Because it's that time of the week. We're talking football here.
1. Marshall (6-0, 2-0 in Conference USA) -- Like Thriller on the 1983 album charts. Though quarterback Rakeem Cato draws the attention, running back Devon Johnson's run for 814 yards and averaging 7.8 per carry. The defense overwhelms in the first half while the offense builds a big lead. They stomped Middle Tennessee State 49-24. That Alabama-Birmingham game will be interesting.
2. Middle Tennessee State (4-3, 3-1) -- By putting them here, I'm saying Marshall's three touchdowns up on the rest of C-USA.
3. Louisiana Tech (3-3, 2-0) -- Moving up by standing still. Tech took last weekend off before facing Texas-San Antonio this week. Speaking of UTSA...
4. FIU (3-4, 2-1) -- All that bumbling about and still losing by only three on the road via last-minute field goal. I'll drop the Panthers only one spot for that 60-minute fart in the Alamodome last Saturday.
5. UAB (4-2, 2-1) -- Serving up a 56-point Mean Green Flambee last week points up the Blazers combustibility. Saturday's shootout with Middle could dictate the direction of the remainder of the season for both teams.
6. Western Kentucky (2-3, 0-2) -- Didn't play. Didn't lose. Didn't give up 40. Hey, not everybody on this list can say that.
7. UTSA (2-3, 1-1) -- If they keep redshirt freshman Austin Robinson in at quarterback, get the Roadrunners now. In a few games, when Robinson really gets himself together at the college level, there's going to be a lot of "Beep, beep" and zipping along to the end zone.
8. FAU (2-4, 1-1) -- The Woodsy Boys come back from a weekend off to host Western Kentucky.
9. UTEP (3-3, 1-1) -- New Mexico, New Mexico State, Old Dominion...say one thing for the Miners. They know who they have to beat to eat.
10. Old Dominion (3-4, 1-3) -- Having the ball against this defense is like getting to play with Canadian football rules -- a 12th man, forward motion in the backfield at the snap -- except with four downs against a defense playing by American rules. Giving up 46.5 per game to FBS schools.
11. Rice (3-3, 1-1) -- Sitting out this week after beating Hawaii and Army, before getting North Texas. Yeah, I'm not impressed, either. Check back with me after they come to FIU on Nov. 1.
12. North Texas (2-4, 0-2) -- Thought they had a defense they loved. Gave up 56 to UAB. So now they're down here looking for the love they lost.
13. Southern Miss (2-4, 0-2) -- Guess Ole Miss and Mississippi State sucked up all the good players in the state.
THE LONG GREEN
In honor of Oct. 15, the day FIU pays its athletic director a retention bonus (this year, about $76,130), here's this year's list of Conference USA football coach and athletic director base salaries. Put together from public records and published reports from public records.
Todd Monken, Southern Miss, $700,000
Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State $721,704
David Bailiff, Rice $646,386
Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky $600,000
Doc Holliday, Marshall $600,000
Dan McCarney, North Texas, $600,000
Ron Turner, FIU $501,000
Charlie Partridge, FAU $500,000
Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech $500,000
Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion $425,000
Larry Coker, UTSA, $400,000
Sean Kugler, UTEP $280,000
Bill Clark, UAB Undetermined, though some sources put it at $600,000
Pete Garcia, FIU $380,654
Brian Mackin, UAB $300,000
Rick Villarreal, North Texas $275,000
Mike Hamrick, Marshall $255,000
Chris Massaro, Middle Tennessee State, $250,000
Patrick Chun, FAU, $250,000
Robert Stull, UTEP $233,000
Lynn Hickey, UTSA $147,540
Tommy McClelland II, Louisiana Tech $140,000
Camden Wood Selig, Old Dominion Not Available (He’s not eating bologna -- ODU’s $37 million is the largest department budget in the conference).
The football team's no longer tempting claustrophobia on a one-engine plane designed to fly with more motors than that.
They got put on the bus, Gus, sent to a mall to eat dinner while a new plane was flown in from a few hours away, according to FIU sources. The team might not get into its hotel until 10:30. Luckily, this isn't an early afternoon kick, but rather 3:30 p.m.
FIU's been using Allegiant Air, to other airlines as a food truck parked on Meridian is to Lincoln Road, for years. This isn't the first issue that's delayed travel the night before a football game. But, they're cheap.
The Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meets every few months to get reports on the athletic department’s doings from athletic department people with titles. There’s public discussion of those doings between the suits on the Committee and the Athletics Titles. The Suits and Titles exchange pats on the back or harrumphs. The Titles vow to improve. Then, the Suits get coffee as a slightly different set of Suits comes in for the next BOT Committee meeting. The Titles whoosh back to the west side of Camp Mitch.
The value in these meetings come in the chunks of information or analysis the Titles lay on the Suits. After a moment of feistiness from committee chairman Jorge Arrizurieta regarding the minutes of the February meeting, the Sept. 10 meeting carried a happy feeling. Not quite Up With People happy, but it was a Prozac-and-Percoset party compared to the last two Athletics Committee meetings I attended.
STUFF A CASUAL FAN MIGHT CARE ABOUT
A committee member happy to see the FIU vs. the University of Miami football series revived asked if FIU was working on any kind of football relationship with Florida State or Florida.
“We’re working with all the major schools around the country,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. “We wanted home-and-homes. We feel we can bring those games here. As you’re seeing Pittsburgh this week, Louisville’s coming here to play, we feel at this point in our development, we want to do home-and-homes. We’re willing to play anybody anywhere as long as we do home-and-homes.”
