February 24, 2014

Ramble On

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.

That would be something completely different.

 

 

 

December 13, 2013

Kenny Arena out as men's soccer coach

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.

December 05, 2013

Retiring No. 22 Saturday; an addendum to today's story on FIU football

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 mazpiazu@fiu.edu get to pound their food there.

FOOTBALL STORY

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.

November 24, 2013

October 24, 2013

The Miami Beach Bowl

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.

Check out my Twitter feed, http://twitter.com/DavidJNeal for a photo of the football configuration of Marlins Park. Capacity of about 34,000.

The game is contracted for six years. Television and title sponsorship are yet to be determined. The date isn't set, but they'll hope for Dec. 22 or 23.

The roof is planned to be open.

 

October 21, 2013

Stuff like this and that...

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.

BOWLING

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.

GOLF

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.

September 23, 2013

"No. No. No."

That was the texted response from FIU President Mark Rosenberg -- preceded by "Good morning!" -- to this question, which I texted today at 10:32 a.m.:

"I was wondering if you had any discussions with the Board of Trustees regarding or were considering changes in the Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment or Head Football Coach positions?"

 

 

The Cost of Ending Business

 

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. 

September 17, 2013

Numbers

 

A few from FIU's fall sports, including one that's been specifically asked about often.

Senior defensive tackle Greg Hickman's tackles for loss per game: 1.8, 17th in the nation.

Senior punt returner Sam Miller's per return average: 16.7, 10th in the nation

Men's soccer goals per game: 2.4, eighth in the nation

Passing defense: 196.0 yards per game, 41st in the nation (out of 123).

Rush defense: 242.3 yards per game, 110th in the nation.

Total defense: 438.3 yards per game, 96th in the nation.

Scoring defense: 38.3 yards per game, 114th in the nation.

Passing offense: 126.0 yards per game, 116th in the nation.

Rushing offense: 65.0 yards per game, 119th in the nation.

Total offense: 191.0 yards per game, 122nd in the nation.

Scoring offense: 7.7 points per game, 122nd in the nation.

Retention bonus due Executive Director of Entertainment and Sports Pete Garcia on Oct. 15: $72,504.

How much FIU would owe Garcia if they terminated his contract without cause before Oct. 15: $362,527.

 

 

September 14, 2013

Game Day III: FIU vs. Bethune-Cookman; volleyball takes two

 

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.

VOLLEYBALL

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

September 07, 2013

A few thoughts from UCF 38, FIU 0

Well, I got the 38 part right.

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.

 

July 27, 2013

What Conference USAs football coaches and ADs make

Most of this comes from public records. Some of the numbers on private schools come from media reports, if any are out there at all. I used USA Today's database as little as possible. We're talking base salary, unless otherwise indicated.

FOOTBALL COACHES

Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: Believed to be $800,000.

Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee:  $700,000 (approximately).

Todd Monken, Southern Miss -- $700,000. $425,000 for
coaching, $275,000 for media

David Bailiff, Rice: Believed to be $608,000.

Doc Holliday, Marshall: $600,000

Skip Holtz, La Tech: $500,000. But Holtz still gets money
from South Florida as well, so this is about half of what he’ll report to the
IRS.

Ron Turner, FIU, $500,000. Some outlets report $700,000, but
his contract says a base of $500,000 and the likely bonuses don’t add up to
$700,000.

Garrick McGee, Alabama-Birmingham: $500,000

Curtis Johnson, Tulane: N/A. One site says $500,000.

Dan McCarney, North Texas: $475,000

Carl Pelini, FAU: $472,500

Ruffin McNeil, East Carolina: $400,000

Sean Kugler, UTEP: $280,000

Brad Lambert, Charlotte: $253,000

Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio: $232,000

Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion: $200,000 (but his contract runs
through 2021 and other income streams raise his money water level easily to
$250,000)

 

ATHLETIC DIRECTORS

Jeff Compher, East Carolina: $415,000

Pete Garcia, FIU: $362,527.

