FIU has lost 13 of its past 14 football games, with zero wins against FBS teams in more than 23 months.
But the Panthers — who lost 34-19 to visiting Western Kentucky University on Saturday night —- are doing more than losing games.
They’re losing stature, too.
News broke last week that six Conference USA teams will bolt to the American Athletic Conference, leaving FIU and a few others behind.
The AAC chose that other South Florida-based C-USA team — FAU — catching veteran FIU coach Butch Davis by surprise.
“I had no idea about it,” Davis said when asked about the issue following Saturday’s loss. “Nobody in our organization told me it was coming. I’m like you — I saw it in the newspaper.
“It was a little bit of a disappointment. I don’t know how the administration feels about it.”
Davis said he saw the listed “seven or eight” reasons why AAC commissioner Michael Aresco selected FAU as well as Charlotte, UAB, North Texas, Rice and Texas-San Antonio.
“I can understand that,” Davis said. “The other aspect is that those six are leaving, but there are potentially another three or four that are going to be leaving, too.”
Indeed, Southern Miss has announced it is leaving C-USA for the Sun Belt. In addition, Old Dominion and Marshall are also expected to leave C-USA for the Sun Belt.
Davis said reporters should direct further questions to FIU administrators. The Herald requested an interview with athletic director Pete Garcia last week, and he declined comment through a school spokesman.
“[FIU administrators] are the ones who are supposedly in the loop,” Davis said. “From rumors you hear from some of the coaches in Conference USA, this has been going on for multiple months.”
Asked about C-USA’s future, Davis jumped in before the full question had been asked.
“It destroys the conference,” Davis said. “You have nine schools leave, and maybe some others go. It’s down to five now. It’s hard to have a conference with only five schools.
“But I’m more worried about our team and the kids in our locker room.”
Those kids in the FIU locker room are 1-6 overall this season, including 0-3 in the conference.
The Panthers have five games — including three on the road — left on their schedule, and they would have to sweep those contests to become bowl eligible.
In all likelihood, they are facing their third consecutive losing season, which is surprising given that Davis had such success with the Panthers early in his tenure. That includes an 8-5 record and a bowl berth in 2017, a school record nine wins (9-4) and a bowl victory in 2018, and a third straight bowl appearance and a shocking upset over the Miami Hurricanes in 2019.
The pandemic can be blamed for some of what has happened since then, but COVID-19 impacted teams all over the country, not just FIU.
A loss at Marshall (4-3, 2-1) on Saturday afternoon would not surprise, especially considering FIU’s defense. The Panthers are last in the conference in passing yards allowed per game (305.6) and completion percentage allowed (69.6). They are 10th in rushing yards allowed (182.1), and they have intercepted just one pass.
The Panthers are also third-worst in the league in a key statistic as they have allowed teams to convert on 42.6 percent of their third-down chances.
“Probably the thing I’m most disappointed in,” Davis said, “is our inability to stop the run.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Davis when asked about how FIU getting left out the AAC’s expansion plan will effect recruiting: “Read the book. When I write the book, it will be very interesting to read.”
▪ On preparing for each game rather than focusing on the big picture: “If you look at the end of the season,” Davis said, “that’s stupid.”