STUFF A HARDCORE FAN MIGHT CARE ABOUT
Garcia admitted sophomore Stephanie Texeira, the softball team’s best player as a freshman, played a larger than usual role in the selection of Gator Rebhan as FIU’s new softball coach.
“Obviously, when we go through the process of selecting a head coach, for the most part, you don’t talk to the student athletes that much about the search process. This was a little bit different,” Garcia said. “She was very adamant about what they wanted. The night we selected our next softball coach, she was actually sitting in her car about two hours outside my office waiting to hear if Gator was going to be our next coach.”
Early on in these things, the athletic department presents a proudly FIU example of the student-athlete ideal. It gives the committee a hot chocolate feeling inside before getting an ice bucket challenge of real problems elsewhere. Texeira got the call for this one. It won’t be her last.
Texeira pointed out her Mom-and-Dad home is only 15 minutes away but she stays at FIU. She extolled the Student-Athlete Academic Center (SAAC), the first of many attaboys for the SAAC on this day.
She went on to talk about Rebhan: “Gator has been my mentor for 6 years. I played for him in travel ball. I was fortunate enough to have a coach who was able to push me, to challenge me, he did everything he could to push me to the best that I can be. And it’s not like he picks on me. He picks on everybody. And everybody knows he does it because he cares.”
Then, with “We have a Turtle (baseball coach Thomas). Now, we have a Gator,” Garcia introduced Rebhan.
“This is a dream come true for somebody who was born and raised in Miami, coached the last 20 years here to be a coach at FIU,” Rebhan said. “It is an honor. I think the admiintration and the support of everybody to give me this opportunity.”
He stated, “One of the goals here is I want to keep the local talent from leaving. We have so many great players here in our backyard that for years we let get away. That’s one thing I want to focus on – keep our local players here. Girls like Stephanie, All-Americans, we keep them here, it builds excitement and fills the stands.”
He also thanked the administration for the new softball stadium. Rebhan pointed to the softball team’s 3.34 team GPA last year to applause and stated the goals for the season: 40 wins, winning the FIU-hosted Conference USA tournament, “and hopefully go far in the regionals.”
Rebhan closed with “One thing about girls softball, from coaching baseball and softball -- with girls, they have to feel good to play good. And right now, being out there watching these girls out there, they feel good. They feel good about themselves and the program.”
NUTS AND BOLTS STUFF THAT FEW CARE ABOUT IN PROPORTION TO ITS IMPORTANCE (JUST ASK FOOTBALL AND MEN’S BASKETBALL…)
Without mentioning FIU’s most recent appearances in the national media noise, Garcia swung into talking about Compliance, the SAAC and academic progress rating (APR). This is usually when “How did this happen?” gets asked often enough to be each meeting’s signature catch phrase.
Not this time. Compliance hadn’t bungled anybody’s eligibility. Nobody’s been put in academic time out. There’s no new APR problems.
“I feel very comfortable about what we have going on in the SAAC and the Compliance department with our APR and it’s been a total, total team effort,” Garcia said. “We’re starting to see the results. In a lot of these areas, you don’t see the results until two or three years down the line. What’s really encouraging is we’re seeing immediate results.”
He sang of Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Bejar – “She’s a workaholic. She gets things gdone. She’s very demanding, I’ll say that. But it makes everybody go to the next level.” – before handing the floor to Compliance Director of several months Hank Harrawood.
“I know from our last meeting, the certification process was important to make sure our student-athletes on the field are indeed able to represent us on the field,” said Harrawood, hired in the months following the Ray Taylor and Marita Davydova oops-ups that cost both basketball teams.
Now, the new web-based certification system will, he said, “allow for cross checking. It’ll allow everybody to go back and see what others have done. It’ll allow for greater accountability in the certification process and help majkre sure our athletes are indeed able to represent us when they do represent us on the field.”
Also, all the coaches who needed to be certified to recruit off campus passed the certification the first time. Harrawood said from what he’s heard that’s an FIU first.
Arrizurieta gave kudos that, so far, Compliance being under the Athletics umbrella works. Garcia extolled Harrawood’s work ethic with “weekends, he’ll call me in the middle of the night. Then, he introduced APR consultant John Shukie.
Shukie used to work for the NCAA. Now, he’s the president of Forward Progress Athletics Company, which works with 20 schools. Right before Shukie made that transition, he got a call from FIU as a school staring the APR abyss of men’s basketball and football.
“Let me paint the picture for you in the summer of 2013 when I did get that call,” Shukie said. “FIU athletics, especially men’s basketball and football, were facing some difficult APR issues. The men’s basketball team knew they’d be ineligible for the men’s basketball tournament coming up this past academic year. Football was looking at a very difficult sittaiton where they might fall in that same boat.”
“The first thing I did was diagnostically figure out, How did FIU get there? What put them in this situation?”
Shukie listed staff instability (the SAAC had more directors the last few years than Gone With the Wind) plus a lack of resources. Then, when bringing up the APR issues that penalized basketball and threatened to do so with football, he pointed at former men’s basketball coach Isiah Thomas and former football coach Mario Cristobal.
“What was lacking were some coaches who didn’t necessarily buy into the concept of APR,” Shukie said.
