February 08, 2016

Future Watch

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Thursday -- Men's Basketball vs. UTEP, 7 p.m.

Friday -- Softball vs. Florida State, 7 p.m.

Saturday -- Softball vs. St. John's, 5:30 p.m.

Saturday -- Men's Basketball vs. UTSA, 7 p.m.

Saturday -- Softball vs. Illinois, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday -- Softball vs. LIU-Brooklyn, 1 p.m.

Sunday -- Softball vs. Valparaiso, 3:30 p.m.

The Futures market sells big in FIU Athletics these days.

Make no mistake, it always has. Talk of what could be, should be, will be (maybe) always seems to draw more interest at FIU than what is. Maybe it's just I'm noticing this confluence this year.

Softball starts this Friday at home. Baseball begins a week from Friday at Ole Miss. Sand Volleyball will start soon after finishing last season ranked No. 4 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. And, of course, we just had Signing Day with the football coaching staff likely looking at a Pack For a Bowl or Pack Up the Office season.

Now, take men's basketball, 11-13 overall, 5-6 in Conference USA, zero for four in its last four. You knew the season had entered the "just get ready for the conference tournament" phase when when coach Anthony Evans exuded an almost sanguine air after the Jan. 30 men's basketball home loss to Old Dominion. FIU did some things well, not enough or as many as Old Dominion and took a four-point loss. They're still trying to gain the cohesion and consistency of a team, which is where they seem to be at this point every year. Even in Evans' third year, there's still a chop shop quality to the roster -- this part from a Hialeah body shop, this piece from Sanford & Son's area, these pieces driven down from Tallahassee. There's not wholesale roster changes, but enough key players change each year that FIU seems perpetually trying to get past the dating stage.

The good news for the women's basketball team (3-19, 1-10)? Everybody makes the conference tournament. The bad news? FIU has to play with this year's team instead of next year's. This year's Panthers show about 72 times more pluck than they did last year. They're still tax refund light on talent and focus. Nobody's looked forward to next year like this since the Brooklyn Dodgers ("Wait 'til next year!") or 1960s Dallas Cowboys (Next Year's Champions).

Here's what FIU gains next year: a pair of three-star freshman forwards, 6-1 Sydney Fields from Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview and 6-2 Jamesia Amand from Dallas Skyline; three-star 5-7 point guard Alexis Gordon from Palm Bay Covenant Christian; point guard Kayla Rogers, who runs the show for Jacksonville Ribault, which has been nationally ranked this year; and 6-4 transfer Erin Garner, a former three-star recruit who transferred from Georgia Tech. Oh, and last year's CUSA Freshman of the Year, 6-1 forward Kiandre'a Pound, will be back from spending a redshirt season becoming a mommy.

Swim & Dive just finished its dual meet season at 8-5 by beating FAU 115-71 and the defending Conference USA champions enter conference meet prep. With the variation how much stress some programs put on earlier season meets, checking out top conference times can be like looking at a Kandinsky -- looks wonderful, but you might not be seeing what you think you're seeing. Still, FIU's got one of the top two CUSA times this year in the 50 freestyle, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 1000 free, 1,650 free (sophomores Kyna Periera and Naomi Ruele, take a bow); 100 back (Ruele), 400 free relay, 800 free relay, 400 medley relay; and sophomore Rebecca Quesnel could sweep the three diving competitions.

But FIU's owned the best individuals at conference meets before and been left to celebrate them while finishing from here to Hollywood from the team title. That changed in 2015 with FIU's depth burying second place Rice. The challenge is to repeat that feat Feb. 24-27 in Atlanta.

  

February 02, 2016

Quesnel Gets Another CUSA Diver of the Week Award

Sophomore Rebecca Quesnel's 1-meter dive scoring 286.65 and her 3-meter dive scoring 285.5 each qualified her for the NCAA Zone Championships. They were also enough for Quesnel to be named Conference USA Diver of the Week for the fifth time this season and fourth consecutive time the honor has been bestowed.

January 27, 2016

January 26, 2016

Periera Gets CUSA Swimmer of the Week (again)

FIU, ranked No. 20 among mid-majors by CollegeSwimming.com, got dusted by No. 29 Florida Gulf Coast 141-64 on Saturday. But sophomore Kyna Periera won the 500 freestyle (5:03.14) and 1000 freestyle (10:10.83), extending her winning streak in the 1000 free to five races.

