FIU announced today that spring football practices will be closed. Below is the schedule for the practices you won't be able to attend and the spring game for which you'll be invited to come in and sit a spell.
Mar. 19, 21, 24, 28, 31, Apr. 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 16: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Mar. 26: 10 a.m.
Apr. 3: 7 p.m.
Apr. 17: Spring Game, 7 p.m.
For what it's worth, if this scuttles your football practice viewing plans, the sand volleyball team practices around the same time and they're 7-1 with a No. 7 ranking in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
With three of the five polls reporting, FIU baseball made it to No. 23 in one poll and got an almost-not-quite in two others after taking two of three from Tennessee.
Baseball America put FIU at No. 23. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top 30 dropped Tennessee from No. 29 to out and lists FIU in an alphabetical listing of others receiving votes. D1Baseball.com, which ranked Tennessee at No. 25 in its Top 25 poll, dropped the Volunteers and put FIU under "Also Receiving Consideration."
("Some I consider my girlfriends. Some I just consider." -- John Bender, The Breakfast Club)
Collegiate Baseball's rankings didn't include FIU and doesn't list any schools outside its Top 30. I'll update later as the USA Today Coaches poll gets released.
Meanwhile, FIU's sand volleyball team got ranked ninth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll released Monday. Pepperdine's No. 1 with USC No. 2. Florida State breaks the West Coast dominance at No. 3, but between Tallahassee at No. 3 and Miami at No. 9, it's all Pacific Coast -- Hawaii, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, UCLA, Saint Mary's.
FIU opens its season Mar. 7 at the Stetson Spring Break Tournament.
UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES
Men's basketball, vs. Rice, Thursday, 8 p.m.
Softball, vs. Villanova, Friday, 11 a.m.
Softball, vs. Wichita State, Friday, 4 p.m.
Softball, vs. Columbia, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Softball, vs. Texas State, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Men's basketball, vs. North Texas, Saturday, 6 p.m.
FIU's softball team enters this season as the Conference USA co-favorite with Alabama-Birmingham. Why that's to be expected is detailed in an earlier post. But that got me thinking...
When Jake Schumann left the softball coach last summer with an obvious potential conference champion and NCAA tournament team coming back, he insisted it was because of salary. Living the coaching life with wife and kids in the Broward suburbs, Schumann insisted he needed more than the just-under $60,000 per year FIU paid. He took an associate coach job at Ole Miss for more money in a cheaper area.
So, FIU's last team to be a preseason conference favorite: softball, 2015. Head coach Gator Rebhan's salary: $59,700.
FIU's last team conference title: women's golf, 2013 Sun Belt tournament. Head coach Joe Vogel's current salary: $58,590.
FIU's last team conference title in a completely team sport: women's soccer, 2011 Sun Belt tournament or 2012 Sun Belt regular season, if you count that. Head coach Thomas Chestnutt's current salary: $63,024.
FIU's highest ranked team nationally: sand volleyball, 2014. Head coach Rita Buck-Crockett's current salary: $60,000 (for being in charge of sand and indoor volleyball).
FIU's best team over the last four years when combining athletics and academics: swimming & diving. Head coach Randy Horner's current salary: $57,590.
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia's bonuses during the 2013-14 academic year: approximately $99,550.
Numbers according to either contracts in possession of The Herald or Florida Has a Right to Know website.
Friday morning at 10 a.m., FIU's sand volleyball team faces Hawaii in the first round of the AVCA Collegiate Sand Championships. Should FIU win, the Panthers get No. 1 seed Southern Cal at 1 p.m. An FIU loss means they wait until 5 p.m., when they get the loser of No. 2 Pepperdine vs. the Florida State-Stetson winner.
Of the aforementioned schools, FIU faced only Florida State this year, losing 4-1.
A good weekend against East Carolina, tied for third in Conference USA with a 13-8 conference record, will go a long way toward FIU clinching a spot in the conference tournament.