Having had a long APR discussion with Cristobal as he groaned about the difficulty in raising a low APR, I’d call that assumption into question. I'd also say the problems in Compliance and the SAAC, the same ones being celebrated as being fixed, contributed heavily to the basement APR. Such as the SAAC advisor who advised one athlete to take a course he'd already taken and passed, helping his academic ineligibility (she later advised a track athlete right into inelgibility).
“We are still, in some senses, paying for what happened in 2010-11 and 11-12 now because we keep those numbers until they roll off four years later,” Shukie said. “We had coaches, at least from what I can tell -- who have since left (or been fired – DJN), I did not deal with them -- weren’t necessarily recruiting with an academic purpose. They were probably recruiting with an athletic purpose, to win games, but there didn’t seem to be a real strategic plan for recruiting student-athletes who could be successful on the court or field and off the court or field.
“Over the course of the year, I’ve witnessed a 180,” he continued. “I thind it starts at the top. When I say at the top, there’s a group of people at the top. It starts with Pete Garcia stressing to his coaches, emphasizing to his coaches the importance of academics. I wasn’t a witness to what was going on before I got hired, I assume those conversations happened before I arrived as well.
“What I have seen is coaches buying into that. Especially in football and men’s basketball, where a lot of my work has been focused. We have coaches that buy into the concept of APR. They’re bringing in student-athletes who are focused athletically and academically.”
So, does Shukie think change started at the top with Garcia or at the coaching level? He seems to say both.
Anyway, Shukie lauded the involvement of men’s basketball coach Anthony Evans and football coach Ron Turner: “I’ve had more phone calls from Coach Turner than any coach I’ve worked with across the 20 schools I’m involved with.”
Shukie said any athletes coming to FIU just for a visit have their academics fully vetted before coming. If not in order, he claims, no visit. Remember the cancelled visit by all-purpose guy Javonte Seabury, for a while FIU’s highest rated 2014 football recruit? There you go.
“Part of our strategic plan is to have them create relationships with the faculty For men’s basketball, we require them to face to face interactions with the faculty, not just sit in the back,” Shukie said. “They have to actually go introduce themselves. We also require men’s basketball to participate in the on-campus mentoring program so they can have an administrative, faculty mentor. Not just helps them academically, but ties them to this school. So they feel tied to FIU and not just tied to FIU men’s basketball program.”
Arrizurieta half-joked, “if we were the first (client) and helped you get another 19 clients, we should get a reduction on our fee.”
Garcia countered, “Mr. Chair, just the penalty alone for football for any school that doesn’t make the APR (minimum) is $300,000. He’s worth every penny.”
The February meeting introduced a new bigger budget for the SAAC. This meeting officially introduced the new SAAC Director, Wes Maas.
Maas said the SAAC will add two learning specialists by the end of this semester as well as an assistant director position. The SAAC itself is getting a construction version of a workout-and-wardrobe makeover.
Maas wants to increase “the pride in our facility so our student athletes, who are 18 or 19 years old, feel as good about walking into the SAAC that they feel when they walk into the math lab on campus, which is amazing, state of the art and it’s new.”
They won’t be walking in for study hall. Maas eliminated it because he felt that a system of simply counting hours turned SAAC employees into timekeepers. It failed to provide the in-person attention some athletes need.
“We want to create independent learners. We don’t want to hold hands, we don’t want to facilitate eligibility,” Maas said. “We take the syllabi, break down the reporting status, so we know every week what our student athlete is supposed to be doing. We bring them in on Sunday or Monday. We have the student athlete create their objectives for the week, what they’re supposed to complete and when. We can assign them tutoring, we can assign them office hours with faculty, we can do anything in that time to ensure the student-athletes have the resources they need. Then we follow through the week and make sure the student-athletes complete the objectives they’re assigned.
“This is obviously for freshmen and athletes new to the university. But the idea is teach them how to do it, so that the next year they can do it and be independent in the process.”
After Maas finished, Arrizurieta said he was proud of the work the committee did in pushing for improvements in the SAAC and Compliance.
“Whatever else this board needs to do to support the initiative of athletics, the SAAC, Compliance, I’m incredibly happy to see that we are generally in the direction of progress, we’re tangibly seeing progress,” he said.
Vice Chairman Mitchell Adler assented.
“Thank both of you and the rest of the trustees for pushing the envelope and making us better,” Garcia said. “I’d like to thank President Rosenberg and the administration for giving us the resources we need to make this work. I echo the senitments that its been a team effort from both your stand point, the administration and everybody who’s doing the actual day-to-day work. I couldn’t be more proud of what everybody’s done and more excited for our future. Because without academic success, we’re not going to have any other kind of success.”
Arrizurieta stayed for the Finance Committee meeting that followed. He asked FIU Foundation president Howard Lipman if there was a policy of “a donor gone bad,” a clear reference to David Alfonso. The donation deal between FIU and Alfonso that put his name on the football field now called Ocean Bank Field ended after only three of its five years.
Lipman said as far as taking a donor to court “I don’t think that would be anything I would ever recommend.”
In 99 percent of cases, Lipman said, an unfulfilled donation occurs not out of any maliciousness but bad situation, i.e., market downturn, business dropoff, something happens in their lives (bad health and bad divorce can suck your money faster than the biggest black hole -- DJN).
“The last thing we want to go is create a policy toward the 1 percent,” Lipman said.
Arrizurieta said some protection must be given because “We’ve been through this before. It’s not intangible, it’s tangible and it’s happened.”