For this Periera was named Conference USA Swimmer of the Week for the second time in the last three weeks and fourth time this season.

January 12, 2016

Water Women Sweep CUSA Weekly Honors (Again)

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Men's basketball -- Thursday vs. Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m.

Men's basketball -- Saturday vs. Southern Mississippi, 7 p.m.

In Friday's three-way meet with No. 19 North Carolina State and Kansas, FIU sophomore from South Africa Kyna Pereira won the 500 freestyle in 4:56.21. Periera, the school record holder in the 1000 free, also came in second in the 1650 free in 16:52.70. She swam the opening legs of three relays in Saturday's FIU relays, one of which the Panthers won.

For this, Periera was named Conference USA Swimmer of the Week for the third time this season.

Sophomore Rebecca Quesnel's just short of getting the Diver of the Week award named for her after four wins this season and six as a freshman. She won the 1-meter and 3-meter events Friday and Saturday, scoring a career-high 330.5 Friday in the 3-meter.

 

January 05, 2016

How Does FIU Compare to Its Conference USA Peers? (Part 1)

Curious about how FIU ranks among its Conference USA peers since moving from the Sun Belt Fun Belt in 2013, a curiosity prodded by several people inside and outside the athletic department asking the same thing, I did a little record hunting.

Now, obviously, the best answer to the above would be found by compiling the records of each CUSA school in each sport that FIU plays, weighting for things like missed conference tournaments, NCAA runs, conference tournament runs, individual brilliance (such as FIU's Meghan MacLaren tearing up the 2015 conference golf tournament). But all that would take up way too large a portion of whatever time I have left on this plane of existence. So, here's what I did:

I ranked the schools on overall and conference records since 2013 in football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and then a wild card sport -- each school's best sport in which FIU also participates.

You play to win championships, so when ranking in conference play, the title winners eat first. When I assign point values later to determine an overall ranking, conference play will get greater weight. You get more credit for beating your peers than you do gorging on lesser punks.

I see the obvious flaws. With a relatively small sample size, one great or abysmal season can swing the results too hard in one direction. That's even more the case with schools that entered CUSA after the Great Sun Belt Migration of 2013 brought FIU, FAU, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State to the league. But, outside of Intelligent Benevolent Dictatorship, no perfect systems exist. 

Here's the rankings for each sport:

FOOTBALL OVERALL

1. Marshall – 33-8, three bowl wins

2. Western Kentucky – 20-7, two bowl wins.

3. Rice – 23-16, two bowl appearances, one win.

4. Louisiana Tech – 22-17, two bowl wins.

5. Middle Tennessee State -- 21-17, two bowl appearances.

6. Old Dominion – 11-13

7. North Texas -- 14-23, won one bowl game.

8. UTEP – 14-23, one bowl appearance

9. UTSA – 14-22 (ranked behind UTEP and North Texas despite a smidge better record because UTEP’s extra loss came in a bowl game and North Texas’ extra game was a bowl win).

10. Southern Mississippi – 13-25, one bowl appearance

11. FAU – 12-24

12. UAB – 8-16 (loses tiebreaker with FAU on, you know, the program being dead, then revived to two-season coma).

13. FIU – 10-26

14. Charlotte – 2-10

FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

1. Marshall -- 20-4, one conference title

2. Western Kentucky -- 12-4, one conference title.

3. Rice – 15-9, one conference title.

4. Middle Tennessee State – 17-7

5. Louisiana Tech -- 16-8

6. UTSA – 12-12

7. Old Dominion – 7-9

8. Southern Mississippi – 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over UTEP, North Texas and FAU based on a Conference USA West Division title.)

9. UTEP 9-15 (gets the tiebreaker over North Texas and FAU on combined head-to-head record)

10. North Texas -- 9-15 (head-to-head tiebreaker over FAU)

11. FAU -- 9-15

12. UAB – 5-11

13. FIU – 7-17

14. Charlotte – 0-8

MEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL

1. Louisiana Tech – 68-19

2. UTEP – 55-27

3. Old Dominion – 53-32

4. Middle Tennessee State -- 51-31

5. UAB – 49-32

6. Western Kentucky -- 28-18

7. FIU – 38-40

8. North Texas 36-42

9. Charlotte – 17-28

10. Marshall – 27-52

11. UTSA – 25-50

12. Rice – 24-53

13. FAU – 21-53

14. Southern Mississippi – 41-36 (placed down here for two years of self-imposed postseason bans after fundamental NCAA violations, such as completing homework assignments for recruits).

MEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE

1. UAB -- 20-15, one Conference USA title

2. Louisiana Tech – 31-6

3. UTEP -- 27-9

4. Western Kentucky -- 12-7

5. Old Dominion – 23-12

6. Middle Tennessee State – 22-13

7. FIU – 16-19

8. North Texas -- 17-21

9. Charlotte – 7-12

10. UTSA -- 13-23

11. Marshall – 12-23

12. Rice – 10-26

13. FAU – 7-27

14. Southern Mississippi -- 17-18 (See above)

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL OVERALL

1. Western Kentucky – 40-7

2. Middle Tennessee State – 60-20

3. Southern Mississippi – 60-22

4. UTEP – 52-25

5. UAB – 41-33

6. Old Dominion – 44-37

7. FAU -- 38-34

8. Marshall – 38-37

9. Charlotte – 22-22

10. UTSA – 34-40

11. Louisiana Tech – 33-42

12. Rice – 24-49

13. North Texas -- 23-48

14. FIU -- 20-54

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE

1. Western Kentucky – 17-2, one conference title

2. Middle Tennessee State 30-5, one conference title

3. Southern Mississippi -- 27-8

4. Old Dominion -- 21-14

5. UTEP – 21-15

6. Charlotte – 10-9

7. UAB – 18-17

8. Louisiana Tech – 15-20

9. UTSA -- 15-21

10. FAU -- 14-21

11. Marshall -- 11-24

12. Rice – 11-25

13. North Texas -- 11-25

14. FIU – 6-29

BASEBALL OVERALL

1. Rice – 79-42, one NCAA at-large bid

2. Southern Mississippi – 71-43-1

3. FAU – 70-44, one NCAA at-large bid

4. UAB – 68-46

5. UTSA – 68-51

6. FIU – 66-51

7. Old Dominion – 63-54

8. Middle Tennessee State – 63-54

9. Western Kentucky – 24-28

10. Louisiana Tech – 40-62

11. Marshall – 40-63

12. Charlotte – 38-60-1

North Texas & UTEP – No team

BASEBALL CONFERENCE

1. Rice -- 45-15, one conference title

2. FIU – 29-31, one conference title

3. Southern Mississippi – 38-21

4. Middle Tennesse State – 37-24

5. UAB -- 35-25

6. FAU -- 33-26

7. UTSA -- 33-28

8. Old Dominion – 30-30

9. Marshall -- 22-37

10. Charlotte -- 21-38

11. Western Kentucky – 10-19

12. Louisiana Tech – 13-46

North Texas & UTEP – No team

WILD CARD SPORT

1. Western Kentucky – Volleyball. 62-10, 30-2 in conference, two conference tournament titles.

2. UTSA -- Men’s Track & Field. Two outdoor conference titles.

3. Charlotte -- Men’s Soccer. 37-16-7 overall, 16-5-4 in conference, one conference title, two other at-large NCAA tournament bids.

4. UTEP – Men’s Cross Country. One conference title, one conference runner-up (tell me I was the only one who thought the Miners won this every year).

5. Old Dominion -- Men’s Soccer. 32-18-5, 14-8-3, one conference title (a men's soccer championship is worth more than any other conference title because it's Conference USA’s best sport, by far).

6. FIU – Swimming & Diving. 22-3 in dual meets, one conference title (2015), one conference runner-up (2014).

7. Rice – Swimming & Diving. One conference title (2014), one conference runner-up (2015).

8. North Texas -- Women’s Soccer. 49-16-3 overall, 22-5-3 in conference, one conference tournament title.

9. Middle Tennessee State – Women’s Golf. One conference title.

10. UAB – Softball. 64-46 overall, 30-15 in conference, one NCAA at-large bid (gets close nod over FAU softball on incrementally better conference record).

11. FAU – Softball. 72-41-1, 31-16 in conference, one NCAA at-large bid.

12. Marshall -- Women’s soccer. 32-18-11, 14-9-7 in conference.

13. Southern Mississippi – Volleyball. 61-39 overall, 26-21 in conference.

14. Louisiana Tech -- Women’s soccer. 34-24-3 overall, 14-14-2 in conference.

As this is a multi-part post, the master of the multi-part hit...

