August 26, 2015

Getting It Together

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Women's soccer -- Friday vs. No. 17 UCF, 7 p.m.

Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.

Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Saturday vs. Alabama A&M, noon

Volleyball -- Panther Challenge, Saturday vs. South Florida, 6 p.m.

Now, you can walk the walk between FIU Arena and the soccer "stadium" without fear of getting conked by a wayward shot put or discus. North of the International Hurricane Research Center and south of the ROTC area, there's a field in front of a hammer throw cage and two discus/shot put circles.

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Over in FIU Stadium, there's a dry land diving board -- I can't help but think it looks like a prop out of High-Diving Hare -- to help Swim & Dive keep cranking out its run of dominant divers.

The new softball locker room is running behind, but is running.

Meanwhile, eight football players got to play Santa Claus/UPS Guy/Jesse/Whatever Delivery Man Brings You Happiness by bringing season tickets to fans on campus while wearing jerseys to stand out among their fellow students (like they blend anyway). These pictures courtesy FIU Athletic Department.

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That's Provost Kenneth Furton.

ADMINISTRATION

The replacement for Compliance Director Hank Harrawood, the best thing to happen to that department in a while, is Jessica Reo. Reo also gets "Special Projects" attached her "Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance" title. Hey, mon, when a dollar needs to be stretched, it's all about how many jobs you can do. Reo worked in compliance at the other Division I/FBS school in town for seven years, but the spent the last seven years as director for student services in Central Florida's athletic department.

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Need to grab some water. These crackers are making me thirsty.

August 11, 2015

Radio Static

FIU football will be back on 1210 ESPNDeportes for all 12 games this season. So when your cable goes on the fritz, there will be an alternative besides Twitter.

When the school didn't include the broadcast team in the announcement, it indicates a change in that department. Most likely, play-by-play man Mike Levine won't have Pete Pelegrin's encyclopedic knowledge of FIU football history at his disposal this season as color analyst.

SWIMMING & DIVING

At last report, FIU Swimming & Diving coach Randy Horner was seventh in The Herald's Best South Florida Coach poll. Former FIU baseball coach Danny Price, now at Miami-Dade College, is fifth.

 

 

 

July 01, 2015

Whistle Blowers

When Cindy Russo retired after seemingly a century as FIU women's basketball head coach, she already counted as something of a dinosaur -- a female head coach at FIU. The hiring of Marlin Chinn as her replacement cemented Russo's brontosaurus status.

This article puts FIU's dearth of female head coaches in perspective. Only 29 of the 138 schools with FBS football or Big East basketball have a lower percentage of women coaching women than FIU's 30 percent. Of the 10 women's sports at FIU, only three have female head coaches and the school's getting three sports for two women -- Rita Buck-Crockett is the head coach for volleyball and sand volleyball. Katarina Petrovic coaches the tennis team.

A case-by-case look at FIU's women's teams coaches reminded me of the 1980s Boston Celtics, which often included three white guys among five starters. The bombastic declarations that this melanin split demonstrated racism in the Celtics organization were countered with, "OK, who do you not want to start? Perennial All-Star Larry Bird, perennial All-Star Kevin McHale or Danny Ainge, for whom every NBA coach would find a spot?"

Similar situation among FIU's women's teams. Randy Horner's turned FIU's swimming and diving team from what one former swimmer called "a glorified high school team" into one of the best mid-major programs in the nation. Before the last two disappointing seasons, FIU's most consistent winners played soccer under the direction of Thomas Chestnutt. Joe Vogel coaches golf. That covers FIU's last three conference championship programs before the baseball team battered Conference USA into submission in May.

Softball coach Gator Rebhan came recommended by some of his current players. Track & field and cross country's Ryan Heberling ascended to head coach of both programs off convenience and his work with FIU's women's throwers, the strongest part of the track program in recent years. As has been noted here often, the women's teams consistently perform well academically despite so many FIU female athletes growing up with English as a second or third language.

In the overall athletic department, coaches who have shown progress but yet to prove definitively they can get it done consistently -- football's Ron Turner, men's basketball's Anthony Evans, men's soccer's Scott Calabrese -- occupy jobs women's coaches won't get as things stand now.

And that's the legitimate beef women's coaches and their advocates have with the steady stream of men into jobs coaching women's teams. Nobody's truly an equal opportunity employer.

Pat Summitt racked up 1,098 wins over 38 years as Tennessee's women's basketball coach. If you sat on a pile of her credentials and honors, you do your best Mongo Santamaria on Shaq's head. Handling the Tennessee program from the days when she had to drive the van and wash the uniforms herself, Summitt's knowledge of running a successful college basketball program is oceanic. Tennessee reportedly twice approached Summitt about coaching the men's team.

Yet, you never heard of, say, Louisiana Tech, nosing around Pat Summitt about coaching its men's hoop team. But Tyler Summitt with two years as an assistant at Marquette and 23 chromosomes from his mother gets the women's basketball job at La Tech, where all the coaches of women's teams have a Y chromosome.

Can you imagine one of Mike Krzyzewski's daughters doing two years as an assistant men's coach at Butler then applying to be the head coach at FIU? Can you imagine one of Mike Krzyzewski's daughters getting the chance even to be an assistant at Butler?

