FIU 1, University of Miami 0.
That's what the scoreboard at the Orange Bowl should say before the Hurricanes and Golden Panthers hook up Saturday night for their first football meeting ever. Tuesday afternoon, FIU made its biggest move on the gridiron ever when it inked former UM associate athletic director Pete Garcia to be its next athletic director. (To see the video interview I recorded with Garcia just click on our link of UM videos or click here)
In its first five years, FIU has never beaten UM to a single football recruit the Hurricanes have wanted. But that may start changing soon because the guy FIU got not only knows how to recruit, but he knows how to build champions. He helped Butch Davis rebuild UM following UM's NCAA violations into the national title contender it was early on in this decade.
Garcia then left with Davis to begin a new franchise with the Cleveland Browns in 2000. He never got to enjoy UM's national title in 2001. Nor did he get much credit for it because he wasn't here. When he finally returned to Miami last September when he was hired as Senior Associate Athletic Director, there were many in the UM family who envisioned Garcia not only helping UM halt its slippage, but some saw him eventually replacing Paul Dee as the school's athletic director. Some thought it might even happen sooner than later after UM's sluggish start this season.
But Garcia likely won't end up as part of UM's future now because FIU president Modesto Maidique seized the moment and nabbed Garcia for his own school's future. Pistol Pete was happy Tuesday. And it was more than the fact he was getting a 5-year contract worth over $200,000 a year. It was because he's getting the chance he's always wanted to build a winner.
UM coach Larry Coker said during Tuesday's morning press conference Garcia had very little to do with the Hurricanes' last recruiting class, which included four studs who already making impacts (Javarris James, Sam Shields, Jason Fox and Ryan Hill). Coker said all Garcia did with last year's recruiting class was lend a hand when he was shorthanded with coaches by reviewing tapes of players and feeding Coker and company his advice. Nothing more.
There are two ways you can look at that. Maybe Coker needed Garcia to be involved more. After all, when Garcia was the recruiting coordinator for Butch Davis, UM enjoyed its best run on talent. The proof can be found playing on Sundays. And yet now, it is UM's recruiting struggles that have put the Hurricanes pack into the pack with the North Carolinas, Houstons and Georgia Techs of the college football world.
People have asked why Garcia left UM if he was supposedly next in line to put his fingerprint on the program? He won't likely ever answer that directly. But put two-and-two together and you have to imagine someone told him he was likely was not going to get that chance for a while. And for a guy like Pistol Pete, who can't stand to sit around and watch things happen around him without helping, a future like that is not worth having. So, he bolted for FIU where the opportunity awaits.
And if you look at it, FIU really has a bright future. They've got a new on-campus stadium and new facilities on the way, an alumni base that reaches over 100,000, a city that produces more NFL talent than anyone else in the country and a president that clearly has made a move to build a winner. Last I checked, the only things UM had among those was the fact it was still in the same city and a president that says she wants to build a winner.
Tuesday, Garcia said his goal was to "wake up a sleeping giant" at FIU. Maybe, if Canes fans are lucky, Garcia's move to FIU will do the same for his former employer. Maybe this will finally get UM to think about building its own stadium and upgrading its own facilities.
Then again, maybe, Tuesday was the start of something else -- like the day FIU began closing the gap on UM. Only time will tell and FIU still has a long way to go before it reaches UM's stature as a football power. But as of Tuesday, the future says: FIU 1, UM 0.