What: FIU vs. the University of Miami, and the resurrection of what was repeatedly called a "crosstown rivalry" by everyone ignoring Miami-Dade geography.
When: Sept. 22, 2018 at Sun Life Stadium for UM's home football game. November 2019 at a date and site to be determined for FIU's home game (Can FIU get the 305-No-Fault second deck on La Cage by then?).
The money: For the $500,000 UM will give FIU in 2018, UM gets a probable win and a better crowd than any other probable win could draw. For the $500,000 FIU will give UM in 2019, FIU gets its best home crowd of the season.
What else: Both University of Miami president Donna Shalala and UM athletic director Blake James said each schools' non-football coaches have been "encouraged" to schedule the other school. That doesn't mean it's automatic (not betting on baseball).
James said, "While we don't have other dates to announce in other sports today, (FIU executive director of sports and entertainment) Pete (Garcia) and I have agreed in all our other programs to continue to work to schedule each other because of our belief in the great things it brings to the student-athletes at Florida International University and the University of Miami."
Like less travel to and from road games, fewer missed classes and more travel savings which, Garcia said, could be used in other ways to benefit student-athletes.
Question: Will both schools be one football coach down the line by the time those games are played?
Yeah, I know the Ask Rosenberg Twitter chat was last week. Here's the highlights from President Mark Rosenberg's answers in case you were busy composing songs about Tim Howard or working on getting darker.
To "Will there ever be an outdoor rubber track on campus?": "Hoping this happens soon, having major conversations about additional space on this campus to continue building."
To "A lot of us in the FIU alum community lost confidence in our current AD. Will FIU do anything to remedy this?": "All of us are under continuous review. Nobody is exempt from being accountable."
To "Are we gonna have a chance to beat UM in the near future?": "Our objective is to be competitive and to win regardless of who we play."
FIU has hired former FAU athletic director Craig Angelos as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Revenue. Between FAU and FIU, Angelos held an also-long title, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director, at the University of South Florida.
Now, you might say FIU having a Senior Associate Athletic Director for Revenue would parallel BYU having a Senior Associate Athletic Director for African-American Student-Athletes. According to FIU's 2012-13 NCAA Financials Report, the latest one available, the athletic department received 68.9 percent of its total operating revenue from $19,519,332 in student fees. As far as contributions, the department brought in $2,830,915.
So, the department doesn't raise money so much as collects it.
Anyway, FIU's athletic department already has an Associate AD in charge of Development, Chris Bultinick. Bultinick's responsible for "all fund-raising efforts in the athletic department," according to his bio on the FIU website.
Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub oversees the marketing and ticket sales to the point he's got bonuses in his contract for attendance. So that shouldn't be on Angelos' plate, either.
Anyway, according to this 2012 story in The Palm Beach Post, poor fund-raising and marketing contributed to FAU not renewing Angelos' contract. The story by veteran reporter Tom DeAngelo also points out that Angelos got FAU's impressive $70 million stadium built. He had to raise money for that and the rest of the athletic department during a national economic valley. OK, so by that time that stadium's paid off, the rising coastal waters will have turned it into a beachfront stadium, but it's there.
We'll check after the holiday on what entry that's usually on an athletic director's To Do list is now on Angelos' for at least $141,000 per year. That's what Angelos pulled in at USF according to Florida Has a Right to Know.
So, there's been no track coach for the entire indoor and outdoor seasons. There's no softball coach because they wouldn't give him a big enough bump from $59,000. Various departments in the athletic department have been understaffed.
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.
Started looking over some things, figuring up some numbers, then got to playing with Windows Movie Maker after watching the Heat then Kings-Ducks and, well...
FIU pitcher Mike Franco has been named to the watch list for the Gregg Olson Award, which recognizes college baseball's breakout player of the year. Olson, an Auburn pitcher, rebounded from a mediocre first season to gain All-American status.
As predicted on this blog yesterday, Conference USA named FIU freshman Stephanie Texeira its Player of the Week for the second time this season. Texeira went four for five with four walks, five RBI, two home runs, a 2.000 slugging percentage (that's Babe Ruth-on-a-1980s-video-game numbers) and a .900 on-base percentage.
Also as predicted on Sunday night's blog post, FIU retook the national lead in team ERA, which is now down to 1.93 for the season. Mike Franco ranks sixth with a 0.95 ERA and freshman Cody Crouse is 25th with a 1.35 ERA.
Two years ago, when FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia mentioned FIU adding a sand volleyball team, he crested on "giddy." His reasoning: the sport's a natural for a school in a town with popular beaches and FIU could be a national power quickly because the sand Panthers wouldn't be scrambling to make up everybody else's 10 or 100-year head start.
Such was the theory, so has it been danced. FIU's seeded No. 5 going into the American Volleyball Coaches Association national championship for sand volleyball, which is still what the NCAA classifies as an "emerging sport." CBS Sports Netowrk will show a delayed broadcast in late May.
Should FIU as a team or one of the pairings come back with the biggest trophy, you can predict the trophy-snuggling photos: Garcia, several other athletic department administrators, FIU President Mark Rosenberg, all getting around the team and the trophy with the enthusiasm of taking selfies with a new baby.
Why, then, doesn't the department put enough bucks behind the sand volleyball and volleyball programs so that it doesn't have to do the gofundme.com thing? It's not embarrassing for the programs -- they're doing what they have to do. That's what coaches and ahtletes do. It reflects on the school and the athletic department that those programs have to do the electronic version of pleading car to car at 107th Avenue and 8th Street. FIU's doing the reverse Strom Thurmond -- instead of giving child support, but no name or claim to a daughter, FIU's giving name and is happy to claim, but are almost deadbeat dads.
