conference USA, he ranks FIU 10th (out of 13) at quarterback; 13th at running back; 11th at receivers and tight end; ninth in offensive line; 11th in defensive line; 13th at linebackers; 13th at secondary; fourth in special teams; eighth in coaching.
On Steele's preseason All-CUSA teams, he's got sophomore Jonnu Smith as the third team tight end; sophomore Jordan Budwig as the fourth team offensive guard; Justin Halley as the fourth team safety; sophomore Austin Taylor as the fourth team kicker; and redshirt junior Richard Leonard as the fourth team punt returner (I think he's underestimating Leonard both as a kick returner and as a cornerback).
Overall? 7th out of 7 in the East Division, 13th out of 13 in the conference, 123rd out of 128 FBS teams.
"This is a much more experienced and stronger team that shoudl start out 2-0," Steele writes. "While they will be much more competitive (average loss last year 37-10), my most optimistic set of power ratings has them at 4 wins."
He ranked Conference USA as the ninth best conference last year, ahead of only the Sun Belt and the MAC. This year's he's got C-USA tied with the MAC, ahead of only the Sun Belt.
As for FIU, Steele's clearly not impressed with the shifts in titles and money.
FIU finished 123rd out of 123 FBS programs last year in total offense and third down conversions, 122nd in scoring offense...you know all the depressing numbers. Sure, the coaching staff wasn't given much to work with, but...
Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Steve Shankweiler (run game No. 120, No. 122 in sacks allowed) went for the head coaching job at Elon, didn't get it, but did get a $9,000 raise from FIU, $136,000 to $145,000, according to Florida Has a Right to Know. He also got a title promotion to offensive coordinator, as if former NFL offensive coordinator Ron Turner is going to give up the actual duties of that job.
Tight ends coach Kort Shankweiler ($93,000) and Cameron Turner ($106,000) each got $1,000 bumps. Turner got Quarterbacks Coach added to his Wide Receivers Coach title. For those of you who saw FIU's receivers last year and think Turner has his plate full just trying to handle that group, fear not -- the only Turner doing real coaching of the quarterbacks in practice is Ron Turner.
Here's another thing about Cam Turner's take: he made $105,000 last year in his second job as a college assistant.
Defensive line coach Andre Patterson, the current Minnesota Vikings defensive line coach, had 10 years of NFL coaching experience and nine years as a college defensive line coach. He made $110,000. Linebackers coach Tom Williams, with three years as an NFL assistant, 12 years as a college assistant, three as a college head coach, made $100,000. Running backs coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker had been an NFL assistant for three seasons and is in the NFL again with Tampa Bay. He made $99,000. Secondary coach Jason Brooks, off four years as a Baltimore Ravens assistant, during which he "worked first hand in the coaching of the wide receivers in 2009 and 2011 and running backs in 2010 and 2012" according to his FIU bio, made $92,000.
Brooks got the uniform $1,000 bump to $93,000 this year. Defensive coordinator Josh Conklin went from $100,000 to $200,000, according to the Right to Know website. Big bump.
First, the Fifth Annual FIU Athletic Department Golf Tournament is June 27. $375 per person, $1,500 per foursome, which is no savings for a foursome so really just $375 per person. This fundraiser for the entire athletic department includes an auction boosted by over 100 items that were supposed to be sold at the Diamond Dinner, the big fund raiser for the baseball and softball programs.
The baseball program saw its operating budget cut by around $5,000 this year, one of several programs whose budget remained stagnant or got cut as FIU moved up in overall quality with the jump to Conference USA. They didn't fly to the Conference USA tournament in Hattiesburg, but bused what's 11 hours, 38 minutes if you go 70 mph with no stops. Clearly, this is a program that can use all the financial help it can get.
Instead, baseball and softball must throw a large amount of the goods and services donated for their event into an event that raises money for the entire athletic department. That's other programs, administration, facilities, etc. I'm all for sharing, but that doesn't seem quite fair.
Oh, in an answer to a question posed a while back in the Comments about the athletic director's salary and bonus: it comes out of the athletic department pocket.