 

 

Water Women Sweep CUSA Weekly Honors

Despite finishing second in the FIU Sprint Invite to Purdue (we'll pause so you can wash your mouth out after saying that word...all fresh now? Good.), FIU took both Conference USA's Swimmer of the Week and Diver of the Week awards.

Sophomore Skye Carey won the 50 backstroke in 26.93 and was third by a blink in the 100 back behind winner, teammate and fellow sophomore Naomi Ruele (58.15) with a 58.21. Carey also came in fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:53.10).

The diver is, of course, sophomore Rebecca Quensel, who won the 1-meter (283.90) and the 3-meter (290.15) events.

It's the start of a new calendar and FIU's best program is back on the blocks.

 

November 12, 2015

Pregame Friday

Roast pig. Free stuff. Games. Swimmers. Divers.

Aw, now you know it's serious at FIU when they bring out the swimming & diving team, the best team in FIU athletics. Is there any other campus that uses the water women or men to draw a crowd for football and basketball?

Friday's occasion, of course, is the season-opening basketball doubleheader for FIU women's and men's basketball, tipping off at 5 p.m. with the women's game against Florida A&M. The men's game versus Trinity Baptist is scheduled for 7 p.m., but that never holds. Bet more 7:20 p.m. 

But from 3-5 p.m., in front of FIU Arena, there's a tailgate with food, which I hear will include a roast pig (it'll already be roasted, so it won't be exactly like your uncle in the backyard). There will also be an autograph session with the last year's Conference USA champion swimming & diving team around 4 p.m. The women's hoops team will be signing autographs between games in the FIU Arena lobby.

 

November 10, 2015

Football Hits & Giggles; FIU Water Women Take Weekly Honors (Again)

You can "Next Man Up" it all you want. Few college teams pack the talent so there's not a "where's my Cialis?" performance dropoff from the injured guy to the next guy on the depth chart. Some schools wind up stacked at a certain position or do so by design while sacrificing at other positions. But from Alabama to Appalachian State, you take all-conference players away, you're taking a big step back at that position.

That's why my first question to Ron Turner each Tuesday concerns the medical report. Some guys' clearly won't be seeing the field again for a while, so I stop asking. But, then, sometimes, I don't update them here to let you know, essentially, they're still hurt.

 

Here's a broad injury update as FIU preps for Marshall.

Junior tight end Jonnu Smith -- FIU coach Ron Turner admitted Smith and his sprained knee are "in NFL terms, probably Doubtful" for the last two games of the season. Turner said Smith suffered the injury in the second quarter against Old Dominion. Smith's been working out separate from the team, never a good sign.

Senior tight end Ya'Keem Griner -- Out for the season, foot injury. Remember what I wrote about seeing "The Boot" in an Oct. 20 post? The Boot is bad. The Boot is evil. I'd rather see Rover than The Boot.

 

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Vontarius West -- Turner said he'd be fine. Some FIU birds said West's practice participation was limited.

Fifth-year senior running back Anthon Samuel -- Questionable for this week with his bum ankle.

Junior linebacker Treyvon Williams -- No longer on crutches, but I wouldn't expect to see him either of the final two games. His replacement, senior Jephete Matilus, gives good effort and actually played well for a guy with probably less than 60 minutes worth of college game snaps playing time at linebacker. But take Williams and sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint away from this defense and it's just not the same. 

Redshirt junior safety Jordan Davis -- Now on crutches. Knee injury. Done for the season.

Junior safety Wilkenson Myrtil -- Out for the season. Concussion.

SWIMMING & DIVING

Told you so. Though FIU's dual meet streak got broken by Illinois, don't blame sophomores Kyna Periera and Rebecca Quesnel.

Periera won the 200 freestyle, 500 free, 1,000 free and anchored the 200 medley and 400 free relays. Quesnel swept platform, 1-meter and 3-meter in the diving.

For this, as predicted, Periera was named Conference USA Swimmer of the Week for the second time this season. Quesnel shared her second Diver of the Week award of the year with Marshall's Megan Wolons. Quesnel won it six times as a freshman.

November 07, 2015

Gameday X: Quickie Afternoon Delight

UPCOMING HOME MATCHES/GAMES

Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. Illinois, 10:30 a.m.

