(Quick note: after previously being the butt of my jokes, bowl games named after food establishments have countered with the two of the better games this postseason. And, so, I thoroughly retract my insults … Pizza. Pizza.)
Moving on …
Just over a decade ago, Florida International University didn’t even have a football program.
In fact, the University itself wasn’t established until 1965 — an infant when compared to the likes of Harvard and Yale, whose inaugural years predated America as we know it today.
Yet, in their first ever bowl appearance, FIU scored a thrilling 34-32 victory in the Little Caesar’s Bowl over Toledo. It was a game that featured everything: outstanding special teams play, two-minute drills, critical fourth down conversions, a game-winning field goal, and even a hook-and-ladder.
It also means FIU finished with their first winning season in school history at 7-6.
Not bad for a program built from scratch in the late 1990’s.
Everyone knows about Florida’s Big Three — Florida, Florida State and Miami — but the state itself produces such a massive amount of talent that it seems nearly impossible that another Florida program couldn’t have some measurable success, provided they have the proper facilities and coaching staff to go along with that talent. After all, there have to be kids in Florida who aren’t getting looks from the Big Three, but want to stay in state and have a chance to play.
As far as off-the-field improvements go, FIU recently decided to expand their stadium to 45,000 seats, and the program looks to have found a suitable coach in Mario Cristobal.
FIU still has a long way to go in maintaining success all three of those departments, but they’re off to a tremendous start. Even if they had lost, a bowl appearance has to do wonders for the perception of that program.
But the Golden Panthers won — and dramatically, we might add.
And that, too, is a step in the right direction.