Though I'm a black man with a daughter, I don't get crazy about the gender/race role model thing. It's too limiting. There's too much to be learned from too many people of all skin tones and genitalia. And if nobody who looks like you has achieved something before, I say to that person what my mother used to say to me: "Guess you'll have to be the first."

But what about when you don't even get the chance to be the first? Because there's too much to be learned from diverse voices, the reduced volume of female coach voices matters at FIU and elsewhere.

 

June 12, 2015

C-USA Gives FIU's Vander Schaaf School Money

 FIU swimmer Courtney Vander Schaaf graduated with a psychology degree and minored in biology. She's going into the accelerated nursing program at Valparaiso -- yes, Valpo, known for Orville Redenbacher, Ken LaVicka and this shot -- and gets $4,000 toward that cost as one of 14 Conference USA Jim Castenada Postgraduate Scholarship recipients.

Castenada was a Rice coach, faculty athletics representative and instructor for 46 years. The scholarship recipients are chosen by the conference's faculty athletics reps.

May 27, 2015

APR, Adidas, Athletics Cash

As the baseball team practiced (with adidas bats -- more on that later), the 2013-14 Academic Progress Rate numbers dropped. Not literally, but in the modern popular music vernacular.

Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale concerned African-American women and early 1990s relationships, not APR. But, it does tend to describe FIU around this time of the year. It's entirely possible one of the breezes I felt at the baseball stadium today came from the department exhaling over an APR report without any red flags or even yellow flags.

Men's track (indoor and outdoor), women's track, volleyball, softball, golf, women's cross country each registered perfect single-year APRs of 1000. Golf owned the lone perfect multiyear APR.

Proving that bad APR falls somewhere between tires and herpes in durability, men's basketball came in with the lowest multiyear APR, 879. That's still represents progress from 858 in 2011-12 and 866 in 2012-13 and allows basketball to proceed penalty free for the first time since the Richard Pitino-coached season of 2012-13.

Multiyear APR

Golf 1000

Women's basketball 995

Women's cross country 987

Tennis 982

Men's cross country 977

Women's outdoor track 977

Women's indoor track 975

Swimming & Diving 973

Volleyball 973

Softball 971

Men's soccer 970

Women's soccer 969

Men's outdoor track 958

Men's indoor track 956

Baseball 938

Football 933

Men's Basketball 879

2013-14 Single Year APR

Men's indoor track 1000

Women's indoor track 1000

Women's outdoor track 1000

Men's outdoor track 1000

Women's cross country 1000

Volleyball 1000

Golf 1000

Softball 1000

Women's soccer 979

Women's basketball 967

Swimming & Diving 962

Tennis 955

Football 935

Men's basketball 933

Men's Soccer 932

Baseball 931

BASEBALL

Businesses show love by showing material and money. As detailed here in the February post "Getting Dressed," the FIU athletic team Adidas loves most is baseball. No other program gets the amount of equipment under Adidas' agreement with FIU Athletics that baseball does. No other FIU head coach gets $4,000 of free product annually as FIU's baseball coach does.

According to Camp Mitch sources, baseball's love of its Adidas clothes and gear didn't extend to the bats. So FIU brought other brands along with Adidas to the plate throughout the season.

Apparently, somebody at Adidas noticed FIU's bat diversity as the Panthers battered Conference USA tournament opponents. That's not a problem unless there's a clause in the agreement between the school and the athletic wear company stating "each Sport...shall exclusively use or wear Adidas products whenever School's athletic teams are playing one of the Sports (including games and practice sessions)..." and that failure to do so constitutes a material breach of contract.

FIU swung Adidas bats at practice Wednesday and you can bet they'll do so this weekend in Coral Gables.

MONEY

USA Today's annual college athletics finances report demonstrated little of surprise beyond Oregon taking over the Total Revenue title from Texas.

Of the 230 schools ranked, FIU placed 90th in total revenue ($28,104,962), 92nd in total expenses ($27,542,910), 16th in subsidy ($22,540,365) and 36th overall, second to Eastern Michigan among FBS football schools, in percentage of total revenue that comes from subsidies (80.2%).

FORMER FOOTBALL

Click here to see the current real world job of former FIU running back Darian Mallary.

 

April 17, 2015

Weekend of Hope

This weekend at Camp Mitch will be about hope.

Not "hope" as a verb. To me, that connotates too much of dealing with things as you wish they were or as they will be if some long odds uncertainty comes through instead of dealing with things as they are. "If everything goes right this season, we'll win X games" describes sports hoping at its best.

"Hope" as a noun, on the other hand, means "a chance." That's what baseball, football and softball will be trying to give themselves or demonstrate they have starting Friday at 4 at the baseball stadium and running all the way through the finish of Sunday's 1 p.m. baseball and softball games.

Between those, at 7 p.m., the football team will try to nurture hope among its fans at the annual Spring Game. The "Friday Night Lights" promotion that starts at 6 p.m. includes schedule posters for the first 1,000 fans, a DJ, a meet-and-greet with the swimming & diving team (is there any other school, excluding Cal with Missy Franklin, who could use the swim team to draw fans to football stuff?) and all sorts of other giveaways.

