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.


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

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

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



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.


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.



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.

January 22, 2013

FAU & Middle on 2013 football schedule

Now that FAU and Middle Tennessee are hopping out of the Sun Belt and into Conference USA in 2013 instead of 2014, the football scheduling process can actually resume. Expect a finished schedule in a few weeks.

According to FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, that schedule for FIU will include games against FAU and Middle. So, the Shula Bowl which has gone from "Off Indefinitely" to "Off For At Least 2013" is now back to "Same Time, Next Year." Though the game was in Boca Raton last year, it's undecided who gets the home date this season.

January 03, 2013

Ron Turner, new FIU head football coach

Former University of Illinois coach Ron Turner will be announced as FIU's coach Friday afternoon.

"I'm excited about everything Pete Garcia and the president (Mark Rosenberg) have been doing to get this thing going," Turner said Thursday night. "Not that it hasn't been successful if you look at the strides made in a short amount of time."

I asked Turner why the return to college coaching when 12 of his last 20 seasons have been in the NFL.

"I love being a head coach," Turner said. "I love the college game. People would ask me which I liked more and I'd tell them, 'Whichever one is where I am.' I love working with young guys as 18 years olds, watcing them grow and leave four years later as men. I've got guys I recruited my first year at Illinois that I still keep in contact with."

Turner was 35-57 in his eight seasons at Illinois, 1997-2004, peaking in 2001 with a 10-1 team that won the Big Ten, then lost the Sugar Bowl. (The Rose Bowl, traditionally Big 10 vs. Pac 12, hosted the Bowl Alliance national championship game with the University of Miami and Nebraska). He said he thought Illinois was on the verge of bouncing back after the 2004 season because of the good young players they had. Ron Zook took over there and after a pair of two-win seasons, went 9-4 in 2007.

Turner said he didnt' have a great amount of experience recruiting South Florida, though they got some players out to go to Illinois, but "we will make every effort to keep local guys here."

Turner, brother of longtime NFL assistant and head coach Norv Turner, spent last season with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers as quarterbacks coach on the same staff with special assistant Butch Davis, long the presumed favorite for the FIU job. According to Ron Turner, this was the only college job he interviewed for this year.

He said though his offensive background tended to be more the so-called West Coast Offense "I believe in pushing the ball down the field and playing up tempo." He said there would be some spread and spread option in his offense, but it wouldn't be exclusively spread. So, yes, FIU fans, you'll be seeing your quarterback under center. Turner said he thought after playing college football in his offense, which incorporates a lot of NFL offensive elements, players would be able to adjust more quickly from college to the NFL. He didn't say this, but that could be a selling point in recruiting, which he has to get hopping on after the American Football Coaches Association convention.



December 24, 2012

Pete says the Butch stories are "totally false."

FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia said Monday afternoon when asked about the stories bouncing around the Internet that Butch Davis was in as FIU's next head football coach, "Butch Davis is not the FIU football coach. That story is totally false."

So, that's the official word from Camp Mitch for now. Still, I'd say expect an announcement Jan. 2-6.

December 19, 2012

Pregame on hoop big game; Sonia Perez Swimmer of the Week (again); lawyer time

Bigger dance hall, swankier dance partners, but the shoes are the only thing FIU coach Richard Pitino wants as a major change for tonight's game with No. 5 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center.

Pitino said he spotted the South Beach model adidas at a summer AAU game. The adidas rep at the game welcomed Pitino's request that FIU get some and Pitino decided they would make their FIU debut at the Louisville game. (Thanks to Joey de la Rosa for contributing his shoe and a steady prop-holding hand to the above shot).

Otherwise, he wants to keep everything the same as most games, despite the fact they'll be playing in front of 10 times the crowd they usually face and FIU's highest ranked opponent since No. 1 UCLA in the 1995 NCAA tournament.

"It's an opportunity for us to get better," Pitino said after Wednesday's morning shootaround. "Regardless of who we're playing, that's been the goal from Day One when I took this job. Let's get better every single day. This is another opportunity."

Louisville shouldn't be familiar just to Pitino. FIU players should recognize the Cardinals' high pressure style.

"It's funny because we play the same defense as they do," Pitino said. "When we're going over scouting, I'll tell them to get into Louisville's "White Press." All of a sudden, they're playing harder and it's more aggressive. I want to tell them, 'Guys, that's our defense, too! Play that hard every single time!' So we may switch the name of our press to "Louisville' instead of "White" to see if it'll work and carry over. It's good for them to see those guys playing the same style defensively, showing them that we can do it, we've just got to play a little bit harder."


