ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson made waves this week when he called USC’s football program a “clown college.” While USC has had their issues off the field, the truth is that label would be kind when it comes to Florida International University’s football program. If USC is a clown college, FIU is a mortician’s school. At least clowns are funny.
In its 12 years of existence the FIU program is known for a wild on-field brawl with the Miami Hurricanes and unbelievably firing Mario Cristobal, the only head coach to have a winning record at the school. The events of this weekend can add another sorry episode to FIU’s history.
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia banned the team’s only beat reporter from covering the team, the Miami Herald’s David Neal.
Let that sink in before we go further.
Florida International’s athletics program has one, yes, one beat reporter covering the Panthers from the Miami Herald. And the athletic department banned him.
This decision means that effectively, nobody is covering the athletic program on a regular basis. More on the absurdity from the Herald:
For the first time since FIU created a football team, the Miami Herald will not cover the Panthers’ home season opening game Saturday because the school has refused to provide a press credential to the newspaper’s beat reporter.
FIU athletics officials denied the Herald’s request for a game pass for reporter David J. Neal, who has been covering FIU sports since June, 2011. Passes were granted for a Herald columnist and photographer.
No explanation was given by FIU, but Neal’s access to FIU coaches and athletes had been dwindling for months, to the point where he was no longer permitted to attend football practice or conduct interviews. Last week, when Neal attempted to write a story on the FIU women’s soccer team, he was told no one was allowed to talk to him.
“It’s unprecedented for any local team to refuse to credential our beat reporter without reason,” Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said of the four pro and two college teams the Herald covers on a regular basis. “The team does not get to choose who covers the program.”
Considering Garcia is the same athletic director that fired the only head coach that had found success at FIU after one poor season, this rash, authoritative, bizarre decision is totally predictable. How insane does an athletic department have to be to deny access to a story on the women’s soccer program??? Do you realize how many schools in FIU’s position would give a significant percentage of their endowment fund for that kind of publicity???
Where did the ban stem from? Perhaps it has something to do with the Herald daring to contact Garcia over alleged mistreatment of Neal from the school. So instead of acting like adults, the school yanked Neal’s credential:
The ban on Neal was imposed without an explanation from Pete Garcia, FIU’s athletic director and executive director of sports and entertainment. Garcia received an email Monday from Herald Managing Editor Rick Hirsch inquiring about “evidence of unprofessional treatment” of Neal. Previously, Herald Executive Sports Editor Jorge Rojas also sought an explanation for FIU’s actions, with no response from Garcia. On Wednesday, FIU denied the Herald’s request for Neal’s credential.
It’s appropriate that Garcia is the executive director of sports and entertainment because this is something a professional wrestling villain would do. It’s that unbelievable.
The Herald should take the FIU ban as a blessing in disguise. Seize the opportunity to ignore all mentions of the team and the university in the paper moving forward. Let them have another 1-11 season in anonymity and continue to slip further into the embarrassing black hole of their own making.