Despite the running-in-place nature of spring football, there are things to be learned. Watching the 2013 Spring Game gave you that Otter-in-the-Dexter-Lake-Club feeling about the season. During last year's Spring Game, you could tell freshman quarterback Alex McGough possessed the bearing, style and enough smart decision-making that eventually Ron Turner would elevate him over incumbent E.J. Hilliard. Also obvious: running back injuries would give freshmen Alex Gardner and Napoleon Maxwell a shot at starting.

This year, the team wants to build a crowd, build hope in that crowd for 2015, build some kind of buzz, even muted buzz. Another year of dragging in the standings and in the stands by the athletic department's flagship sport puts a drag on the whole department. I'm interested to see how the inexperieneced safeties and wide receivers look as well as the offensive line. The defense, with advantages in experience and overall talent, should dominate.

Softball, Conference USA co-favorites in the preseason coaches' poll, can't get swept this weekend by C-USA best Western Kentucky or just making the conference tournament moves into sorcery-miracle category. The Panthers problem in that regard stands 5-6, Western pitcher Miranda Kramer. She's one of the best in the nation with a 0.91 earned run average, a 17-4 record and only 58 walks against 271 strikeouts. And one ace like her in softball can open up many options for a coach, especially over a doubleheader Saturday and a Sunday.

And then there's baseball, having one of those seasons when you feel like you're always spitting into the wind. The Panthers might get the eighth and final conference tournament spot by default. But if Charlotte or Old Dominion get hot for a weekend or two and FIU keeps taking one per weekend, as Richard Pryor used to say, "Cancel Christmas."

The baseball crew's also facing Hilltoppers, albeit slightly less scary. Western's Austin King, Josh Bartley and Ryan Thurston go 5.31, 5.44, 6.00 in earned run average. I expect some long games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

April 14, 2015

Western Kentucky Suspends Swim & Dive

Usually, I don't make note of other schools censuring one of their programs. But when it's A) a program that's one of the best in FIU's conference and B) the school does something that makes you go WHOA! it's worth mentioning here.

Also, it's a cautionary tale for all coaches and athletes across the board. Before anybody throws out their chest, turns up their nose with a hop to the high horse and says "That's not us!" remember this: if you look at a peer's situation and say, "That's not going to be me" but don't take necessary steps to make sure it's not going to be you, guess what? Likely, some day, it's going to be you.

Western Kentucky has suspended the men's and women's swimming and diving teams for five years over, basically, acting way too much like the Deltas and the Omegas. The best reporting on this so far comes from the WKU Herald. Check it out.

The men won the mini-meet that is the Conference USA men's swimming title. The women finished second to FIU at the conference meet and were nationally ranked among mid-majors most of the year.

 

April 13, 2015

Monday Droppings

I'll be all over the place here.

FIU Arena's being prepared for its new seats and beach floor.

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The athletic department caught a big break when that CrossFit-like (but not CrossFit, CrossFit wants to make sure you know) competition broke the beach floor. Players and past coaches complained about how unforgiving the old floor could be on knees and ankles. Now, FIU gets a new floor and somebody else pays for it.

Looking at head coach Marlin Chinn's contract, the first thing that struck me was the five-year deal gets extended a year each time FIU wins 20 games and makes the NCAA tournament. His base pay is $161,000. He gets a $10,000 bonus for a single season team Academic Progress Rate of at least 970 (the team's been a perfect 1000 each of the last three reported years) and another $10,000 for team GPA over 3.1. He gets an extra $7,500 for each of these achievements: getting into the NCAA tournament, Conference USA Coach of the Year, sole possession of a regular season C-USA title. 

I heard the whole women's basketball coaching staff got sacked Monday by new coach Marlin Chinn. That's high on the expectation list when a new coach comes in after the disaster of 3-26, 0-18. I'd be willing to bet longtime assistant coach Inge Nissen winds up somewhere else in the department or university.

I wasn't at Sunday's Athletic Academic Awards Banquet (also known as "Dress Up for Food & Instagram Shots"), which would've been a great time for a sayonara ceremony to Nissen and former head coach Cindy Russo. Considering how long and well they coached at FIU, that would've been nice. I'm not sure Russo was even invited. In her last three full seasons, FIU went to two Women's NITs and got farther than Jerica Coley's superpowers should have taken the Panthers in last year's Conference USA tournament (the program was rewarded with being told the run took the team over its travel budget for the season). 

Men's basketball guard Dennis Mavin and multi-titled swimmer Johanna Gustafsdottir won the Athlete of the Year awards of the appropriate genders. The entire golf team made the conference's academic honor roll, so no surprise it won the addidas Athletic Director's Award for best GPA of the year, 3.67. Women's soccer took the Paul Gallagher Community Service Award. The Michael Felsberg Spirit Award went to swimming & diving, which shared the Champs/Life Skills Challenge Cup Award with baseball.