Volleyball -- Sunday vs. North Texas, 1 p.m. (Senior Day)

Women's Basketball -- Friday vs. Florida A&M, 5 p.m.

Men's Basketball -- Friday vs. Trinity Baptist, 7 p.m.

Before we get to what FIU needs to do Saturday at La Cage against Charlotte, let's give a quick update on the two fall sports mentioned above.

The water women keep doing what they do, leading Illinois 100-85 after the first of a two-day dual meet. Sophomore Kyna Periera won the 500 freestyle, 200 free and anchored the winning 200 medley and 400 free relays. But FIU owes its lead in the meet to the 16-2 advantage in platform diving. Illinois entered only one diver and FIU Sophomore Rebecca Quesnel, junior Lily Kaufmann, Laura Coronado and Natalia Coronado all beat her.

That meet resumes at 10:30 a.m. or one hour, 15 minutes before cops bike around the FIU Stadium parking lots and politely tell the few tailgaters to pack it up.

Everybody around FIU in the fight to make the volleyball tournament turned into Johanna Gustafsdottir and backstroked Friday. The top eight teams get into the tournament, but only No. 22 Western Kentucky and UTSA had clinched spots doing into Friday. FIU was tied with FAU, but with the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The Panthers, 7-6 in conference, lost to Western. And FAU beat North Texas. But Marshall, sitting behind FIU, got swept by Southern Mississippi, which clinched a tournament spot. With a chance to pull even with eighth place Marshall, Middle Tennessee State stumbled over Charlotte.

So FIU's alone in seventh, one game behind Rice, North Texas and FAU, but a game and a half ahead of ninth place Middle and two games up on 10th place Charlotte.

The regular season ends at Charlotte next Saturday.

As to Charlotte and FIU on the football field this Saturday, FIU's favored by 18-19 points, depending on your oddsmaker. That's the largest since kicking off the 2012 home opener a 23-point favorite over Akron, which took FIU to overtime before losing 41-38. That's No. 2 behind "a loss" on the Last Thing FIU Needs list.

Charlotte's a third-year program in its first FBS season and playing like it. If FIU's the bowl team it believes itself to be, then the Panthers come out intense and focused Saturday to do one thing: get in, get out, hit it and quit it.

Do to Charlotte what they did to UTEP in the other noon game, and get the starters out as soon as you can. That's a common sense move late in the season anyway. Doubly so for a team with a whose injury report sounds longer than the Warren Commission Report. Triply so for a banged up team that's got to get a win from one of a hard final pair of regular season games for bowl eligibility.

(And I'm sure FIU would like to thank Conference USA for making the Panthers bye week the final week on the overall schedule. That's like having a driver switch in the 24 Hours of LeMans after the checkered flag.)

Get sophomore running back Alex Gardner out of the game the week after he played every snap. Get sophomore quarterback Alex McGough, who was the pinata last week with FAU a bunch of Coke-bottle baby five-year-olds with bats looking for their sugar. Get the linemen out. Get whoever's playing tight end out because they've been dropping like leaves up north.

UTEP allows 9.7 yards per pass attempt in conference games, second most behind Rice's 10.0. Charlotte allows 8.6. Translation: FIU should be able to hit Charlotte with similar big plays to that which they hit UTEP. Charlotte will try to run the ball, as UTEP did. Well, they'll try to run the ball as Middle and FAU did on the Panthers. The run defense needs to show up this week or Charlotte will have a chance to shorten this game. Or just keep FIU's starters involved longer.

FIU's got mountains to climb the next two weeks. They need to stomp on the molehill, not stumble over it.

FIU 45, Charlotte 13

But that's one black man's opinion. I could be wrong.

 

 

October 20, 2015

Sweeping CUSA Swimmer & Diver of the Week

Told ya'.

Sophomore Kyna Periera's weekend, as perfect individually (8-0) as FIU's collectively (3-0 in Dual-A-Palooza), included Conference USA season-best times in the 1,000 freestyle (10:06.76) and 200 free (1:50.38). The 1,000 free time was 23 hundredths of a second off Periera's school record, set last January. For all this, she was named Conference USA Swimmer of the Week.

Sophomore diver Rebecca Quesnel won the 3 meter, 1 meter and finished second in platform. So she collected another CUSA Diver of the Week Award, her seventh.