Schools consider Division I athletics marketing. It's about getting the school name and positive impressions of the university out there. It works, too. Applications went up when the football team went to bowl games. But these words go back to what I wrote in the fall and the winter -- details in operation and presentation form an initial impression of your school to those who haven't been around it daily. Failure there presents a negative impression.
This is too basic to be a detail. Those who want to show love after the team wins should show love beforehand by showing the money.
While the stick and ball teams take a break from using their bats on visiting teams like they owe FIU money, swimming and diving prepares to leave for Atlanta and the Conference USA meet.
(They won't need to do any Internet panhandling, but the volleyball team is still at http://www.gofundme.com/FIUVolleyball, $195 toward their goal of $6,000. While you're on the site, you can contribute to the Oswego State Synchronized Skating Team's trip travel to nationals. Or the Coppin Academy Girls Basketball team trying to raise $6,000 to attend a summer camp.)
Lack of diver depth hurt FIU in the Sun Belt meet and could do the same here after senior Sabrina Beaupre takes the 10-meter platform and at least one of the two springboards. She's favored in all three.
In the pool, C-USA's tougher than The Belt and FIU no longer has Madame Butterfly, Marina Ribi, to pick up points in that dastardly stroke. Still, junior Johanna Gustafsdottir ranks first in the 200 backstroke and second in the 100 back. Senior Sonia Perez Arau comes in with the best 400 IM time in the conference. Klara Andersson is a close third in the 50 freestyle, which she won at last year's Sun Belt meet.
And FIU will bring home a relay win or two. I'm thinking 400 medley and 800 free. Just noticed -- the common thread in every school record relay is Gustafsdottir swimming the first leg. That makes sense. She's strongest in back, the first stroke of a medley relay. Her next strongest stroke is free. Classic relay set up uses the second fastest to lead off with the fastest anchoring.
I'd be shocked if the water women can give the athletic department its first Conference USA title. Defending champion Rice is still strong and East Carolina looks like a possible problem. That leaves baseball and softball -- track? Name the last conference champion without a coach -- and both of them get blocked. Rice owns baseball while UAB and Tulsa tussle over softball.
No, the baseball team isn't outscoring the football team after eight games. They were after three games (25-23) and four games (30-23). But if you just count scoring against Division I/FBS opponents, it's closer than you think after eight games: 78-63 for football.
When I saw FIU football coach Ron Turner at FIU Baseball Stadium with his family Saturday on the concourse on the first base line. I thought, "Boy, he'll go anywhere to see some offense." The Sunday juxtaposition couldn't have been more ripe -- FIU sports and centertainment head Pete Garcia attending hte baseball game with Butch Davis, the currently unemployed former coach at the Universty of Miami.
Now, if Davis wants back in coaching, he's got to cleanse himself by working somewhere else for a year or two. Obviously, FIU would be a fine place for that. Maybe Davis has changed his mind about FIU. He certainly could've joined his buddy Garcia a year ago and a few candidates (or their representatives) said they were told, "don't bother, this is Butch's job." Garcia's fits of temper and rash decisions would do Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts proud -- thus why some in the department call the second floor area housing Garcia's office "The Tower of Terror" -- but firing Mario Cristobal without a card like Davis to play exceeds Garcia's Yosemite Sam quotient.
North Carolina was on the hook for Davis' money, so nothing about that green affected Davis taking FIU's green. A theory I formed while writing about Saturday's 10-0 baseball thumping of Stony Brook: Davis learned the horrible academic situation facing FIU football in 2013 and decided to let someone else deal with that academic barf. If I knew about it in December, 2012, why wouldn't Davis?
This weekend's baseball stories were easy to write. FIU won three blowouts, scored early in each one and I didn't have to spend any time waiting to talk to coaches or players or transcribing their quotes. I did talk to Stony Brook Friday night starter Frankie Vanderka, one of the better pitchers FIU will see in non-conference play, about what pitch Julius Gaines drove for a home run and what he thought of FIU's lineup. On Saturday and Sunday, I wasn't going to waste the Stony Brook coach's time asking him his opinion of a team that just waxed him by 10 runs.
I'd have liked to talk to Aramis Garcia, hitting .500 over the first eight games; or freshman JC Escarra, with a team-leading .577 on-base percentage; or Josh Anderson, last year's team leader in doubles with 22, already with five this year and 14 RBI.
Alas, FIU coaches and players were unavailable for comment to the media. I'd been told before Friday's game that would be the case. Officially, it was Turtle Thomas' decision so everyone could remain focused on baseball without any distractions. Logically, that dog didn't hunt. Postgame interviews are, you know, postgame and about 18 hours before the next game. They take less than 10 minutes total time, two or three players and Thomas combined, once they start. There wasn't media, only a medium -- me -- for three of the first five games (as well as Friday and Saturday). And the Panthers looked none too distracted in winning their first five games. Also, Thomas does answer questions from FIU media relations after the game.
Of course, this came from above Thomas. Thomas' bosses are Garcia and Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub. This was a predictable reaction to the Dennis Wiseman story, but mostly because I'd long ago heard that neither was too pleased about a series of public records requests I've been making since December on a broad range of things. Sometimes, I just feel there's information I should have. Sometimes, I'm curious. Sometimes, I smell something.