Speaking of baseball, senior shortstop Julius Gaines gave the invocation for the entire event and received the team's Leadership Award. That capped a good Sunday individually for Gaines. Earlier in FIU's 5-4 11-inning loss to FAU, he cracked three singles to break out of an 0-for-18 plunge that also prompted a plunge down the batting order Sunday. Coach Turtle Thomas moved Gaines from leadoff to eighth.

"I definitely don't need to send a message to Julius Gaines. He's been with us for four years. He's a good baseball player," Thomas said. "He made some really good defensive plays today. (Moving down to eighth) gets you down there where you maybe see a few more fastballs, they're not killing you working you over in the top five of the batting order. It's just to give him a different look."

Gaines said at the plate, "I got out of my head. I just went up there and said I was going to put a swing on it and whatever happened, happened." As far as hitting eighth, he admitted, "There's not as much pressure. You worry about your at-bat at that time and whatever situation comes. Leading off, it's your job to get on base. It can weigh on you a little bit."

While Gaines shrugged off his defensive day as, "I did my job. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary," FAU coach John McCormack said, "Some plays that the shortstop made in this game? Wow. Julius played really well. Thank God he's leaving this year."

Gaines made a game-saving (for the moment) play in the eighth on pinch hitter Danny Murray's tough grounder with the bases loaded. McCormack marveled that Gaines operated efficiently enough to get control of the ball, see he'd be too late for the force out at second and still fired a Murray-beating throw to first.

McCormack said two other things I found interesting. He blamed himself for FIU's 6-5 win Friday. He said he should've gone to Seth McGarry immediately in the eighth with a 5-2 lead. Instead, he used lefty Devon Carr, who gave up two hits and a walk in four batters, sparking FIU's four-run eighth inning. 

He also said he didn't believe in any FIU-FAU rivalry.

"I don't believe in rivalries because the players continually change," McCormack said. "I'm not big on, 'Win this one for The Gipper, they're our biggest rivals.'"

Out on the football field, Ron Turner said FIU's lack of experience at wide receiver and abundance of tight ends and running backs wouldn't mean FIU would use double tight end sets more in 2015 because "we did a lot of it last year." But, Turner said, they'll use more sets with varying position numbers and groupings now that FIU's in the third year of running his offense. 

"I've told these guys from Day 1 I really believe in utilizing our personnel and moving them around. If you've got a guy and he's always in the same spot, they can take him away very easily. That's one of the biggest things I learned in the NFL -- get your playmakers involved, put in position to make plays. We've done a little bit of that the first couple of years, but not as much as we'll do this year. In that league, they pay those guys a lot of money. The owners say, 'I'm paying him a lot of money, why isn't he getting the ball? Why isn't he involved?'

"And we have some guys with versatility. Look at our tight ends. We've got three guys (Jonnu Smith, Ya'keem Griner, Akil Dan-Fodio) who can line up at tight end, line up in the slot, line up as a No. 1 receiver outside and, in some cases, line up in the backfield. Look at our running backs, same thing. We've got some guys who are strictly backfield guys or you've got some who can line up in the slot or outside. We've got a couple of wide receivers who can line up in the backfield and play some running back, quarterback or whatever."

After saying he was excited about all the different options for FIU, Turner joked once spring football ends, the coaches will have too much time to come up with too much other offensive stuff to teach. Or, maybe he was only halfway joking as staffs do make that mistake more often than is noticed.

 

 

April 10, 2015

FIU's Commissioner's Academic Medal Winners

If you're a full-time student-athlete and bring in a 3.75 grade point average, Conference USA honors you with the Commissioner's Academic Medal. FIU had 34 such athletes for the 2014-15 school year, 10th among full Conference USA member schools (Kentucky, South Carolina and New Mexico are in the league for men's soccer only.)

Baseball: Mitchell Robinson, Zack Soria.

Men's Basketball: Kris Gulley, Hassan Hussein.

Women's Basketball: Katrina Epnere, Zsofia Labady, Nikolina Todorovic.

Women's Golf: Katerina Krasnova.

Sand Vollyeball: Anna Budinska, Morgan Crawley, Darija Sataric.

Men's Soccer: Luca Giovine, Adam Sibiski.

Women's Soccer: Ellen Crist, Johanna Volz, Ashley Westberry.

Softball: Rachel Dwyer, Dominique Grossman, Jessica Hallett, Michaela Mills.

Swimming & Diving: Klara Andersson, Valerie Inghels, Anna Jonsson.

Tennis: Giulietta Boha, Nerma Caluk, Yana Koroleva.

Men's Track & Field: William Offor.

Men's Cross Country: Orlando Rodriguez.

Women's Track & Field: Tiffani Hernandez, Celine Murton.

Volleyball: Tia Clay, Kari Peterson, Jovanna Santamaria, Anabela Sataric.

 

 

 

172 FIU Athletes Make C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll

(Thought I posted this last night. Apparently, I only saved it. A face-down-on-the-keyboard mistake.)

A 3.0 GPA gets you on the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll, which 172 FIU athletes have done this year. FIU ranks eighth most among Conference USA's full membership schools. That's an improvement after 154 and tied for 12th last year.

The names are submitted to the conference by the schools.