Freshman right hander Chris Mourelle, Conference USA's Freshman of the Year, also was named to the Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America team. Conference USA accounted for three members of the team, the other two coming from FAU (second baseman Stephen Kerr) and Old Dominion (outfielder Nick Walker).
Junior pitcher Mike Franco, in his second season after having Tommy John surgery, finished the season 9-3 with a 1.09 ERA, 112 strikeouts and 27 walks. And he's one of 36 semifinalists for the Gregg Olson Award, given to college baseball's breakout player by Toolshed Sports.
FIU didn't get the Ghana-South Korea men's soccer friendly on June 9, which will be played at Sun Life Stadium. But the women's soccer team definitely gets back fifth-year senior Chelsea Leiva, granted an injury redshirt for 2013 after a knee injury before the opener eliminated FIU's best player for the entire season.
Junior catcher Aramis Garcia, named Conference USA Player of the Year last week, was named Third Team All-America on the Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-American team.
Garcia hit .368 with eight home runs and 37 RBI. In addition to leading Conference USA in hitting, his .626 slugging percentage was the conference's best.
Whether 2014 FIU football evolves as a drama, parody, spoof or farce, it'll be televised entertainment at least four times.
For the Sept. 13 home game against Pitt on Fox Sports 1, all the university's marketing heads should attempt a Vulcan mind meld to maximize their idea intellect for herding a decent crowd into the stadium for a noon Saturday kickoff. Between the probable heat, the near-dawn (to most Miami residents) kickoff and the usual FIU following, this blasts POTENTIAL EMBARRASSMENT in blinding lights that recall the opening credits of ABC TV movies back when we relied on ABC, NBC & CBS because few had HBO or VHS (DVD was in big Cro-Magnon form called Laserdisc).
Official attendance for the only other noon kickoff at FIU Stadium: 8,593 for FIU beating Louisiana-Lafayette on Halloween in 2009. That being the official attendance, you can estimate for yourself how many folks actually were there.
The following week, at a time to be dictated by FS1 or FSN, Louisville comes to FIU. On Oct. 2, The Shula Bowl, FAU at FIU at 7 p.m., gets a Fox Sports Net broadcast. And, on Fox College Sports, 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, FIU faces rapidly rising Texas-San Antonio.
Some of you closer to my age might remember an ABC TV movie opening that manages to be both more understated and more spectacular.
Former FIU cornerback Anthony Gaitor can come home again if he can make the Dolphins final roster after they signed him Wednesday.
Gaitor played 12 games over his first two seasons with Tampa Bay, his second season being interrupted by a hamstring injury. He was the first player Tampa Bay on whom used the new "injured reserve/designated to return" tag and he did return to start two games late in 2012.The Buccaneers dropped the regular injured reserve tag on Gaitor after tearing knee ligaments in a preseason game against the Dolphins last year then dropped Gaitor earlier this month.
He'll get a shot as a nickel corner with the Dolphins.
Central defensive back Olin Cushion, a 2013 Second Team All-Dade selection as a junior, has committed to FIU for 2015. Cushion, 5-10, 175, had five interceptions for the state champion Rockets.
First college football preview mag out or, at least, the first one I saw: Lindy's. Lindy's ranked FIU 126th out of 128 FBS teams. In answer to the obvious question, The Terrible Two were New Mexico State and UMass. Then again, for the second consecutive year, Lindy's contained a blunder concerning FIU that whacks at its credibility. It missed FIU's 2011 bowl appearance under "Last Bowl."
If they're not already on the stands, Athlon's, Phil Steele, The Sporting News and USA Today should be out by the end of next week.
TRACK AND FIELD
Last week, FIU finally listed the head track abd cross country coach job on the NCAA's job search website. The department left the position vacant as a money-saving measure after Eric Campbell resigned in January.
With FIU's baseball season on the line Thursday, ace junior Mike Franco pitched. Aramis Garcia hit. Alas, Garcia's two two-baggers, bringing in two runs, couldn't overcome another two -- the three times Old Dominion turned two, leading to FIU's 3-2 loss and elimination from the Conference USA tournament.
