Sep 16, 2023; East Hartford, Connecticut, USA; FIU Golden Panthers quarterback Keyone Jenkins (1) throws a pass against the UConn Huskies at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Amid SEC coach firings, struggling Arkansas faces FIU

After a two-day stretch that saw two Southeastern Conference West Division coaches get fired, rumors swirled that Arkansas coach Sam Pittman would be next.

But Pittman — still standing — will lead his Razorbacks (3-7) against Florida International (4-6) in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday night in non-conference play, the first of Arkansas’ final two games of the season, both at home.

The anticipation for Saturday’s game will not match last week’s fervor against division rival Auburn after Arkansas shocked Florida 39-36 in overtime on the road the previous week.

But the Razorbacks were thrashed 48-10 by coach Hugh Freeze’s Auburn team, fueling speculation about Pittman’s future, especially considering the pattern within the division.

Texas A&M relieved Jimbo Fisher of his duties Sunday, while Mississippi State fired Zach Arnett on Monday — after Fisher’s Aggies routed Arnett’s Bulldogs 51-10 with the coaches pacing opposing sidelines.

Pittman said he isn’t looking over his shoulder despite his team’s overall record and 1-6 SEC mark.

“I can’t really sit around worried about my job security or me or anything like that,” he said Monday. “I just think it’s a much bigger issue with the media than it is with myself.”

Pittman, 61, arrived at Arkansas in 2020 and has gone 22-24 in four seasons, with bowl wins in 2021 and 2022.

Added Pittman, “I think I’m the guy for the university, and I want to stay here a long time.”

In Conference USA’s FIU, Pittman may have the opponent that will help drown out the noise before the SEC’s Missouri comes to town for the finale.

A 29 1/2-point underdog for Saturday’s game, the Panthers have lost five of their past six outings, all by double digits, with just a double-overtime 33-27 win over Sam Houston to show in the win column.

“Going to play Arkansas will be fun for the guys,” FIU coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We’ve got a lot to work on. I just wish I could see more of what I see in practice on game day.”

Despite his team being trounced 40-6 last week by Middle Tennessee, FIU freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins added nicely to his season passing total.

The left-hander has completed 146 of 247 passes for 1,908 yards and six TDs, with seven interceptions. He threw for 226 yards vs. Middle Tennessee.

–Field Level Media

Memphis defensive coordinator football coach Mike MacIntyre answers questions at a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 at the Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex.

Memphis Signing Day

FIU extends contract of coach Mike MacIntyre

Florida International announced Thursday that it extended the contract of coach Mike MacIntyre through the 2027 season.

The Panthers went 4-8 in MacIntyre’s first season at the school.

“His vision, character, work ethic and humility are second to none,” FIU athletic director Scott Carr said in a news release. “It’s truly amazing what he has done to assemble a first-class staff and build a very healthy team culture. While we strive to win every game, we’re pleased with the increase in wins from previous years and how hard our young men competed the entire season. Our future is very bright under Coach Mac’s leadership.”

FIU was 4-4 this season before losing its final four games.

But the Panthers were 1-16 over the previous two seasons. They went 0-5 during the 2020 shortened season and 1-11 in 2021.

MacIntyre, the national coach of the year at Colorado in 2016, is embracing the challenge of attempting to turn around the FIU program.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to lead such a remarkable group of student-athletes and staff here at FIU,” MacIntyre said in the news release. “… We are energized about the future of FIU football.”

MacIntyre, 57, has a 50-73 record in 10 seasons as a head coach at San Jose State (2010-12), Colorado (2013-18) and FIU. MacIntyre has two 10-win seasons on his resume. He went 10-4 with Colorado in 2016 and went 10-2 with San Jose State in 2012.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Mississippi Rebels tight end Luke Knox (82) and offensive lineman Reece McIntyre (56) blocking during the second half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

FIU LB Luke Knox dies at 22

Luke Knox, a FIU linebacker and younger brother of Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox, died at 22, the school announced Thursday.

Per school officials, Luke Knox died Wednesday night. A cause of death was not announced, although the university said police do not suspect foul play.