Baseball (16): Brandon Cody, Charles Cormier, Cody Crouse, Ian Exposito, Julius Gaines, Evan Holland, David Lee, Spencer Levine, Dominic LoBrutto, Carlos Lopez, Andres Nunez, Mitchell Robinson, Austin Rodriguez, Jack Schaaf, Eduardo Silva, Zack Soria.

Men's Basketball (3): Larry Dennis (Huh? He transferred to a junior college at midseason), Kris Gulley, Hassan Hussein.

Women's Basketball (13): Jade Cheek, Jerica Coley (Say what? Everybody's happy she's still around campus doing graduate work, but how is she counting for this year? Was somebody just throwing names in there to see if C-USA was paying attemtion?), Marita Davydova, Arielle Durant (Uh, director of basketball oerations this year, not a player), Katrina Epnere, Aajah Hawkins, Amari Hawkins, Zsofia Labady, Tynia McKinzie (dismissed from the team at midseason), Taylor Shade, Nikolina Todorovic, Ciera Wheatley, Brianna Wright. 

Football (17): Chris Ayers, Richard Burrows, Christopher Cummins, Akil Dan-Fodio, Ricky Fernandez, Chris Flaig, Adrian Francois, Cody Hodgens, Yousif Khoury, Jose Laphitzondo, Fred Porter, Anthon Samuel, Donald Senat, Yohan Soares, Delmar Taylor, Scott Wade, Cory White.

Golf (8 -- the entire team): Coralia Arias, Sophie Godley, Carla Jane, Katerina Krasnova, Meghan MacLaren, Camila Serrano, Ashley Shimmel, Jasmine Wade.

Sand Volleyball (9): Marina Boulanger, Anna Budinska, Morgan Crawley, Aren Cupp, Alexa Diaz, Alexandria Johnson, Giovanna Pasos, Darija Sataric, Tina Toghiyani.

Men's Soccer (10): Quentin Albrecht, Roberto Alterio, Luca Giovine, Marvin Hezel, Nicholas Midttun, Deshawon Nembhard, Nico Pasquariello, Adam Sibiski, Robin Spiegel, Jesse Wear.

Women's soccer (16): Shelby Bowden, Ellen Crist, Marie Egan, Cyan Jean-Baptiste, Talia McMurtrie, Ryann Ramirez, Nikki Rios, Alyssa Robinson, Ashleigh Shim, Marlena Stablein, Sara Stewart, Nevana Stojakovic, Pat Tomanon, Johanna Volz, Madlen Weinhardt, Ashley Westberry.

Softball 10): Isabelle Barnes, Rachel Dwyer, Krystal Garcia, Samantha Green, Dominique Grossman, Jessica Hallett, Corinne Jenkins, Marisa McGregor, Michaela Mills, Rebekah Sanchez.

Swimming & Diving (20): Klara Andersson, Sabrina Beaupre (she's been off the eligibility clock since the 2014 NCAA's), Jessica Chadwick, Jenny Deist, Nadia Farrugia, Valerie Inghels, Anna Jonsson, Lily Kaufmann, Maria Lopez, Jean Madison, Alex Mayhew, Melissa Moreno, Sonia Perez-Arau (oh, come on! the only C-USA swimmer to score at the 2014 NCAAs. Lazy times in ), Valeriia Popova, Rebecca Quensel, Silvia Scalia, Alaina Smith, Kayley Tepe, Courtney VanderSchaaf, Becky Wilde. 

Tennis (6): Giulietta Boha, Valentina Briceno, Nerma Caluk, Yana Koroleva, Nina Nagode, Carlotta Orlando.

Men's cross country (7): Brandon Ballard, Ronny Greenup, Andres Magliano, Eli Monzon, Leonel Pozo, Daniel Puentes, Orlando Rodriquez.

Women's cross country (4): Adrienne Gerzeny, Katarina Rodriguez, Brittany Wasserbeck, Desmika White.

Men's track (10): Dylan Cook, Pablo Espitia, Garry Louima, Tyshawn Lytle, Desmond McGill, Luka Mustafic, Daniel Neptune, Wisdom Offor, Julian Santiago, Traivon Smith.

Women's track 12): Brittany Corbett, Phillicia Fluellen, Chandra Fulwood, Adrienne Gerzeny, Chelsea Gobourne, Anesha Gordon, Anna Heinzman, Tiffani Hernandez, Sharniece King, Symone Lindsay, Celine Murton, Lexis Shields.

Volleyball: Lucia Castro, Tia Clay, Maria Coukolis, Briana Gogins, Gloria Levorin, Anja Licka, Natalie Martinez, Kristine Monforte, Kari Peterson, Jovanna Santamaria, Anabela Sataric, Tina Toghiyani (wait, she already got counted back at sand volleyball...)

 

 

 

April 08, 2015

FIU to Hire Marlin Chinn as Women's Basketball Coach; Swimmer is FIU's Spirit of Service Honoree

Sources around Camp Mitch say University of Maryland assistant Marlin Chinn will soon be announced as FIU's first new women's basketball coach since Cindy Russo returned to FIU in 1980 after two years at Lamar University.