Franco went three and a third, gave up four hits, no runs, struck out five and walked two. Fifth-year senior Albert Cardenas took the ball and gave up three runs in the fifth, two on a double by freshman Joseph Guaranga.
You can't fault Aramis Garcia's follow-through. Preseason Conference USA Co-Player of the Year to Conference USA Player of the Year for FIU's junior catcher/first baseman despite missing 12 games iwth a right oblique injury. Garcia led C-USA in slugging percentage (.588), was second in batting average (.355) and homers (seven) and third in on-base percentage (.428).
Pitcher Mike Franco and his conference-low 1.13 earned run average joined Garcia as First Team All-C-USA selections. Pitcher Chris Mourelle, 9-2 with a 1.70 ERA, got named Second Team All-C-USA and C-C-USA All-Freshman and C-USA Freshman of the Year.
I asked Turtle Thomas the difference between the Sun Belt and Conference USA. Thomas said he thought the pitching depth was better in the latter. Nobody's got a top three starter you can assume you'll knock around. He also said he thought the Sun Belt was better than C-USA for the 2013 season when The Belt sent three teams and conference tournament winner FAU to the NCAA tournament.
A few things before I scratch out 15 inches for Wednesday's paper on FIU baseball headed for the Conference USA tournament...
Give it up to junior catcher/first baseman Aramis Garcia and senior closer Mike Gomez, members of the Conference USA's Baseball All-Academic Team. No other school put more than one player on the team. Both are sports and fitness majors. Gomez has a 3.79 grade point average and Garcia has a 3.78.
FIU plans to have Garcia behind the plate Wednesday against Rice. He missed 12 games with a right oblique injury and returned to play first base at the end of the season-closing series at Tulane.
At the other end of the battery, FIU plans to throw freshman Chris Mourelle at Rice, according to Turtle Thomas. They didn't throw Mourelle last week against Tulane once the staff felt the chance for an at-large NCAA bid was gone and don't want to throw ace Mike Franco twice on short rest in a conference tournament they now need to win to make the NCAA tournament.
Also, Rice saw Mourelle only for three innings after Robby Kalaf took a shot off his right hand in the first inning in the third game of Rice's sweep earlier this year. Mourelle faced 16 batters, gave up five hits and only one run (it was earned).
FIU fifth-year senior Donald Senat made the 64-player spring watch list for the Dave Rimington Award, given annually to the best center in college football.
Dave Rimington was the best center of his era, a dominating player on Nebraska's 1981 and 1982 teams, seasons that saw him become the first two-time winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding interior lineman. Rimington didn't make All-Decade teams. He made All-Century teams. Though he was part of the 1983 NFL Draft's first round, generally considered the greatest first round ever, his seven-season NFL career never quite lived up to the hype. That hype existed for a center should tell you something by itself.
Strong placings by the throwers and points from the sprinters on the last day of the Conference USA Track & Field Championships allowed FIU's women to hold onto fourth in the team standings. East Carolina took the title with 140 points. Texas-El Paso came home second with 88 points, Rice in third with 74 points and FIU in fourth with 66.5 points.
Sophomore Raqurra Ishmar, who finished fifth in the hammer throw, pushed her way to second in the shot put with a throw of 52 feet, 2 inches, 4 feet 2.5 inches behind winner Claire Uke from Rice. In the javelin, another sophomore, Tiffani Hernandez, threw the spear 143-3 to finish third.
Out on the track, sophomore Cam'ree Jackson finished third in a 100 meter final that saw the first four places within nine hundreths of a second. Earlier, Jackson ran the second leg in the fourth place 4x100 relay team led off by sophomore Phillicia Fluellen and closing with sophomore Oriel Anu and senior T'Keyah Dumoy. They ran a 45.2, .15 behind third place UTEP and .82 behind champions East Carolina.
Sophomore Jaylaan Slaughter, in 1:01.45. picked up five points for her fourth in the 400 meter hurdles.
The hammer throwers put FIU's women into the lead going into Saturday's events at the Conference USA Track & Field Championships. Saturday, the jumpers got points while the throwers got disappointed.