Luke Knox, who also spent time at tight end, spent the past four seasons at Mississippi before transferring to the Panthers after the 2021 campaign.

FIU coach Mike MacIntyre, who spent the 2019 season with Luke Knox at Mississippi, confirmed the news on social media.

“Words cannot express the heartfelt sorrow we feel because of the passing of our teammate and friend, Luke Knox,” MacIntyre wrote Thursday morning on Twitter. “I had the honor of coaching Luke at Ole Miss and FIU. While I admired his passion for football, his genuine love for his family and teammates is what I will always remember. He had a special way of making everyone around him feel comfortable and confident.”

Luke Knox played in seven games last season and 23 in all with the Rebels, making 11 tackles and recovering one fumble.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said Thursday the that team will support Dawson Knox and his family during this time.

“Our hearts go out to Dawson and his family during this time,” McDermott said. “We’re right there with him and supporting him and his family and just tragic news that I woke up to this morning. So we love him, and we support him and just unfortunate news this morning.”

–Field Level Media

Memphis defensive coordinator football coach Mike MacIntyre answers questions at a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 at the Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex.

Memphis Signing Day

FIU names Mike MacIntyre as head football coach

FIU named Miami native Mike MacIntyre, a two-time national coach of the year, as its head football coach on Thursday.

“Throughout this process, Coach MacIntyre rose to the top,” athletic director Scott Carr said. “He has a passion for student-athletes and building genuine relationships with them. He’s a builder, with proven success taking two struggling programs and elevating them to national relevance. … We could not be more excited to bring his energy and passion to campus.”

MacIntyre, 56, spent the past two seasons as defensive coordinator at Memphis.

MacIntyre’s father, George, played and coached at the University of Miami.

“It is exciting to have the opportunity to come back to Miami,” MacIntyre said. “Not only was I born here but the roots of my family’s love for football and mentoring young people started here with my Dad. There is so much talent and passion for football in our area. I can’t wait to get started building a strong foundation for our program. I believe that together we will create something special to rally around, inspiring Panther pride in everyone associated with FIU and our community.”

In 2010, San Jose State hired MacIntyre to turn around its program. After two tough seasons that resulted in a 6-19 cumulative record, the Spartans finished 11-2 in 2012, earning MacIntyre his first coach of the year award.

Impressed by MacIntyre’s work in San Jose, Colorado hired him in 2013 to guide a program that hadn’t had a winning record since 2005. He spent six seasons there, with his teams posting a 30-44 record. His only winning season led to his second coaching award in 2016, when the Buffaloes finished 10-4 and earned a berth in the Alamo Bowl.

He was fired near the end of the 2018 season after two sub-.500 seasons.

At FIU, he takes over for Butch Davis, whose contract wasn’t renewed despite leading the program to three bowl games in five years. Last month, he had harsh words for the school, accusing administrators of sabotaging the program in an interview with The Action Network.

The Golden Panthers were 1-11 on the season, 0-8 in Conference USA play.

–Field Level Media

FIU head coach Butch Davis walks off the field with a hurt player FIU offensive lineman Shane McGough (55) during the game against MTSU on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at MTSU.

37 Mtsu V Fiu

Butch Davis won’t return as FIU coach, accuses school of sabotage

Coach Butch Davis has been informed he won’t be offered a new contract when his expires Dec. 15, despite leading the program to three bowl games in five years, The Action Network reported Monday.

And he had harsh words for the university, which hadn’t been to a bowl game since 2011 before his arrival in 2017. The program had only two winning seasons in its 13-year history before Davis took over, yet last month an ad for his job appeared on an industry website.

“This year has been a nightmare,” Davis told The Action Network. “You can imagine the players’ reaction when a head coach’s job was posted online. The administration has been sabotaging the program.

“Their decisions to post the job has resulted in a major negative impact on the football program and our ability to recruit and retain players.”

The Golden Panthers are 1-9 on the season. Per the report, 13 starters — 21 players in all — either sustained season-ending injuries or left the team.

Per the report, the university routinely posts every head and assistant coaching job on its internal website, even when an opening isn’t available. It did not address the posting on the American Football Coaches Association website.