With 10 games remaining, FIU has an 11-10 conference record, tied for seventh with Middle Tennessee State. Ninth place FAU sits at 10-14. Realistically, FIU's safe. FAU still has three games of flailling at that Alabama-Birmingham staff and Friday begins three games against Old Dominion's vacuum cleaner infield. So In three games with East Carolina; three games against Middle; and three games against weak Tulane, FIU should be ablde to come up with enough wins to outdistance FAU no matter what happens when they play May 13 at FAU.
I dropped by the North Florida-FIU sand volleyball exhibition Monday to shoot photos for a piece on the team that we had planned to run later this week, right before the American Volleyball Coaches Association Collegiate Nationals. Though my best Herald photo credits come from disasters -- massive car crashes, storm-razed Blue Monster scoreboards and television towers, the first quarter crowd at November's Marshall-FIU football game -- I figured I could save our stretched photo staff a trip to Camp Mitch.
After an hour of shooting, I left, planning to return Tuesday to talk to folks for the story. Got the word via e-mail around 3:30 that stated Coach Rita Buck-Crockett "will have practice closed to ALL MEDIA tomorrow due to the fact that she wants the team focused on Nationals with no distractions."
The team leaves Wednesday morning.
Looking at the e-mail recipients, "ALL MEDIA" apparently means me and a member of FIU Student Media, which made the capitalization all the more amusing. I'd gauged from the vibe at the courts that certain volleyball folks weren't happy I pointed out the whole gofundme.com thing, which is kind of strange. They created the page, they promoted it on social media and still have said page up there, presumably so more people will see it and pony up bucks for the program.
Or maybe some other folks aren't happy.
"Whaaatever," (said in Squidward voice). That's why there won't be a story in The Herald on the closest thing FIU will have to a national championship team this year as that team goes to the national championship tournament.
Anyway, good luck to Marina Boulanger and Jessica Gehrke, the No. 1 pair; No. 2 pair Tina Toghiyani and Aren Cupp; No. 3 pair Maja Rosko and Camila Rosado; and the rest of the team this weekend.
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.
Apparently, Typepad, which hosts our blogs, suffered malfunctions Easter Sunday and Why Are They Off School? Monday. That's the reason for all the funkiness in the comments -- and no posts -- since Saturday.
So, let's take care of a few things...
FIU heads for the Big Ten's most beautiful campus, Bloomington, Ind., to play Indiana University on Sept. 12, 2015 and hosts the school with the Big Ten's leanest football tradition Sept. 3, 2016. IU bought its way out of a game with the University of South Florida before going after games with FIU. Clearly, the thought in Bloomington is Willie Taggart can get things turned around at USF before Ron Turner can do it down here.
FIU goes to the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 3, 2015 then hosts UMass Sept. 15, 2018. FIU's 2015 non-conference schedule includes the aforementioned road games and a trip to Central Florida.
FIU's most recent team conference champions, last year's Sun Belt queens, sit in fourth, 14 shots back of leader Tulane after the first day of the Conference USA championship at the Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
While FIU's top two, freshman Camila Serrano and sophomore Sophie Godley, were 1-under 71, tied for fourth, and even par 72, tied for sixth, respectively, the rest of FIU's roster were the bananas in the tailpipe: sophomores Carla Jane and Meghan MacLaren, 4-over 76, tied for 29th; and freshman Coralia Arias, 9-over 81, tied for 52nd.
FIU ranks No. 6 in the most recent coaches poll, tied with St. Mary's, but the sand women will be seeded No. 5 in the national tournament, the American Volleyball Coaches Association announced Monday. The tournament runs May 2-4 in Gulf Shores, just like golf.
I asked Turtle Thomas if freshman pitcher Chris Mourelle's dropoff in performance in his last two starts -- two runs in six starts, nine runs in his last two -- could be a sign of a pitcher getting tired. Thomas said it was possible, but Mourelle actually had better stuff in Sunday's loss to FAU than the previous week against Louisiana Tech.
Mourelle pitched 61 innings last year at Southwest High. He's at 54 1/3 innings this year.