I know I'm usually up on the swimming thing and I knew about this one yet it still slipped through the cracks. Sonia Perez broke the FIU record in the 1000 freestyle with a 10:11.36 at Nova Southeastern's Sharks Invitational, won the 200 Individual Medley, the 400 IM and the 1600 free.

So the Sun Belt awarded Perez her second consecutive Swimmer of the Week award and her third of the year.


Called in our lawyers this morning. What I've asked for doesn't take long and in an information age, should take a few minutes. Pop a colada and get it done.

That is, it shouldn't take that long if said records actually still exist...

December 18, 2012

Coley Sun Belt POW (again); where are those evals again?; Manny in, Manny out, whatever

Junior guard Jerica Coley received her sixth Sun Belt Player of the Week award, the most by an FIU women's basketball player.

Coley put up 39 points against Dartmouth Saturday and 22 against Central Florida, both wins. Perhaps most impressively, she hit 24 of 25 (96 percent) free throws. She's sixth in the nation with 22.1 points per game. 


Tuesday, I received an update that everything I wanted from athletic director Pete Garcia and former head football coach Mario Cristobal's files were being compiled.

Now, as I had specifically separated Garcia's evaluations as being more urgent than everything else -- they were first requested July 14 --I eagerly anticipated seeing them in my e-mail box yesterday. Hey, I'd been with The Herald about a decade when I asked for copies of all of my evaluations. It didn't take five months. It didn't take five hours. It took closer to five minutes. If they'd had to scan them, that would've been maybe 10 minutes.

My e-mail box remains light on Garcia's evaluations. So what reasonable conclusion can we reach about said evaluations and how much should I trust what I eventually will receive?


Camp Mitch sources confirm the Rivals.com report that Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz interviewed for the head football coach job Monday. CBSSports.com reports that Diaz removed his name from consideration Tuesday.

My thumbnail analysis of Diaz can be found a few posts ago. The opinion remains that if FIU wants to sell the next hire as a guaranteed upgrade on Cristobal, they'll want someone with head coaching experience who'll look good in front of the national college football media in early January when they're in town for Notre Dame vs. Alabama.

December 17, 2012

Can't a brotha have a weekend?...Answers to stuff

I indulged in a long planned vacation with wife and kid in New York. I skipped one full day blogging despite being on vacation. I checked back in today and it sounds like the lobby of Bailey Building & Loan.

To answer some questions that have been posed in the comments section:

1. NCAA transfer rules aren't waived because a coach is fired. A player would still have to sit out a year unless he could get a waiver. As I wrote previously, many players are taking a wait-and-see attitude because they'd like to see who the new coach is. It doesn't make much practical sense for most players to transfer.  

2. The list of people who know who the next football coach will be is short and, as of right this very second, doesn't include me. I've been around long enough to also know some folks, for their own benefit, will attempt to mislead me or lie to me. I will report what I know, what I'm told and, in this forum, sometimes analyze the information I get. I'm not going to say, "I think (some name here) will be the next FIU coach" until I have a more solid idea of that.

Sometimes, I'm told things way off the record -- as in, "please don't print or blog this, even using me as an unnamed source" -- and all I can tell you is what those tidbits might mean.

3. FIU would like to know Cristobal's next stop before talking money with the next coach, but it's not a red light. That's especially the case if FIU lands someone who doesn't need a ton of money in the early years of the deal (i.e. Houston Nutt, Butch Davis).

And FIU will find the money, if need be.

4. I made a public records request for athletic director Pete Garcia's evaluations back in July. This is what I received:Download PeteGarcia1 Download PeteGarcia2.

Obviously, those aren't yearly evaluations. I requested them again. The request was forwarded to Liz Marston, FIU's Associate General Counsel, who e-mailed that those were the only performance evaluations that could be found. I chuckled and knew I'd revisit this when the football season ended.

Last week, I re-requested those evaluations from Marston, pointing out that Garcia said he was evaluated each year as the coaches were. I also requested any official commendations, suspensions and censures in his file, as well as Mario Cristobal's performance evaluations, commendations, suspensions and censures.

Marston e-mailed back that they were in the process of gathering the documents and would respond in a reasonable time. I noted to her that Friday was five months from the original request, so "reasonable time" was in the past. I found it ridiculous, but interesting, that I was being told that something as basic as performance evaluations for an employee making over $350,000 a year in base salary didn't exist.

Why did I ask? Because I like to read.

December 09, 2012

Smokescreens and Butch money

The leaking of Mississippi State Geoff Collins and Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's names as the possible next football coach feels awfully convenient.

Collins, FIU's defensive coordinator in 2010, vaulted to the SEC after guiding a unit that was the Sun Belt's best across the board. Diaz fits the FIU suit.

