Through success and failure: what comes next for football and MacIntyre?

FIU football's head coach Mike MacIntyre watching his team from the sideline. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Will Duval | Sports Director

Sports and social media have become intertwined over the course of the past two decades. 

Platforms such as Instagram or X allow fans to engage with their favorite teams and other people who share the same interest. However, the validity of the information available on those platforms varies from post to post.

Prior to FIU football’s most recent game against the Arkansas Razorbacks X user @pinto479 made a post captioned:

“Y’all be safe in Fayetteville. I had two tickets to the Arkansas/FIU game and someone broke into my car and left two more with a parking pass…”

User @pinto479’s post on X about the FIU football and Arkansas game. Photo courtesy of X.

While the gag is a long-running joke within the college football community, the reason it was funny is because it came at the expense of both teams.

This season, both teams held more losses than wins before they faced off and were underperforming relative to fan expectations. 

Due to their recent stretch of play, Panther fans took to social media to lampoon the team for their performance.

After kicking off their season with a 3-1 start, FIU’s head coach Mike MacIntyre received praise by fans on social media for the team’s early season success.

Despite taking a 22-17 loss in their season opener against the LA Tech Bulldogs on Aug. 26, 2023, they went on to win their next three games.

The catalyst for the Panthers’ three game win streak was the decision to start freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins. Over his first three games in action, he threw for 867 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, and completed 56.2% of his pass attempts. 

Taking faith in the freshman quarterback, MacIntyre’s offense allowed Jenkins to get off to a record setting start. In his debut, he threw for 293 yards and set a school record for the most single-game passing yards by a freshman.

Since then, FIU’s season began to spin out of control and went on to lose six of their next seven games. They went on a three game losing streak after winning three games in a row.

Falling below the .500 marker, the only win they took over that seven game span was against the Sam Houston Bearkats on Oct. 18. 

In their first season in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the Bearkats forced the Panthers into a double-overtime shootout. At the time, they were winless with an 0-6 record and now stand at 2-9 this season.

Holding them off, FIU took a 33-27 win after Jenkins threw back-to-back touchdowns passes in overtime. Even though they won the game, social media didn’t hold back on their performance against a winless team.

User @SpencerHarris_’s post on X criticizing both Sam Houston and FIU’s head coaches. Photo courtesy of X.

Once again, they went on to lose three games in a row and dropped to 4-7 on the season. Squandering their bowl game chances, their final game of the season is against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023.

Over their nearly two-month long 1-6 span, there has been a small yet vocal group of fans that have been calling for the team to make some significant changes.

On X, user @Panther4Life305 frequently posts “fire MacIntyre” and receives support each time they post it. 

Another user by the name of @Rickymo99462358 said: “this is a results based job… win and you get to keep your job… lose and it’s time to move on(.) FIU has access to the best athletes in the world it’s (Florida) a talent rich area… I could understand if FIU was in Wyoming!”

Angered by the team’s recent performance, fans are lashing out on social media and calling for a major staff overhaul. This is compounded by the fact that they had their best recruiting class in school history in 2023, in terms of rankings.

However, it can be argued that the program has improved under MacIntyre and that he may be the reason for such a strong recruiting effort. 

Before his arrival, the Panthers hadn’t had a winning season since 2018 where they finished with a 9-4 record. Between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, they had a 1-16 overall record, only playing five games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since MacIntyre took over as head coach, they hold an 8-15 record in the same timespan. While it’s not the same level of success as in the past, it’s an improvement upon having one win to boast over two years.

Some may see that record as an indicator of mediocrity, but it’s impressive considering that he’s only been the head coach for two years. In reality, MacIntyre has only had two seasons to construct the roster he desires.

Within a short amount of time, he brought in the highest ranked recruiting class in school history while also completely overhauling the team in the offseason. Despite losing multiple top contributors to the transfer portal, FIU also gained new pieces through it.

While it seemed like the offseason should have led to improvement, things aren’t that simple. Completely placing the blame on MacIntyre is an uninformed stance to take based on a prior bad experience.

After the 2006 season, the Panthers hired Mario Cristobal to be the program’s new head coach. He was tasked with turning around an 0-12 record and faced an eerily similar set of circumstances to MacIntyre’s current situation.

Cristobal signed 18 new players entering the 2007 season and brought the school “potentially the best recruiting class in FIU history” according to an article from FIU Athletics that season.

He was eventually fired by the team in 2012 after spending six seasons at the helm. In that time, he finished with a 27-47 record and went 9-27 over his first three seasons.

Since then, Cristobal went on to be the head coach of the Oregon Ducks from 2018-2021, where they were nationally ranked. After the 2021 season, he moved on to become the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, where he still remains.

For MacIntyre, the history is not yet set in stone, but a head coach needs longer than two years to make a significant impact on the program. He hasn’t even had the opportunity to create a full roster of players that he recruited.

Through his first two seasons, MacIntyre has statistically had a better start to his time with the program than Cristobal did. Between 2007 and 2008, the Panthers went 2-22, only winning one game in each season.

Although MacIntyre’s record holds more losses than wins, there is a substantial difference between his first two years and Cristobal’s. 

Cristobal was given the benefit of the doubt for six seasons and had a lower level of expectations. FIU was still a relatively new program in the FBS, there wasn’t much established history to create expectations from.

On paper, MacIntyre has already achieved more success than Cristobal, both in record and in recruiting.

Now that the program has produced NFL talent and participated in multiple bowl games, there is a significantly higher level of expectation from fans.

Understanding that no two situations are exactly alike and that success is relative are the keys to understanding why MacIntyre deserves more time. The situation he’s in is exclusively his and the result can’t be decided until his time here is over.

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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