Chinn's been a college assistant at Seton Hall, Mount St. Mary's and, for the last six seasons, Maryland. The Terrapins, migrants from the ACC to the Big Ten, dominated the latter conference this season on the way to a Final Four loss to eventual national champion Connecticut. This will be his first college head coaching job.

So, now, for the first time, all FIU's coaches officially have been hired by athletic director Pete Garcia. Also, FIU joins the trend of more women's basketball programs being coached by men as salaries for coaching women's teams make these jobs a viable way to live comfortably in even expensive markets like South Florida.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Freshman Ally Mayhew was FIU's Conference USA Spirit of Service Honoree for the winter sports. The award brings notice to those who contribute significantly in the community while achieving academically and athletically. Mayhew has a 3.78 grade point average in biology. 

April 01, 2015

More Swimming Honors; Sand Story Coming

Tomorrow's spring football practice starts at 9 a.m. Don't be late.

Conference USA announced its postseason swimming awards, meaning more hardware for the conference champs. FIU senior Johanna Gustafsdottir won Swimmer of the Year, freshman Silvia Scalia won Freshman Swimmer of the Year and diver Rebecca Quensel was named Freshman Diver of the Year. Only Old Dominion's Rachel Eckert, who won Diver of the Meet at the conference meet in the concussed Quensel's absence, broke up FIU's exclusivity.

I'm working on a story for tomorrow's print Herald (and online tonight) on the sand volleyball team, 12-1 and ranked No. 3 (DIG Magazine) or No. 6 (American Volleyball Coaches Association) going into this Friday and Saturday's meet on South Beach.

Favorite tidbit: No. 2 pair Kristine Monforte and Summer Nash, 16-4 this season with an 11-match winning streak recently snapped, met only this school year but quickly bonded off the court as foodies. Food Network's the default channel in their hotel room on the road. Monforte thinks Bobby Flay's the best of the Iron Chefs and her best dish is chicken parmigiana. 

So they have something in common with former FIU defensive tackle Isame Faciane. 

March 22, 2015

Silvia School Record, Gets 19th; Gustafsdottir 44th at NCAAs

Seems like I've read this before...

FIU freshman Silvia Scalia, the heir to Johanna Gustafsdottir as the top swimmer on FIU's roster, reset her own 200 backstroke record during the Saturday afternoon prelims at the NCAA Championships in Greenboro, North Carolina.

Scalia's 1:53.54 knocked 26 hundredths of a second off the record she set in taking the event at the Conference USA Championships. It placed her 20th in the field at the NCAAs.

Gustafsdottir swam the 200 breastroke, the last swim of her FIU career, Saturday in 2:13.57, the 44th fastest time. 

March 20, 2015

Scalia School Record, 20th; Gustafsdottir 33rd at NCAAs

FIU freshman Silvia Scalia, the heir to Johanna Gustafsdottir as the top swimmer on FIU's roster, reset her own 100 backstroke record during the Friday afternoon prelims at the NCAA Championships in Greenboro, North Carolina.

Scalia's 52.46 knocked 16 hundredths of a second off the record she set in taking the event at the Conference USA Championships. It placed her 20th in the field at the NCAAs.

Gustafsdottir swam the 400 individual medley Friday in 4:12.70, the 33rd fastest time. Saturday, the final day, Scalia swims in the day's first event, the 200 back, and Gustafsdottir swims in the 200 breaststroke.

March 19, 2015

Gustafsdottir Starts NCAAs; Horner Extended -- UPDATED

The swimmer who most helped Randy Horner lift FIU from mud to magnificent, senior Johanna Gustafsdottir, begins the benediction of her fantastic FIU career with the 200 individual medley at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships this morning. FIU chose this same morning to announce a contract extension for Horner through 2018-19.

Horner's deal was set to expire at the end of April.

Regular blog readers know the transformation that's occurred under Horner on all fronts: from Sun Belt non-entity to 2015 Conference USA champion and a No. 5 national ranking among mid-majors by CollegeSwimming.com; the most consistently academically strong team at FIU; the most consistent supporter of fellow athletes by attending their games (and that's saying something on a campus where the athletes tend to be each other's biggest fans.).

 

This started with Horner's first recruiting class, in 2011. CollegeSwimming.com thought the ace in that deck was Gustafsdottir, a stud international swimmer for Iceland at one point. Funny because Horner certainly didn't. Neither did she. She spent most of her freshman season shedding weight and the crust from burn out and two years away from competitive swimming.

Her emergence at that year's Sun Belt Championships, at which she won Swimmer of the Year, ignited a career that put firmed up a soft FIU record book and picked up enough hardware for an aisle at Ace: 2012 Sun Belt Swimmer of the Year, 2015 Conference USA Swimmer of the Year, 10 individual conference titles, four relay titles, including the baddest relay anchor leg you'll ever see in this year's C-USA Championships 400 freestyle relay.

Gustafsdottir loves FIU. She said she cried during that relay. She cried when FIU beat the Hurricanes to finish this year 10-0 in dual meets. At the welcome home from the Conference USA meet, when FIU CFO Kenneth Jewell recounted the 400 free relay for those gathered, she almost lost it again. After the conference meet, she sounded almost giddy when talking about the program's future and that she can't wait to be a proud alumnus.