Marketing's now Staub's thing, by the way. He's now the most motivated salesman in FIU athletics. In addition to his $110,000 salary, Staub gets $1,000 bonuses for football season student attendance being above $20,000, then another grand if over $30,000; basketball season student attendance over 5,000, then 10,000; basketball season tickets over 500 and over 750; baseball ticket revenue over $15,000 and $20,000; football ticket and sponsorship revenue (excluding Pepsi) over $1 million and over $1.5 million; sells the naming rights to FIU Baseball Stadium or five other new athletics assets; and sells all the suites for one season for football and basketball.
By the way, the victory song for FIU during the Turtle Thomas era used to be "New York, New York." Not sure why, but it's become custom since 2008. Now, under directions from marketing, it's Kool and the Gang's "Celebration," both the highest charting and worst Kool and the Gang single ever. Feel the cliche.
Oh, I forgot, The Master Plan Development for Camp Mitch from Feb. 14 still shows a soccer field surrounded by a track as a Future Development. Not even Funded or Likely Funded. Future Development.
To let you know how far into the future that might be, also in that category is Stadium Upper Bowl Expansion. That'll be about as useful as a weave store for skinheads until Ron Turner turns into Dr. Alchemy followed by Staub turning into P.T. Barnum.
FIU's in search of a men's soccer head coach again after Kenny Arena accepted a job with the LA Galaxy, according to FIU athletic director Pete Garcia. The Galaxy is coached by Arena's father, Bruce Arena.
Kenny Arena went 8-8-2 (0-7-1 in Conference USA) his first season, 2012, which was also FIU's first season with the full scholarship complement after years of NCAA reductions. This year, they were 6-10-1, 2-6-1 in conference.
Among the fuss surrounding Saturday afternoon's home men's basketball game against Florida Gulf Coast will be the retiring of jersey No. 22.
No, not Elvis Lopez nor Keith Greer. Senior guard Jerica Coley, the shining light of the women's basketball program and, right now, the athletic department, will get the honor at halftime of Saturday's game. Coley's putting up 26.0 points per game this season for team she's had to carry all the more because of the ineligibility of center Marita Davydova.
Be one of the first 300 students into the arena and get a blue basketball tank top. And there will be a Greek Row Tailgate outside the student gate from 1:30-3:30. The first 10 organizations to e-mail Maegan Azpiazu at firstname.lastname@example.org get to pound their food there.
Not everything we write makes it to print or online. An editing decision made on today's FIU football story cut an important part.
I tried to talk to FIU athletic director Pete Garcia Wednesday. My opinion was he was the one who pulled the trigger on Mario Cristobal's firing, he should be the one to give his point of view on where things stand with the football prgram a year later. Whether you agree with the firing of not, this wasn't a normal sacking with an easy, by-every-number explanation, but one that still has some people around the country shaking their heads. This is one that's going to be revisited.
I requested to speak with Garcia at 12:16 p.m. At 5:55 p.m., an FIU athletic department spokesman got back to me that Garcia preferred not to comment for this story. I wrote that at the close of the story. That line was removed in the editing.
Quick hits from the news conference announcing The Miami Beach Bowl:
A formal rotation opposite the American Athletic Conference, the owner and operator of the bowl, hasn't been decided upon yet, but it'll include Conference USA, the Sun Belt and the Mid-American Conference. However, I was told, if FIU is bowl eligible to this level and it isn't Conference USA's turn, FIU likely would get chosen while the other team gets lateraled elsewhere.
Also, the AAC champion could wind up in the game. Just using logic, if Central Florida or South Florida winds up eligible or the AAC champion, look for them here.
Sheesh, there are a lot of FIU folks here. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia is on the dais. The program said he'll do the translating for the Spanish language media.
"FIU president Mark Rosenberg and Pete Garcia have been invaluable in connecting us with the right people in Miami-Dade County," said AAC senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli.
Carparelli claiming $34 million economic impact for the county. We all know such things are more inflated than a carnival bouncy house, but there it is.
Miami Beach mayor Matti Bower's a born politician. Just because I happened to be standing net to her, having no idea who I was or where I lived (South Beach for 23 years), she introduced herself and took the time to have a conversation on Miami Beach flooding. Then, when she had to slide away to greet other folks, made sure to give the conversation a proper benediction.
Sophomore linebacker Patrick Jean, who has spent the season working with the second and third string, has quit the team for personal reasons. According to sources close to FIU, Jean has a family situation that'll be taking up a fat chunk of his time. He's staying in school, however.
Jean appeared in five games this season, compiling 1.5 tackles for loss and sacks among his 12 tackles.
Thursday at 11 a.m. is the Marlins Park press conference to officially announce The Miami Beach Bowl, owned and operated by the American Athletic Conference. Conference USA will be in the rotation for the other tie-in with the AAC. Expect several elements of FIU to be as involved in this bowl. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia was among the folks who helped fill this date for Marlins Park.
Freshman Coralia Arias held close to her first round score Monday in the FIU Pat Bradley Invitational. Her even par 72 left her at 3-under 141, one shot off the lead shared by Daytona State's So Young Hwang and Missouri's Taylor Gohn.
As for the rest of FIU...oh, baby, they weren't hot today. Sophomore Sophie Godley shot a 2-over 74 to fall to 11th. Sophomore Meghan MacLaren plunged from seventh to 26th, pulled down by a 6-over 78. And now you see part of the reason FIU dropped from the lead to third, one stroke beyind Maryland and five behind leader Daytona State going into today's final round at Sarasota's Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.