Sophomore Phillicia Fluellen's long jump of 20 feet, 5 3/4 inches brought home eight points for second in the long jump behind Louisiana Tech junior Charla Craddock's 20-10 3/4 leap. In the high jump, junior Tikiera Relaford finished tied for fourth with Middle Tennessee State's Barbara Vilson at 5 feet, 7 1/4 inches. East Carolina senior Tynita Butts popped a 6-3 1/4 jump to take her fourth C-USA high jump title and join University of South Florida's 2002-05 shot put queen Chandra Brewer as the only four-time C-USA women's champions.
In the discus, hammer throw winner Kayla Padgett picked up another 10 points for East Carolina. But what allowed East Carolina to extend its lead was FIU recording zero points. Among the nine throws of sophomores Miriam Pierre, Alysha Lewis and Raqurra Ishmar, only Ishmar's final throw, 109 feet, 3 inches, counted as legal. That got her 22nd place. Sophomore Chelsea Goburne's 139-7 got her 12th, four spots out of the points.
FIU's relative strength is in the field events, a fact demonstrated by the women's track finalists limited to being Cam'ree Jackson in the 100 meters and sophomore Jaylaan Slaughter in the 400 hurdles.
Ditto for the men. Three quarters of an inch, 25-7 1/4 to 25-8, separated FIU senior Aubrey Smith from winner Cameron Hudson of East Carolina. Sophomore Marcus Ghent finished eighth with a leap of 24-1 1/2.
The men have nobody in Sunday's individual event track finals.
Once FIU clinched its spot in the Conference USA Baseball Tournament with a win Thursday at Tulane, the last two games of the season still mattered. The Former Sunblazers lost Friday and Saturday on walk-off plays, dropping them to a No. 8 seed and a fourth shot at No. 1 seed Rice, Wednesday at 1:30 Eastern at host Southern Mississippi.
That's the same Rice that swept FIU at Camp Mitch -- 3-2, 10-2, 11-7 -- the only team to do that to the Panthers this season.
The good news is A) the odds say it's hard to beat a good team four times and if you say it'll really only be twice because both teams should throw their aces then you can say B) FIU played Rice on even terms in Ace vs. Ace.
FIU's Mike Franco went 7 1/3, gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits, walked three and struck out seven. Rice's Zech Lemond went eight innings, gave up two runs (both earned) on eight hits, walked two and struck out five. FIU took a 2-0 lead after four innings, gave up the tying run in the eighth and lost 3-2 in 13 innings.
The Conference USA Track & Field Championships don't figure to yield much for FIU. With the Texas-El Paso African pipeline dominating the distance events and other solid programs, an FIU team lacking a head coach all season and facilities all program history doesn't have the raw talent to overcome the deficit handed them by such a setup.
So give it up for FIU's hammer throwing sophomore women, who compiled 18 points in that event Friday. Behind easy winner Kayla Padgett of East Carolina (192 feet, 5 inches), FIU's Miriam Pierre finished second with a throw of 179-7 and Chelsea Goburne was third at 177-10. Raqurra Ishmar's best fling, 176-10, got her a fifth place.
FIU also got points, six of them, from freshman Caroline Reiser for her third place in the 10,000 in 36:12.64.
On the men's side, Chris Sullivan finished the decathlon in sixth with 6,277 points.
FIU's 9-1 spanking of Tulane Thursday night gave the Panthers 16 wins, thus guaranteeing ninth-in-Conference-USA FAU can't catch the Former Sunblazers in the standings no matter what FAU does this weekend against UAB. So, FIU's clinched a spot in the Conference USA tournament next week at Southern Mississippi.
TRACK & FIELD
The Conference USA Track & Field Championships began Thursday at Rice with Day 1 of the decathlon and heptathlon. Sophomore Chris Sullivan sits in third with 3,651 points. Charlotte sophomore K'vonte Scott reached 3,877 points to take a 153-point lead on East Carolina's Alexander Mobley-Hollie, who passed Sullivan for second during the last event, the 400 meters.