Progress report: Academics has more hard-hitting results than athletics

Editorial Board/FIUSM Staff 

The average person who knows nothing about FIU has been receiving mixed signals over the past year when it comes to the world of Academics versus Athletics.

For example, FIU was the third highest Florida university ranked by most successful graduates according to the Huffington Post. This comes as even more of an achievement because, according to the Sun Sentinel, the FIU student surge has made it the seventh largest university in the country.

After already being the largest university in South Florida, FIU is now one of the largest in the nation after adding a whopping 12 thousand students in the past four years.

On top of the fact that FIU is one of the largest schools in the country and also having a high graduation rate, FIU was recently featured nationally on the “NBC’s Today Show” and “CBS This Morning” for its completion of a NASA training mission, “Sea Test II” (the first since FIU took over Aquarius operations earlier this year).

The Aquarius project has helped FIU compensate for the lack of success the athletic department has done for the University.

Let us begin with the firing of former Head Football Coach Mario Cristobal on Dec. 5, 2012. Cristobal became the second head coach for FIU back in 2007 and was even able to take the Panthers to two consecutive bowl appearances and a bowl win in 2010.

After their most successful season ever in 2011 at 8-4, the Panthers regressed back to 3-9.  Finally in 2012, Cristobal was fired. On Jan. 3, 2013, Ron Turner was hired as the new head football coach.

The next couple of months, however, would prove to be anything but easy for Turner. On July 13, 2013, former FIU running back Kedrick Rhodes made national news when he was kicked off the team after being arrested and charged with possessing and discharging a firearm on school grounds, improper exhibition of a firearm, discharging a firearm in public and discharging a firearm under the influence of alcohol.

Just a few days after the Rhodes incident, on July 20, the FIU football program found itself in hot water once again as Miami-Dade Police responded to an anonymous caller about the Panther Football team allegedly showering without their bathing suits in front of families and children on a field trip.

Turner released a statement that same day apologizing for the incident, a statement that was then shown on ESPN and was made fun of by the anchors.

Within just two months, the FIU football program found itself as the laughing stock of the University and its athletics program. We started to point the blame to Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment Pete Garcia.

The blame being shifted to Garcia doesn’t only come from the football program but the men’s basketball program as well. On April 3, 2013, former Men’s Basketball Head Coach Richard Pitino left FIU to accept a head coaching job at the University of Minnesota.

Now, Pitino leaving didn’t exactly bring negative attention, but what followed did.

New Head Coach Anthony Evans walked into a situation where the men’s basketball team will now be facing a postseason ban for poor academic performance after being placed on probation four years earlier.

Once the 2011-2012 Academic Progress Rate scores became official, the Panthers received a ban for next year’s postseason and a reduction in practice time. The Panthers scored a dreadful 750, way below the NCAA average, which would later drop the four-year rate down to 858 from 909.

When it comes to the issues of athletics vs academics, it’s easy to see how academics has blown athletics out of the water. As FIU tries to continue its march to become a well respected university, there’s no doubt that academics is doing its part.

However, athletics hasn’t exactly put us on the map for success–the fact that this university is starting to become known for its pathetic athletic program rather than all of the hard work and success of academics is disturbing. 

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