Brian Mackin, UAB: $302,000

Rick Villareal, North Texas: $300,000

Mike Hamrick, Marshall: $258,000

Judy Rose, Charlotte: $250,000

Dr. Camden Wood Selig, Old Dominion: $250,000

Bob Stull, UTEP: $241,060

Patrick Chun, FAU: $235,000

Lynn Hickey, Texas-San Antonio: $215,000

Chris Massaro, Middle Tennessee State: $210,715

Bill McGillis, Southern Mississippi: Just hired.

Tommy McClelland, Louisiana Tech: Just hired.

Rick Mello, Rice: The former FIU athletic director is Rice’s
interim AD after Rick Greenspan left at the end of June.

Rick Dickson, Tulane: Couldn't be reliably estimated

Derrick Gragg, Tulsa: Couldn't be reliably estimated

  

 

 

July 18, 2013

Summer reading

Somebody gave me one more thing to read on my vacation by loading to Amazon the e-book subtitled "A Story of the 2012 FIU Panthers, Sun Belt Preseason Champions."

I know it's popular reading out at Camp Mitch. I read various chunks on Tuesday and began a page-by-page reading Wednesday.

How much of it is true? From what I've been told both before and since this book's electronic publication, some things were overstated (the supposed near mutiny of TY Hilton and Wayne Times before the 2011 Beef O'Brady's Bowl) and others were understated (the details on the disastrous flight to Louisiana-Lafayette last year...whoa). Some facts are flat out wrong.

Who wrote it? Look up and down among those in the football program not currently employed for your most likely candidates. It takes time to bang out something like this, even if the writing doesn't exactly remind you of North Dallas Forty.

Repercussions? Few, if any. The staff involved has been fired. Many of the players have graduated. Athletic director Pete Garcia remains, but nothing I've read so far involving Garcia is news to the FIU administration or counts as a dismissable offense. He doesn't come off well. Nobody comes off well when discussing a plane crash of a season because it's like a plane crash -- many things have to go wrong for that jetliner to face plant.

  

 

Summer reading

Somebody gave me one more thing to read on my vacation by loading to Amazon the e-book subtitled "A Story of the 2012 FIU Panthers, Sun Belt Preseason Champions."

I know it's popular reading out at Camp Mitch. I read various chunks on Tuesday and began a page-by-page reading Wednesday.

How much of it is true? From what I've been told both before and since this book's electronic publication, some things were overstated (the supposed near mutiny of TY Hilton and Wayne Times before the 2011 Beef O'Brady's Bowl) and others were understated (the details on the disastrous flight to Louisiana-Lafayette last year...whoa). Some facts are flat out wrong.

Who wrote it? Look up and down among those in the football program not currently employed for your most likely candidates. It takes time to bang out something like this, even if the writing doesn't exactly remind you of North Dallas Forty.

Repercussions? Few, if any. The staff involved has been fired. Many of the players have graduated. Athletic director Pete Garcia remains, but nothing I've read so far involving Garcia is news to the FIU administration or counts as a dismissable offense. He doesn't come off well. Nobody comes off well when discussing a plane crash of a season because it's like a plane crash -- many things have to go wrong for that jetliner to face plant.

 

June 18, 2013

Numbers & the new money man

FIU athletic director Pete Garcia confirmed what tormer Louisiana-Monroe athletic director Bobby Staub told the Monroe News-Star Tuesday: Staub will be FIU's new Senior Associate Athletic Director, a job recently vacated by Alex Duque. Staub and ULM parted ways in April.

Garcia said Staub's responsibilities will be broader than Duque's were. Staub will oversee sponsorships, marketing, the ticket office, sports information and advancement. 

According to Garcia, FIU's overall operating budget for 2013-14 projects total expenditures of $28,711,000 and total revenues of $29,258,000.

As for the recent team GPAs, I obviously need a stronger prescription in my glasses. The information I had in previous posts came from what I thought I saw on the screen during the Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meeting from Student-Athlete Academic Center Director Dr. Phil Moses. But, here's the correct numbers from Dr. Moses, who forwarded to me the chart he projected on the screen for the committee.

Men's basketball the last four semesters, starting from 2011-12: 2.16, 2.48, 2.18, 2.00.