On the single, Stevie suddenly shouts to The Jackson Five and they do the "Doo-do-wop" part.
Judging from the noise, Stevie could be many FIU followers proxy when discussing the athletic director and the football coach. Who, I've heard, have had a few go-rounds recently over some of FIU's department shortcomings that a few extra bucks could've avoided.
Speaking of bucks, the football coach isn't likely to be going anywhere soon unless his financial house is in unusually good order or FIU wants to swallow a big matzoh moneyball. That's if I'm reading Ron Turner's contract correctly (I'm not bothering the nearest Harvard Law 31-year attorney with this. She's got her own job).
If Turner resigns any time soon, he'll owe FIU $500,000, a year's base salary. If FIU fires Turner without cause any time before January 3, 2016 -- and I don't see anywhere in the contract that a really bad first-year record counts as being cause -- the school will owe Turner two years base salary or $1 million. Plus, FIU will have to pay another football coach.
That's a lot of jack to tie up in that position for a department whose revenue is $25.4 million, most of it coming from student fees, and has trouble drawing any kind of actual attendance to football games (I have put in a public records request for the actual ticket sales figures from the 2012 football season, last year's basketball season and thus far in 2013 football).
Especially when, by my math, the school still owes former football coach Mario Cristobal $431,386. That might be off the books, however, if the severance contract clause didn't follow Cristobal beyond his next coaching stop. That was the University of Miami for a winter minute before Cristobal landed at Alabama.
To fire Garcia costs one year base salary, $362,527 at this point. Also, FIU has to pay his replacement.
I heard that FIU President Mark Rosenberg sang praises of Garcia to a group of boosters on the Louisville trip. I've also heard there might be a Board of Trustees meeting with Rosenberg Monday over all this business, although none is posted and I'm not sure this qualifies as enough of an emergency situation to act under those rules (although I'm also sure any Board and President worth their website photos know how to skirt Sunshine Laws). If there is a meeting, I'm sure the cost of doing business -- or ending it -- will be discussed.
Time to get it together, FIU. Let Saturday be your day of atonement for last week’s home opener.
I’m not talking about the football team, much as they might feel the need for redemption after the Central Florida skunking. They’re not at a good stage of the program right now and nobody looking with anything other than FIU beer goggles thought it would be different. Anybody saying they lack “hunger” or need to “care more” needed to stop watching Rocky movies after Rocky I. Put down the try-hard myth. Vince Lombardi’s considered a great motivator, but Lombardi himself said you can have all the motivation in the world to beat Joe Louis, but what does motivation matter once you run into the reality of Louis’ superior speed, punching ability and skill?
No, I'm onto things like...time to get the FIU Stadium scoreboard together. A 2008 stadium shouldn’t have a scoreboard looking and working like it came from Fishers High by way of Sanford & Son Salvage. An paint-flaking scoreboard with a faulty video screen flashing scores like “87-0” and “4-0," as happened last week for extended stretches, does nothing for the idea that progress lives at FIU.
Time to get FIU Stadium together. Enclosing it removed the Carmel High School look. Now how about some new signage that doesn’t look more faded than my $10 1996 Tom’s Restaurant t-shirt? And properly equipped restrooms? I’m not even going to discuss the press box.
I'm betting the stands say it's time to get the marketing together. The only name listed on the athletic department’s staff directory in marketing is a graduate assistant. Going into your highest profile sport’s season so anorexically staffed equates to going into a game with one healthy wide receiver.
On the field, as they said in GoodFellas, everybody takes a beating sometime. There’s not much shame in that. But these other things don’t take any time, money or energy not available to FIU. Do it right.
Now, on the field, FIU should be able to be able to muscle an undersized Bethune front line, especially if they spread the Wildcats defense out enough to limit the run support from the safeties and outside linebackers. Also, quarterback Jake Medlock hasn’t been Mr. Precision lately so working the run, rotating backs unless one gets truly hot, seems not only the most productive but prudent approach early.
Bethune loves the run, but threw the ball 20 times in each of its first two games. Last season, the Wildcats averaged 20.6 throws per game. I don’t think they throw it as much here unless they get behind big early. They’re not a big time of possession team, averaging 32:27 per game last year despite being a 9-3, run-based team. So when their offense gets on the field in this heat with a defense spending the night battling FIU’s size, I’d expect them to call plays with defensive rest in mind more than usual.
Too, I see the Wildcats having success on the read option and on quarterback scrambles. Expecting FIU’s containment issues to disappear in Game 3 is foolhardy and, once confusion enters the Panthers defensive huddle, the pace of Bethune’s offense could keep them reeling.
I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams put up some points (the over/under line of 47 feels low). Besides moving the ball, I also can see each offense getting a layup score from a fumble. Bethune has committed 24 fumbles and lost 12 in the last 14 games. FIU’s lone touchdown this season came off a fumble recovery and they’ve lost two themselves, leading to 10 opponent points.
Go to special teams and you find the same stalemate. Neither team does anything special. FIU wasn’t happy with placekick snaps last week. Bethune’s placekicks and punts apparently look like a One Direction concert with festival seating – four field goals blocked last year, two punts blocked last year, two extra points blocked this year. That could be the difference in the game.
I’ll take FIU in overtime 31-28. But, that’s one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.