 

October 17, 2015

Gameday VII: Stuck in the Middle with Blue; Saturday Swim Dual-a-Palooza moved

ALERT!

Today's last two FIU meets in Dual-A-Palooza, FIU vs. FAU at 10 a.m. and FIU vs. Hurricanes at 3 p.m., have been moved from the Biscayne Bay campus to Gulliver Prep, 6575 Kendall Drive, in the lovely suburb of Pinecrest.

Pool malfunction, says an FIU source. Will it be fixed by the next home meet, Nov. 6 and 7 vs. Illinois? "Hope so."

Anyway, when I talked to FIU swim & dive coach Randy Horner last week, he downplayed the significance of Friday's meet against Conference USA's second best swim team, Rice. Some of the events aren't regulation NCAA events, it's early in the season, etc.

Bet Horner still puts that 133-90 win against Rice, however, with the other feelgood wins on the shelf. On the FIU whole, that almost balances out women's soccer losing 1-0 in double overtime to Western Kentucky and volleyball losing in 3-2 (21-25, 25-21, 11-25, 25-17, 15-8) to Southern Mississippi.

Now, then...

Middle’s first two Conference USA seasons, the Blue Raiders averaged 240.1 rushing yards per conference game. Bunches of running backs coming into the game to steadily move the ball in 4 to 8-yard cracks. Now, with head coach Rick Stockstill's son, Brent, at quarterback, they throw it for over 300 yards per game, 307.2 to be exact over their first six games. The run game's getting only 3.5 yards per crack, 3.9 under my Real Rushing stat, which discounts quarterback sacks.

That's why Middle's thrown 10 more passes than they've run, 21 more subtracting sacks and kneeldowns. That's also why FIU's most worried about wide receivers Ed'Marques Batties, a fifth-year senior, and redshirt freshman Richie James, each of whom has 49 receptions. Expect a bubble screen bath from Middle and the usual Lawrence Welk Show of bubbles and 5-yard Stop-and-Pops from FIU, too. Safe passes, get elusive or strong players in space and see what happens.

If FIU uses 6-5 senior wide receiver Juwan Caesar, it would make sense to use his big body not only as a chain mover, but a people mover. Run the edges to his side, run bubble screens with him making the 3-or-30 block (the block that determines whether the play goes 3 yards or 30 yards). When FIU’s run bubbles using sophomore wide receiver Dennis Turner or sophomore Thomas Owens as the blocker, you can see the play’s potential right before the block gets shed and the receiver upended. 

Middle’s defensive backs didn’t look good against Western. Yeah, I know, Western could make the Seahawks secondary look confused and pregnant. But tackling’s tackling. Or, rather, not tackling is not tackling, in the case of Middle. That's a problem when if you have to deal with El Dorados with acceleration like tight end Jonnu Smith, Ya'Keem Griner, Caesar and Thomas Owens.

 

As far as the defense Middle runs, FIU coach Ron Turner said, "Very similar to ours -- 4-3, quarters coverage, like a lot of people. They're fairly basic on first and second down, as most people are. But they've got a very good third down package that schematically presents a problem."

Middle's picked off 10 passes this season already. Could be some jumpy defensive backs, especially if they start to think they can time FIU's Stop-and-Pops. With some patience and time, quarterback Alex McGough could find himself with some receivers running relaxed through the secondary like a cigarette ad couple strolling by a country pond.

 

For what it's worth, this game’s at 11 a.m. Murfreesboro time. Middle looked sleepy for its 11 a.m. start against Western Kentucky last week. FIU had UTEP down for an afternoon nap by noon. Temperatures should be a little nippy for FIU, low 60s, but good football weather.

Both teams, on both sides of the ball, do their job in the red zone partially because both defend the run better than the pass. Both teams also have shown vulnerability to the big play. And I think we'll get several of those. As noted in today's advance story, things tend to get weird when FIU and Middle get together.

Middle's at home. Alabama, Vandy, Illinois and Western in-conference might make the Blue Boy Group a little more competition tempered than FIU. 

Middle Tennessee State 30, FIU 24.

But that's one black man's opinion. I could be wrong.

 

October 13, 2015

Swimmer Gets CUSA Love; Tuesday Afternoon Football, Not Moody, No Blues

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving -- Friday vs. Rice, 4 p.m.

Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. FAU, 10 a.m.

Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. University of Miami, 4 p.m.

Men's Soccer -- Saturday vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m.

Against North Florida last week, senior Jessica Chadwick won the 100 backstroke in 1:05.91, the 200 breaststorke in 2:22.63 and 200 individual medley in 2:07.85. That earned Chadwick her first Conference USA Swimmer of the Week award.

FOOTBALL

Not much to report other than the medical.

Of the three players who went down in the second half Saturday, freshman defensive end Fermin Silva looks the worst. He was on crutches Tuesday. FIU coach Ron Turner called him "questionable" for this week. Two redshirt freshmen, offensive lineman Chris Miller and defensive lineman Anthony Johnson, were in the Home Depot-colored injury jerseys, but in pads as were sophomore wide receiver Dennis Turner and senior tight end Ya'Keem Griner.

I wouldn't look for junior middle linebacker Treyvon Williams back any time soon. He still had his crutches. Redshirt junior safety Jordan Davis wasn't in pads. 

One of those sporting coincidences that FIU ran an old-fashioned option like you used to see out of an I-formation Saturday afternoon and Florida State did the same several hours later for the first time this season. FIU's wound up a 2-yard gain by quarterback Alex McGough. FSU's wound up a 72-yard touchdown by running back Dalvin Cook when Hurricanes defender Dion Bush blew his assignment to stay with the pitch man.

I thought it was the first time I saw FIU run that kind of option this season. 

"We've been running some of it off other action. We've had it in game plans before. totally their defense dictated that. And we didn't execute it very well -- Alex should've pitched it," Turner laughed. "It looked like we just put it in that week. We didn't."

Seeing those option runs caused a Fireman's Fund Flashback...

 

More FIU vs. UMass Football; Swim Stuff

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving -- Friday vs. Rice, 4 p.m.

Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. FAU, 10 a.m.

Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. University of Miami, 4 p.m.

Men's Soccer -- Saturday vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m.

Buried in this report out of Massachusetts is the report of another UMass-FIU game, in 2016. It'll replace the previously scheduled UMass-UConn game.

In the postgame notebook off FIU's Oct. 3 loss to the Minutemen, the first of a two-game deal that'll see UMass come south in 2018, I wrote that UMass and FIU were signing up for two more games. FIU's got room on their 2017 and 2019 schedules. UMass comes to The Cage in 2018.

SWIMMING & DIVING

I'm never one to kvetch about a trip to Nashville, one of the funnest cities in the nation. But this weekend's trip to Murfreesboro (translation: stay in Nashville, drive the 45 for the game) means missing the unusual series of dual meets between defending Conference USA champion FIU, Conference USA runner-up Rice, FAU and the Hurricanes.

Races won't always conform to NCAA norms as far as length. It's early in the season, too, so projecting February based on results here would be premature speculation. 

Also, FIU's somewhere between "rebuilding" and "reloading." They lost several seniors including Klara Andersson and FIU's greatest swimmer, Johanna Gustafsdottir (although you'll still see Johanna around FIU sports events as a sports marketing intern). Silvia Scalia, Gustafsdottir's heir apparent as FIU's top all-around swimmer, decided not to come back to FIU for reasons unknown. Karin Tomeckova, second to Scalia in the 100 backstroke at the Conference USA meet, is skipping this year at FIU to go for a spot on Slovakia's Olympic team.

That said, the program's in a much stronger position, both in the pool and in recruiting, than it was when last year's seniors were brought into the program. That showed in last year's depth.

FIU's ranked 16th among the mid-majors by CollegeSwimming.com, and the Hurricanes ranked 21st in all of Division I. Rice would like a piece of FIU after getting dusted in last year's Conference USA meet. The other two schools are natural rivals and FIU beat UM by a blink to complete an undefeated dual meet season last year.

Should be fun.

September 21, 2015

Swimming Ace Scalia Will Not Return

Silvia Scalia, Conference USA Freshman Swimmer of the Year and a big part of FIU's glorious 2014-15 season, decided not to return to FIU this season.

Scalia set school records in the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as being part of three school record relay teams. She won Conference USA titles in the 100 and 200 back and 400 freestyle relay and looked like the successor to Johanna Gustafsdottir as FIU's best all-around swimmer.

Good to see Gustafsdottir on campus, doing an internship as she finishes her degree. 

 

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.

 


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