Football the last four semesters, starting from 2011-12: 2.28, 2.46, 2.06, 2.14.

The most consistently strong team, as far as GPA, is swimming & diving followed closely by women's basketball. Both the Aquawomen and hoopsters femme have seven of the last eight semesters over 3.0. Swimming's one exception, fall 2010, was a 2.97. Women's basketball's one exception, fall 2011, was 2.91.

 

June 11, 2013

APR news, not-so-news (basketball postseason ban), a football departure

 I don't know what happened to this post. Somehow, inserting the Alice Cooper video eliminated the rest of the copy. I apologize.

In summary, the men's basketball team got the NCAA punishment expected for almost a year -- no postseason play in 2013-14, activity time limited to five days and 16 hours -- when the 2011-12 Academic Progress Rate came in at an abysmal 750. That pulled the four-year rate down to 858. The reasons behind the 833 for the 2010-11 school year, one of the factors in Isiah Thomas' firing, was discussed in an April 5 post on this blog. I'd heard stories of players willfully crashing their acadmics after Thomas' firing. Such a comically low APR score all but confirms that happened. Between that and transfers from the program post-firing, there's your 750.

The football team's single-season APR was 932 and four-year was 930. The leading programs on the four-year APR were tennis, 992, and swimming, 986. Women's basketball and golf both put up single-year APRs of 1000.

Football had the lowest four APR aside from basketball. Baseball had the lowest single season APR aside from basketball, 867.

ACADEMIC PROGRESS RATES

Baseball: multi-year, 945. 2011-12, 867

Men's basketball: multi-year, 858. 2011-12, 750.

Men's cross country: multi-year, 975. 2011-12, 938.

Football: multi-year, 930. 2011-12, 932.

Men's soccer: multi-year, 943. 2011-12, 975.

Men's indoor track: multi-year, 960. 2011-12, 970.

Men's outdoor track: multi-year, 952. 2011-12, 970.

Women's basketball: multi-year, 972. 2011-12, 1000.

Women's cross country: multi-year, 955. 2011-12, 980.

Women's golf: multi-year, 983. 2011-12, 1000.

Women's soccer: multi-year, 954. 2011-12, 958

Softball: multi-year, 967. 2011-12, 935.

Swimming: multi-year, 986. 2011-12, 991.

Tennis: multi-year, 992. 2011-12, 968.

Women's indoor track: multi-year, 957. 2011-12, 928.

Women's outdoor track: multi-year, 960. 2011-12, 943.

Volleyball: multi-year, 973. 2011-12, 932.

 

FOOTBALL

Sources close to Camp Mitch say yet another director of football operations, Nick Mehlhaff, has resigned. That's four directors of football operations since January 2012, two in the last five months.

 

April 16, 2013

A few things from Anthony Evans introduction

Amidst the fumes from The Beach at The Branch, FIU introduced Anthony Evans as its new men's basketball coach. Packing the suite were coaches (including Ron Turner, Rita Buck-Crockett and Cindy Russo), some of last season's FIU team and a plethora of folks connected with the athletic department, past and present. More people there than at the start of the FIU-FAMU game.

"For the recruits in the South Florida area, we're going to recruit you extremely hard," Evans said. "We want to build this program on local talent, so we can get this community energized and behind this basketball program."

Evans said he thought he was close last year to getting the FIU job that went to Richard Pitino. "Obviously, Richard has a great reputation as a recruiter. I know that's something (FIU athletic director) Pete (Garcia) was huge on." Garcia said Evans lost to Pitino "by a nose."

Evans thanked Pitino "for saying great things about me. For being an advocate for me getting this position and for building a solid foundation moving forward for years to come." He also thanked South Carolina (and former Miami High) coach Frank Martin and Marquette coach Buzz Williams, whom he called "great friends," for recommending him to Garcia.

Evans said he liked The Beach at The Branch: "I love it. Naw, it's unique. if Pete had anything to do with it, I knew it would be unique...I think it sets us apart from other schools and I think that's what you want."

Garcia said FIU would tour Spain for two weeks in August.