He’s from Miami (Miami Country Day graduate), which might soothe the feathers of those angry over a loyal-to-the-305 guy getting blind side sacked. He just did two years as a coordinator in one of the two or three most massive programs in the nation, by any measure. He’s linked to the same Miami-Dade County power structure as FIU’s Board of Trustees and executive director for spoots and entertainment Pete Garcia, albeit by chromosomes (Manny Sr. is a former City of Miami mayor).

Also, on a purely football level, as a coordinator for seven seasons at Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State and Texas, Diaz’s in-game decision-making might be a bump on one of Mario Cristobal’s weaknesses as a coach.

And about Butch Davis and money (even though he's told FIU he's not interested...)

Davis is guaranteed $590,000 in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from his North Carolina contract. He's able to double dip his income chip now with Tampa Bay as a "special assistant" because he's technically not a coach. But if he gets back into college coaching -- and Butch wants to get back into college coaching -- that salary will decrease North Carolina's part of the $590,000. Let's say someone paid him $500,000. North Carolina's now on the hook for only $90,000.

Theoretically, FIU could pay Davis cheap for three years and give him a bump in the fourth and fifth years of a deal.


December 06, 2012

Sounds from Camp Mitch on Butch, other options

Despite what I just said on 640AM's The Andy Slater Show, perhaps ESPN Joe Schad's report from earlier today is correct.

About two minutes into my nuked turkey marsala lunch, heard through the Camp Mitch grapevine that rippling through the FIU hierarchy is that former University of Miami and North Carolina coach Butch Davis doesn't want FIU's head football coach job. Now, that doesn't mean he can't change his mind later, but, for now, he's out.

Also heard that a) perhaps FIU's attention has turned to Florida State offensive coordinator James Coley, a Miami native guy who coached at Norland High a decade ago when the Vikings were a power and b) some big muckety-mucks at Camp Mitch aren't happy with the way Pete Garcia handled this. Not like he's going to get rung up or anything, but it doesn't do to make the muckety-mucks unhappy when you're rolling the dice.

Half the assistants south of Olney, Illinois might be blowing up Pete Garcia's phone. Garcia said to me yesterday this wasn't the same job Cristobal took in 2007. He's right. Ironically, Cristobal's a large reason for that. Still, FIU's seen as a stepping stone, unless someone truly loves living and working here. Some people get attached to their starter house and it becomes the family home.



December 05, 2012

More Cristobal firing stuff; Perez, Beaupre take Sun Belt pool honors

This afternoon, I asked Garcia what if, two or three years down the road, FIU remains at three-to-five wins a season after he makes what many see as a bold move in firing Cristobal. What does that mean for his job?

"I'm held accountable for everything in the athletic department," Garcia said. "My job is to make sure the entire athletic department is headed in the right direction. Right now, I didn't think the football program was headed in the right direction. It's my job to hire a coach that will make us competitive year in and year out and successful. Success is going to bowl games and having winning seasons. That's how our coaches are evaluated and how I'm evaluated."

If that's not the case, he said, "Then I've got to be held accountable."

Garcia hired Richard Pitino nine days after firing Isiah Thomas last spring, although Garcia insists he didn't know Pitino was available when he fired Thomas (see my posts from back then for commentary on that). But Garcia said he hasn't talked to anyone about the job yet, though his cell phone is being blown up, and the timetable is to have a coach in place by the time classes resume on Jan. 7. That leaves one month before signing day. He won't, he insists, speed up the process if it means settling for a candidate on which he's lukewarm.

Garcia has a pal named Butch Davis who needs a job and knows how to recruit in South Florida and to South Florida. And I'm not a fan of personnel or coaching moves to please a fan base, but there needs to be a juicing of excitement about the football program, both in paid attendance and booster bucks because it's the only thing close to a revenue sport FIU has. 

Now, as far as the money to pay a name coach...Cristobal worked relatively cheap for the job and the market, making a base salary of $453,183 (various bonuses pushed that over $500,000). According to Cristobal's contract, FIU now owes him $906,366 if he doesn't get a job next season. If he does, FIU owes him one year's base salary plus a pro-rated amount.

Texas A&M paid FIU $500,000 to get out of its commitment for a game next year and FIU's saving the $500,000 they won't pay A&M to come down. The Maryland game gets them another $500,000 or so.

On the field, FIU might lose Collins Hill (Ga.) quarterback Brett Sheehan, one of FIU's first 2013 verbal committments, who had a stellar year. Sheehan retweeted a Scout.com report that quotes him saying he's decommitting from FIU in the wake of Cristobal's firing. Sheehan's rated at two stars by Scout, Rivals and ESPN.com.


