COMMENTARY: Ironically, Sun Belt chooses school without track

I can’t tell if the Sun Belt Conference is trying to play a joke on FIU.

Eduardo Almaguer/ Asst. Sports Director

After announcing that FIU was going to host the 2013 Track and Field Sun Belt Tournament, I was confused. How do we intend on hosting a tournament for 10 other schools when we have no track to begin with?

It is a tragicomedy, really, and an issue that finally brings to light what the Track and Field program has endured for the better part of the last decade. The Panthers have recently trained in Tropical Park and now they’ll head to Miramar, Fla., specifically to the Ansin Sports Complex, to host the tournament.

Don’t get me wrong; the complex itself is a great spot for the tournament. The home page has a video with epic, Chariots of Fire-like music playing up the facilities and its “IAAF-certified super FTX Mondo track with an eight-lane oval and a nine-lane straightaway” also known as, well, a track.

But how does the Sun Belt expect a large turnout of FIU fans when the complex is 22 miles from the Modesto Maidique Campus? I was in attendance for the 2011 Sun Belt Volleyball tournament in the U.S Century Bank Arena and the opposing teams’ fans outnumbered FIU fans 2-to-1. And that is when the tournament was held on campus.

Who will show up for the Track and Field tournament? I’d say the families of the FIU athletes and maybe, just maybe, one or two die-hard track and field fans from FIU, if they exist. The Panthers can once again expect to be one of the least-cheered for teams and that’s a damn shame.

Head coach Eric Campbell has done a tremendous job training his squad into championship form in recent years. In June, his 4×100 team qualified for the national championships. Each year, his squad is predicted to finish at the top or near the top of the SBC tournaments.

I give a lot of credit to Campbell. He’s taken this massive negative and turned it into a positive, saying he’s proud that his team can still compete without a facility. He says it allows his school to focus on the people and relationships of the sport. I wonder, though, if he speculates how great it could have been to host the tournament on a track to call his own.

While the Sun Belt’s decision to tab FIU to host the tournament baffles me, I’m not going to let FIU itself escape unscathed. The “long-range goal” is to create a track surrounding the soccer field, but I sincerely feel that there will be no movement on that for a few years as FIU busies itself with its money-makers like football. University of Arkansas at Little Rock is the only other Sun Belt school to not have a track, but there’s a big asterisk on that statement because as you read this, they are building one that’s to be completed in September. I can only wonder why FIU spent its entire time in the SBC without an adequate track on campus.

Next year will be FIU’s last year as a member of the Sun Belt Conference before they join Conference USA and this has to be one the worst going-away presents ever.

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