FIU

FIU president Mark Rosenberg: Football coach, athletic director safe

 

FIU president Mark Rosenberg responded ‘no’ when asked whether athletic director Pete Garcia or coach Ron Tuner would get the ax.

dneal@MiamiHerald.com

Struggling football teams often use their bye week for in-season firings. FIU is 0-4, inhabitants of every bottom 10 ranking and in an off week before its first Conference USA game.

But don’t look for firings of either athletic director Pete Garcia or first-year coach Ron Turner.

That’s according to a text message sent to the Miami Herald by FIU president Mark Rosenberg. Asked via text message whether he had any discussion with the Board of Trustees regarding — or was considering a change — in the positions of executive director of sports and entertainment or head football coach, Rosenberg responded:

“No. No. No.”

Changes certainly wouldn’t help FIU financially, and this isn’t a flush athletic department as it is, with expected revenues of $25.4 million. The vast majority of that comes from student fees.

Also, there has been a great deal of high-profile turnover in FIU’s athletic department during the past 18 months.

FIU had to pay the remainder of former men’s basketball coach Isiah Thomas’ salary, $660,000, when it fired him in April 2012 after 26 wins in three seasons and a low Academic Progress Rate for 2010-11.

When FIU fired football coach Mario Cristobal last December, his contract said FIU owed him two years of base salary, with the second year reduced by whatever he made should he take another coaching job. Subtracting the $475,000 base salary Cristobal reportedly makes at Alabama, FIU still owed him $431,386.

Turner’s contract said he is owed two years of base salary, which would be $1 million, if he’s fired without cause. Hapless as the Panthers have been — 123rd (of 123) in scoring and rush offense, 120th in passing offense, 122nd in total offense and total defense — losing four games doesn’t qualify as just cause.

Unless Garcia violates his contract, FIU would owe him his current yearly salary, $362,527, upon firing. He is also owed a retention bonus that is 20 percent of his salary, $72,505 in this case, each Oct. 15 that he’s still employed.

Garcia took over a wrecked athletic department in 2006. He hired Cristobal, who coached FIU to two bowl games and a Sun Belt Conference championship, and guided FIU out of the Sun Belt to Conference USA. His political savvy helped secure FIU’s 2011 bowl bid, The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.

Garcia’s hiring of Richard Pitino led to FIU’s first winning basketball season in 13 years and within a Sun Belt Conference championship game three-pointer of the NCAA Tournament.

But Garcia’s handling of the Thomas firing earned the basketball players’ ire and his firing of Cristobal angered many still fuming supporters. The hiring of Turner and the results so far have quelled none of that ire.

Since the start of the 2011 academic year, FIU has won two conference titles: women’s soccer and women’s golf.

While most of FIU’s teams, particularly the women’s teams, perform well academically, poor classroom performance has plagued the highest profile programs. Men’s basketball is serving a one-year postseason ban after abysmal APRs in consecutive years. This year’s football team lost three key starters to academics.

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