FIU swept both Tennessee-Chattanooga and South Dakota State, 3-0 each Friday, and finished the FIU Invitational 2-1. Senior Kimberly Smith banged home 12 kills in the first match and 15 in the second along with six blocks. Senior Jessica Mendoza had 14 digs in the afternoon, 16 digs and three service aces at night
I'm having a hard time understanding why anybody's shocked or irate about the first two football games. Let's be realistic -- this was a six-win team, maximum, with everybody healthy and eligible. Go around the country, pluck the top two wide receivers, top running back, top cornerback/return man off the roster of six-win teams. Then, have that team lose three more starters to injury -- with a steep dropoff to second string -- in the first game. With a new coaching staff and new systems.
A six-win team disintegrates into a likely one-to-three-win team. Friday night, that team played a Central Florida team that'll win eight to 10 regular season games. This isn't about players' effort or coaching, much as we all love to question play calls and strategic decisions. This is a team that's stripped down like an '82 IROC Z-28 Camaro abandoned in Hialeah.
Could FIU have won this game? Not without firearms (don't get any ideas in The Towers...). Could they have made it more respectable? Sure. But it just would've been delaying the inevitable.
Remember when I wrote about the drops in training camp, not just among the wide receivers, but among the defensive backs? What I had in mind are plays such as UCF's first third down. Blake Bortles threw late across the field, a big boo-boo in Quarterback School. FIU's Justin Halley jumped in, and dribbled a gimme pick six.
On FIU's first drive, third and 3 became third and 8 because of too many men on the field. That's the kind of early season mistake coaches make, hate, expect, yet wish they could eradicate from the universe. Then FIU completes a 7 1/3-yard pass on third and 8. The same thing happened on FIU's second possession, 9 1/2 yards to T.J. Lowder on third and 10. Ron Turner exploded at the officials over the spot or the lack of measurement.
Between those drives, UCF took a 7-0 lead on a drive that should've been a three-and-out. Bortles broke containment (a loose term for FIU the first two games) on third and 15 and scrambled for 19 yards.
Four drives into the game, that's four plays FIU could've made to score, get the defense off the field or keep the defense off the field as well as keep game scoreless and the field balanced. I didn't even include the two drops, one of which would've been a first down. Instead, after a 16-yard J.J. Worton punt return, UCF set up only 44 yards from 14-0 and the snowball began a-rollin' in the second quarter.
Turner went traditional football coach uptight on fourth and 2 from the UCF 40. He ordered up a punt. Afterwards, he defended the move the traditional way, talking percentages. To me, this is where you have to feel the game, go off chart as well as remember who or what you are. The score was 17-0. UCF had scored on its previous two possessions. FIU had driven 35 yards, propelled by a roughing the passer penalty, yes, but it was the Panthers' best drive of the night thus far. A struggling offense needed its spirits rebooted by a coaching staff showing confidence in them.
Instead, FIU punted and got a net of 20 yards when Michael Wakefield, standing inside the 5, couldn't locate the ball and it bounced near him, then into the end zone. Momentum had been available for a moment. But when FIU failed to ask Momentum to dance, UCF returned from the punch bowl and said to Momentum, "Get down on it" -- first play, Bortles deep to Rannell Hall beyond Randy Harvey (told you, they'd pick on him when needed) for 59 yards. Soon after, 24-0.
I'm not sure why sophomore cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon didn't play. I know he wasn't happy about it. He Tweeted "First college game I'm not playing in, smh I'm bout to go home man!"
Once again, the offense looked much better in the hurry-up. Quarterback Jake Medlock actually made some nice throws, particularly two to redshirt sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lowder. Still, he missed two throws to sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Jasper that count as disheartening -- behind Jasper on a blitz for what would've been a first down and just flat missed Jasper deep when he didn't realize he had time to set his feet on a scramble outside the pocket. That would've been a touchdown.
E.J. Hilliard went three for three in relief of Medlock. Unlike last week, when Hilliard looked like the right rhythm section for this offensive band and Medlock looked like Spike Jones drummer playing with Thelonious Monk, the numbers don't correlate to what happened on the field. This still needs to be an open competition, however.
(Jasper's made his preference known on Twitter. He retweeted an FIU fan declaring to Hilliard "We want E.J. Hilliard...I started that chant fool. We need you in NOW.")
On defense, what happened is what everyone knew might happen. A secondary down two starters got flambeed by a good quarterback and experienced wide receivers with size and speed. A defense that got no rest eventually got pushed around somewhat by a strong offensive line.
This isn't hard, folks. UCF has better players who are more mature mentally and physically, guided by a staff headed by a good coach in his 10th year at the school. Maryland had better players who were more mature mentally and physically. So will East Carolina, Marshall and Middle Tennessee. This isn't a Disney movie where some player or coach discovers the latent greatness in those around him. This is real life, when what greatness there is on this roster, will take time to develop.
Kill time during games playing The Blame Game -- is this Pete Garcia's fault for firing Mario Cristobal, for halting staff and football operations work for the month after the firing or for not making sure there are enough resources for academic support? Is this Cristobal's fault for gaps left on the roster, for recruiting kids who flopped academically (spare me the excuses, footballers -- other athletes who spend just as much time as you do on their sport, if not more, handle their business)? Is it the fault of those players once counted upon to ameliorate the pain of rebuilding and only have exacerbated it by off-the-field failures?
Whatever you decide the answer is, right now, this team is going to have to work very hard for whatever it gets. This season, the Panthers will live The Struggle.