(She also said "I've got to get ready for NCAAs. Hopefully, I do better than I have in the past.")

I asked her before the conference meet if she at all envisioned her FIU life going this way when she first came.

“No, never," she replied. "I didn’t swim for two years before I came here. I was happy that I was started back up. I never thought my success would be this good. I’m happy with it.So now after conference and NCAA, I have the Olympics to focus on. I’ll stay here. I’ll most likely stay here (to train).”

UPDATE

Gustafsdottir, with a 1:57.33 seed time that was 27th fastest, swam 1:58.18 Thursday morning, the 28th fastest time.

Friday, Gustafsdottir swims the 400 IM and freshman Silvia Scalia does the 100 backstroke.

 

March 16, 2015

Lifesavers

During Spring Break, swimmers Jessica Chadwick and Chase Harris did the greatest deed -- extended themselves in an effort to save the lives of two people they didn't know who got caught in rip currents.

Here's the most recent report from WPBF-Channel 25.

 

 

March 11, 2015

Next Steps

A few things about FIU's Conference USA tournament opener against Texas-San Antonio today at 1 p.m. while I try to find somewhere that'll consistently update me on the NCAA Zone Diving stuff...

*When teams see a future opposing player and say, "That right there is a problem," they either deal with the problem or figure they'll live with it and deal with everything else. FIU's opponents tend to take the latter approach.

Adrian Diaz, all 6-10 of him, is the problem FIU presents opponents. He's got good touch with decent range at the offensive end -- 60.9 percent from the field -- and is sixth in the nation in blocked shots without being so slap happy he gets way out of position. 

(Digression: Is the person who nicknamed Diaz "the Hialeah Hammer," a name that belongs on a well-known thug or fantastic handyman, the same person who came up with "Paws Up," which makes it sound like the animal in question is on its back and dead? If so, stop naming stuff. Or make your next suggestion, "Sunblazers.")

Teams have learned to let Diaz get his, try to make things difficult for senior guard Dennis Mavin then say to the rest of the Panthers "And, what?" FIU needs to get an offensive answer to that from Daviyon Draper mid-range or inside, Ray Rodriguez/Marco Porcher Jimenez from three or Kris Gulley from anywhere.

*Inability to consistently move the ball for open outside shots makes FIU too reliant on Diaz inside. There's a negligible difference in success percentages in conference games -- 32.3 for FIU, 33.7 for opponents -- but the Panthers drown in the volume. Opponents have hit 136 three-pointers to 76 for FIU or 7.56 per game to  4.22. That's nearly a 10-point per game difference.

*FIU gets the defensive side of the game, tying UAB for the conference lead in allowing only 41.0 percent shooting from the field. They can't let teams shoot 25 to 30 free throws a game, however. Speaking of which...

*I don't think I've covered a season with more consistently bad free throw shooting from both teams. The only reason FIU's opponents, 64.3 percent from the line, aren't more embarrassed is that FIU sank them at only 63.5 percent. In a tournament situation, it's tough to win four games in four days without at least above average free throw shooting.

I first heard this old saw -- "My Daddy says there are two things that don't last too long -- dogs that chase cars and teams that don't hit their free throws" -- from Wyoming coach Benny Dees early in the 1987 NCAA tournament. Over the next two weeks, I watched Indiana win the national championship partially because three consecutive opponents went four of 10, 11 of 19 and 10 of 20 from the line, including missing late one-and-ones.

*It goes without saying if a 20-turnover game gets FIU tickets on a next day flight home.

 

 

 

March 04, 2015

NCAA officially selects swimmers; Golfer in World Top 50

UPCOMING HOME MATCHES/GAMES

Baseball: vs. UConn, Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.

Softball: vs. Marshall, Saturday, 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. 

Barring incredible breaking news, the forecast predicts light blogginess over the next few days as I'm sent to my yearly arranged marriage with Doral and the PGA Tour. A couple of things before I go back to cleaning out my car, Publix apple strudel and Law & Order: SVU...

Senior Johanna Gustafsdottir and freshman Silvia Scalia were selected for the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, Mar. 19-21, in Greensboro, North Carolina (nice people, ehh town). Gustafsdottir will swim the 200 and 400 individual medley while Scalia will handle the 100 and 200 backstroke.

Last year, Sonia Perez finished 13th in the 400 IM at the NCAAs, scoring the first swimming points for FIU at the championships.

WOMEN'S GOLF

Junior Meghan MacLaren's eight-stroke rout in the rain-shortened Amelia Island Collegiate moved her up 13 spots to No. 49 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. She was also Golfweek's National Player of the Week.

Not sure how she wasn't Conference USA's player of the week, but you know how that goes...

 

 

February 27, 2015

Swim & Dive Lauded for Water & Land Achievements; Gore to Marian

FIU's Conference USA championship win last week prompted a shuffling of the CollegeSwimming.com national mid-major rankings. FIU's now No. 4 among mid-majors.