Evans explained afterwards that the APR bouncing during his time as Norfolk's head coach was the result of players not adhering to the structures and rules in place and not being made to do so by the coaching staff. And by "coaching staff" he made clear he meant himself, not any assistant.

The team's leading three-point shooter, guard Malik Smith, might not be transferring as he indicated on Twitter and via Instagram the night Minnesota announced Pitino's hiring.

Evans hadn't made any decisions yet on how many of his Norfolk assistants he's bringing with him.

April 11, 2013

Basketball Coach: The Waiting

 

 

Coming up on the seven to 10-day period FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia set last week for hiring a new basketball coach, there's no smoke coming out of the athletic offices wing of The Branch. The court's almost finished, though. You can go to my Twitter feed, http://www.twitter.com/DavidJNeal for that photo as I'm still having trouble uploading photos. Video still works, so perhaps I'll do a little Oscar Micheaux tomorrow when I'm out at Camp Mitch for football practice.

Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey didn't want to comment on any interest in the open head coaching position 5 hours to the south. Pelphrey played under Rick Pitino at Kentucky and has been an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida twice. Between those assistant periods, Pelphrey was head coach at South Alabama (80-67, one NCAA, one NIT bid in five years) and Arkansas (69-59, one NCAA bid in four years).

If he's going to get another shot at a head coaching job, it'll be at an FIU or another Conference USA-level school. He's making $180,000 at Florida, so this job would be a bump in salary if not program profile.

Rivals.com reports that Maryland assistant Scott Spinelli interviewed for the job. Spinelli's been an assistant under Mark Turgeon at Maryland, Texas A&M and Wichita State. Pitino/Donovan connection? Spinelli played at Boston University while Pitino, who had just left BU, was coaching at nearby Providence and became an important prep school coach in a Boston basketball world Pitino knows well.

Spinelli earned just over $207,000 for the 2011-12 season, according to the Washington Times.

 

 

April 04, 2013

Pete speaks: the highlights

FIU athletic director Pete Garcia spoke to the media Thursday morning on the status of the FIU basketball program.

On a 2014 postseason ban because of subpar APR in 2010-11 and 2011-12, the last two Isiah Thomas years: FIU doesn't know yet, but it's likely.

On future Pitino games: Louisville's still on for next year and Richard Pitino has talked about an FIU-Minnesota game next year.

How soon: Garcia hopes to have a hire within seven to 10 days. He says he wants the best coach possible and is "intrigued by the type of basketball we played this year."

April 03, 2013

"What now?" asked the boxer...

Unlike Marcellus, we can't exactly tell you what now.

Raymond Taylor, the guard sitting out this season after transferring from FAU, summed FIU's dilemna up when he Tweeted Wednesday afternoon, "Wow!!!! What's my next move!??"

Nobody saw Richard Pitino staying at FIU until his face possesed the topography of age etched into his father's. He'd learn the head coaching craft here in the minor leagues of major college basketball, learn how to get players to come to college basketball's Congo and keep them eligible, how to compete with very limited resources and the nuances of being a program's face.

Then, either Billy Donovan would leave Florida or Rick Pitino would retire from Louisville and Richard the Second would get called up.

Nobody anticipated an 18-14 season. Nobody thought a major conference would even look at a first-year FIU coach, even if his last name has been attacted to national championships. Now, though, FIU's almost back to where it was a year ago, if more talented and athletic on the court. They might be in an even worse situation -- if the 2011-12 APR is as bad as I've heard it is, FIU could be banned from postseason play. No conference tournament, no shot at the NCAA Tournament.

Junior guard Malik Smith, a junior college transfer and team leader who ranked 16th in the nation with 3.0 three-pointers per game, posted on Instagram Wednesday night, "Thanks to FIU for the opportunity to do something special and help turn a program around. With that being said, I'll be asking for my release some time next week and taking my talents to a different university. Coach Pitino helped show me what hard work was and I'll forever appreciate it. With him and the rest of my teammates the best in the future. Everything happens for a reason." 

So here's what Pete Garcia gets for making a hire that worked better than anybody had a right to expect: the chance to do it again. And he might need to in the worst way.

Or, with the football program rebuilding also, he might lose his Camp Mitch privileges.


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