By: Angela Caraway-Carlton
Florida International University Sports Program
Even with a relatively young history, FIU has plenty of bragging rights when it comes to its Panthers’ athletics program.
Panthers on the Prowl
While it may not have the long, storied sports history of other Florida universities, Florida International University has plenty of bragging rights when it comes to being a major player in the sports arena. The largest school in South Florida, which is located in the Sweetwater area, kicked off their athletics program in 1972, the same year the school opened, and prides itself on 18 intercollegiate sports teams called the Panthers. FIU offers men’s football, basketball, baseball, soccer, cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, along with women’s basketball, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, volleyball and beach volleyball.
“Being that we are only entering our 45th year of existence, it is exciting to be a part of the early successes here at FIU,” says Paul Dodson, the assistant athletic director for media relations. “At other schools, you can look back in the history of “firsts” and you have go back 100 to 150 years. Here our student-athletes, student body and fans can be part of the history that other schools can only experience in the institution’s archives.”
Dodson also points out that another exciting aspect of FIU is “their deep and diverse fan base, which is a result of the school’s large student body.” With an enrollment of more than 54,000 students, the school has one of the largest student bodies in the U.S. No matter the sport, you’ll see faithful fans and alumni decked out in navy blue and gold to support their mighty Panthers. “With a large student body and over 200,000 alumni worldwide, the blue and gold of FIU is global. The University uses the motto “World’s Ahead,”meaning going beyond what is expected. That motto is ingrained in all aspects of FIU, especially with the support given to athletics,” explains Dodson.
FIU’s mascot is a playful panther named Roary, and when it comes to cheering on the football team, the students have nicknamed the school’s football stadium the “Cage.” The Panthers compete in NCAA Division I athletics, and are currently members of Conference USA.
While football might be other Florida universities major muscle, FIU scores big on the soccer field with more than 450 wins by the men’s team in their young history. The Panthers have shown off in the NCAA Tournament 17 times, including five appearances in the National Championships game. FIU won the Division II National Championships twice in the 80’s and was the Division II national runner-up twice. With 14 All-American selections and 13 Coach of the Year honorees, the Panthers have won five conference titles, including the 2016 Conference USA crown.
Baseball is another one of FIU’s athletic strong points. The university has produced more than 100 Major League Baseball draft picks, 51 All-Americans and seven conference Players of the Year.
The Panthers have claimed eight conference titles and appeared in the NCAA Tournament 16 times. FIU’s best finish was in 2001 when the Panthers advanced to the Super Regionals after winning the South Bend Regional. One of the most famous baseball players to come out of FIU is Mike Lowell –who has played for the New York Yankees, Florida Marlins and the Boston Red Sox.
FIU’s goal is to prepare student-athletes for life after college and to see them develop into productive role models, both on and off the field. “They are outstanding individuals, who understand that in order to be champions in life and on the field, you have to be a champion in the classroom and in the community,” says Dodson.
For more information and to purchase tickets please visit FIUSports.com.
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