Behind them in the rankings as they were in the pool are Florida Gulf Coast at No. 5; Conference USA's second place team, Rice, dropped from No. 5 to No. 8, incongruously one spot behind the conference's third place team, Western Kentucky.

FIU's team grade point average of 3.17 put it on the College Swimming Coaches Association of America's list of Scholar All-America teams, comprised of teams with a 3.0 GPA. Earlier this week, butterflier Valerie Inghels made the C-USA All-Academic team.

 

FOOTBALL PAST

FIU life didn't go well for Jakhari Gore. While sitting out the 2012 season as a transfer from LSU, the former Columbus High running back star crashed academically in 2012-13. He got arrested on a charges of robbery and false imprisonment in late August 2013. FIU coach Ron Turner jettisoned Gore, who entered a not guilty plea before the charges were dropped.

But Gore's apparently gotten things together. He Tweeted at me today that "God is Good and blessed me with another chance Marian University!"

The school on what's called "the near northwest side" of Indianapolis started football in 2007 and plays at the NAIA level. Good for him.

February 26, 2015

Field Work; Felsberg Invitational Familiarity; Manhattan Holiday; Coaching Matters

The City of Birmingham, quivering like Rock Ridge before Mongo, closed all public facilities Wednesday in fear of what places in the former Confederacy consider major snowfall. This condensed the Conference USA Indoor Track & Field Championships to a one-day event.

Not so condensed were the throws of FIU junior Raquarra Ishmar, who turned today into Throw Forward Thursday by winning the women's weight throw and finishing second in the shot put.

Ishmar (63 feet, 4 inches), junior Chelsea Goburne (59-1/4) and sophomore Chandra Fullwood (56-3 1/4) gave FIU its strongest team performance of the day, a 1-4-6 finish, in the weight throw. Going into the last two throws, the 61-2 from Western Kentucky's Janessa Jackson held the lead. Ishmar cranked off a 62-footer to take the lead, then muscled out the 63-4 on her last throw to hammer home who the alpha female was in this event.

Ishmar finished a solid second in the shot, her 50-8 3/4 being 1-8 1/2 ahead of third place Rachel Polk of Southern Miss and 8-2 behind Rice blowout winner, Claire Uke.

In the men's triple jump, junior Marcus Ghent reached 50-2 3/4 to finish second by 4 3/4 inches behind Western's Cyrus Johnson. Ghent also picked up points with a sixth place long jump of 22-8 1/2. 

The team standings found the women finishing ninth of 13 and the men finishing ninth of nine. 

SOFTBALL

Jake Schumann, FIU's coach the last three seasons, knows the way to Felsberg Field. So does former FIU pitching assistant coach Sharon Palma.

So, the Ole Miss bus shouldn't get lost on the way to Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium for Friday's opening of this weekend's Felsberg Invitational. The 8-4 Rebels are scheduled to play Bethune-Cookman at 2. Bethune will rest while FIU and Ole Miss get it on at 4:30. FIU plays Bethune at 7 p.m.

Last week, FIU saw the fourth member of last year's coaching staff (current FIU head coach Gator Rebhan was an assistant last year), current Texas State assistant coach Kelly Kretschman. It wasn't a happy reunion for the Panthers, losing 8-0. 

BASEBALL

Manhattan comes down for its four-game winter beating from FIU. Two years ago, the Jaspers got bombed in the first two games and outscored 40-17 for the three-game series.

By the way, did you know that FIU got back from last week's tournament in South Carolina around 7:30 a.m. after a 13-hour bus ride and some players had to hit class immediately? That's unfair to the student-athletes.

There should be a rule that teams have to fly if the road trip ends over a set number of hours away from the main campus and the team has class the next day. 

Break time...

 

SWIMMING & DIVING

FIU coach Randy Horner's contract is up at the end of April, two months after FIU won the Conference USA women's swimming & diving title. That's producing when the time's right.

Horner makes just over $57,000 in a contract that began when FIU wasn't close to competitive in the Sun Belt and ends with FIU being one of the nation's best mid-major teams. They've also been the top academic team on campus three of the previous four years.

That's the kind of work that'll attract attention if a Power Five school with manatees in the pool wants someone who can transform the team into motorboats. And that school will offer a significant raise. Just as an example, Michigan State clearly doesn't care about its swim program. The Spartans annually finish in the bottom two at the Big Ten meet and have for two decades. Yet, head coach Matt Gianiodis has held that job since October 2003.

All those signs of department apathy toward a sport and Gianiodis still gets paid over $76,000 while living in East Lansing, Michigan, a cheaper market than Miami. They might be paying Gianiodis extra for staying in East Lansing, which one Michigan State graduate I talked with Thursday called "Siberia" and about which Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins quipped, "It looks like Stalingrad."

Anyway, that's just an example of why FIU might want to give Horner more than a little bump when it puts rings on the swimming & diving women's fingers.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Some might wonder if former FIU assistant coach Desma Thomas Bateast, now an assistant coach at South Florida, might want to come back to rebuild the program. Putting the hard hat on to deal with this catastrophe takes a relatively young, energetic coach and she's familiar with the place.

That doesn't always work in the school's favor, understand...

 


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