I'd planned to spend today writing about how Johanna Gustafsdottir went from being a fat (by swimming standards) burnout victim to an owner of half the FIU swimming record book who feels very much at home in Miami.

As it turns out, my only break in Cristobal coverage is to tell you that Sonia Perez was picked as Sun Belt Swimmer of the Week and junior Sabrina Beupre as The Belt's Diver of the Week.

Perez won the 400 Individual Medley at the Mizzou Invitational setting a new school record of 4:12.95 That and her school record 500 freestyle time of 4:50.32 were among four Sun Belt-best times this season she reeled off at the meet. Beaupre placed third in both the 1-meter and the 3-meter competitions at the University of Missouri-hosted meet.


Cristobal fired; Butch next?

FIU fired head football coach Mario Cristobal after six seasons Wednesday, the last of which was a 3-9 season after FIU was the preseason favorite for the Sun Belt title. FIU heads into Conference USA next season.

"It was based on going 3-9 this year with 30 seniors and what was supposed to be his best team," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia told The Herald. "He's done a very good job for this program, but we've gone backwards over the last year and a half. Over the last 22 games, we've gone 8-14."

That's a reference to FIU's record after a 3-0 start in 2011 that included wins over eventual Big East champion Louisville and defending Conference USA champion Central Florida. This year, Garcia said, FIU's wins were over 1-11 Akron; rebuilding FAU; and South Alabama, in their first year of FBS competition.

Garcia can be temperamental and his relationship with Cristobal the past few years could be called "strained," if you want to be very generous. Cristobal several times made public reference to not being fully aware of the coming NCAA sanctions when he took the job. Also, sources at Camp Mitch said Garcia told a group of boosters before this year's regular season game against Troy that, though this season hadn't gone as planned, changes would be made after the season. Upon hearing that a week or two later, Cristobal almost exploded. His worry wasn't for himself, but for his assistants, who he felt it was his province to handle.

But I don't think Garcia swings a wrecking ball without plans for the next building. Butch Davis is a name, just as Isiah Thomas was a name and even Richard Pitino is a name (a last name, at least). Davis and Garcia go back a ways. Garcia said he hasn't talked to Davis or anyone about the job. 

This comes 12 months after FIU played in its second consecutive bowl game in only its seventh year of FBS play and in the fifth year after Cristobal took over a NCAA sanction-ridden program that had gone winless in 2006. The team went to bowls in 2010 and 2011 after 6-6 and 8-4 regular seasons, the only two regular seasons at or above .500 in FIU's 11 seasons. That earned Cristobal attention from the University of Pittsburgh after the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Rutgers was ready to hire Cristobal in February. But he chose the current happiness he and his family experienced living on South Beach and working near the neighborhood where he was raised.

Cristobal's overall record was 27-47.

This year, FIU wasn't helped by losing starting quarterback Jake Medlock to injury, forcing true freshman E.J. Hilliard to start three games against bowl teams and play the second half against Sugar Bowl-bound Louisville. FIU lost two games on last minute scores and another in overtime. Starting running back Kedrick Rhodes spent most of the season with two sprained ankles.

Still, when Medlock was healthy, offense rarely proved to be a problem compared to defense and special teams, expected to be the backbone of a team that received Top 25 votes in the preseason coaches poll. Those two units failed spectacularly with several fumbled returns, three missed extra points, three bad punt snaps leading to two opposing touchdowns and a safety and the defense ranking 67th in total defense and 90th in scoring defense despite returning 21 of 22 on the two-deep roster from the No. 16 scoring defense in 2011.

Senior defensive end Tourek Williams came on late in the season to earn First Team All-Sun Belt honors, as did senior safety Johnathan Cyprien. Senior offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann was Second Team All-Sun Belt.

November 28, 2012

FIU wants FAU to join Conference USA

FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said Wednesday morning that he and president Mark Rosenberg are lobbying Conference USA to invite FAU to join in 2014.

FIU's motivation is obvious. Why it wouldn't be a surprise if Conference USA warmed to the idea was detailed in my last post. And the Shula Bowl would resume after a one-year break.

C-USA's other replacement school? Couple of sources say it might be Middle (again, see my last post for why this wouldn't be surprising). This all might be happening within the next two days.

For those thinking Big East for FIU...slow down. Realize where you are. Look around at FIU's facilities and fan support for football and the basketballs (yes, that should improve over the next 10 years across the board, at least for football) and be happy they're moving up one step on the conference ladder, this year's Sun Belt vs. C-USA football records notwithstanding.

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