Thursday, August 27, 2009

Andy Katz on Florida International and the Gazelle Group

As we touched on yesterday, Florida International is threatening to pull out of a pre-season tournament run by the Gazelle Group (who runs a number of pre-season tournaments, including the Coaches vs. Cancer event that FIU is supposed to participate in) due to a scheduling change by the GG.

FIU was supposed to play Ohio State in their season opener, but it was changed to UNC because the GG, who is always looking to make a buck, wanted the intrigue of the reigning national champs kicking off their season in Isiah Thomas's debut as a college coach. On ESPN U.

So why would FIU, a mid-major program that undoubtedly would love the exposure, threaten to boycott the event?

Isiah Thomas and Pete Garcia on the day the coach was hired.
(photo credit: daylife)

Because the GG knows how to deal with people about as well as an ornery mule.

It makes sense. No one likes to get pushed around or bullied.

But Andy Katz emphasizes a point we made yesterday: this is a great opportunity for the Panthers. From his blog on the WWL:
FIU is getting three home games out of this event -- North Carolina Central (Nov. 20), James Madison (Nov. 22) and Murray State (Nov. 23). The Panthers have to play one road game -- as far as Gazelle is concerned, at North Carolina, not Ohio State.

A year ago, FIU was in the CBE Classic and played three home games (Cleveland State, Toledo and non-Division I West Georgia) and then played at Washington. So in two seasons, FIU -- I repeat, F-I-U -- received six home games and just two road games from the organizers. That's rather generous considering the Panthers haven't really done anything on the court to justify being a relevant figure on the college basketball map.

If FIU athletic director Pete Garcia follows through on his threat to break the contract and play someone else, he'll have a hard time finding three home games. The NCAA allows tournaments like the Coaches vs. Cancer to count four games as two. So FIU would have to find only two games to fill its schedule. But it's hard to believe teams are lining up to play at FIU's 5,000-seat arena, especially in September.
So FIU is getting three home games and the chance to play UNC on ESPN U when the national champs open up their season, and they are going to throw it all away over some hurt feelings?

Isiah Thomas has made a lot of mistakes in his post-NBA career. Let's hope he doesn't add another one to the list.

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