Davis told The Action Network that coaching at FIU has been difficult beyond this season, considering:

–He could offer his assistant coaches only one-year contracts, ruling out those who were offered multiyear deals elsewhere.

–Coaches could not recruit on the road the past two years because of both COVID-19 and school finances.

–The school has limited equipment purchases. For example, when he arrived in 2017, he found out the team shoulder pads were 10 years old. Through a staff member, he learned Mississippi State was replacing its shoulder pads, and the school gave the old ones to FIU.

“They were five years old,” Davis said. “But they were new to us.”

The school uniforms also are nine years old, said Davis, who turns 70 on Wednesday.

Last week, athletic director Pete Garcia resigned to take a position as senior adviser to university president Mark Rosenberg.

Davis went to Florida International with an extensive coaching record.

He coached at Miami from 1995-2000, then at North Carolina from 2007-10. In between, he was the coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2001-04, leading them to a playoff appearance in 2002.

Overall, his college coaching record is 103-73, including a 24-30 mark at FIU.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte 49ers head coach Will Healy during the first quarter of the game against the Charlotte 49ers at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Hilltoppers, 49ers try again as C-USA juggles schedule

Will the third time be the charm for Western Kentucky and Charlotte?

Conference USA announced Wednesday that the Hilltoppers and 49ers will try once again to play this season. The game, originally scheduled for Nov. 28 before being moved to and then postponed again on Tuesday, is set for a noon ET start on Sunday in Charlotte.

The announcement comes after FIU canceled its scheduled Saturday game at Charlotte due to COVID-19 issues within the Panthers’ program.

Elsewhere in the conference, Middle Tennessee’s game at UAB set for Saturday has been canceled, per a Middle Tennessee statement.

The league said matchups for the final week of the regular season — Dec. 11 and 12 — will be determined “no later” than Sunday.

“The most important aspect is the health and safety of our student-athletes and we felt it was not fair to them or our program to be able to play this game,” said MTSU athletic director Chris Massaro in a statement. “We were down to 49 scholarship players and would also have to play guys coming right off injuries. That is not a situation we want to put them in.

“It’s a disappointing day for our program and fan base, but this is an unfortunate outcome of the pandemic. Our players have done a remarkable job all year in navigating all these uncertainties.”

The schedule for Charlotte (2-3, 2-1 C-USA) has been in constant flux this season. Games against North Carolina, Georgia State, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, Gardner-Webb and Marshall were either canceled or postponed. The 49ers have not played since a 53-19 loss at Duke on Oct. 31.

Sunday’s game is the last one on the schedule for the Hilltoppers (4-6, 3-3).

FIU (0-5, 0-3) has also seen its schedule wracked by postponements and cancellations. The Panthers have lost games at UTEP and now at Charlotte, and also lost a home game against Louisiana Tech.

FIU is scheduled to host No. 21 Marshall (7-0, 4-0) on Friday, Dec. 11.

–Field Level Media

Dec 21, 2019; Montgomery, Alabama, USA; Fiu Golden Panthers place kicker Jose Borregales (30) reacts after missing a field goal late in the 4th quarter against Arkansas State Red Wolves at Cramton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Shorthanded FIU forced to cancel game with La. Tech

Saturday’s game between Florida International University and Louisiana Tech has been canceled due to a shorthanded position group impacted by COVID-19 on the Panthers team.

“Due to FIU football’s lack of available healthy players at a key position, the Nov. 28 game against Louisiana Tech has been canceled,” was the extent of the statement released by FIU on Monday.

The Conference USA game will not be rescheduled. FIU is 0-3 in the East division; the Bulldogs are 3-2 in the West.

It’s the fourth straight week that La. Tech has had a game postponed or canceled outright, due to the pandemic. The Bulldogs haven’t played since Oct. 31.

“This is a disappointing announcement for our program and our fan base, but we understand that FIU is protecting their student-athletes,” La. Tech athletic director Eric Wood said in a statement. “We were really hoping to get back on the football field this coming weekend and allow our student-athletes to compete and represent their university. However, these things are out of our control with testing and contract tracing.”

La. Tech is scheduled to play North Texas in a makeup game on Dec. 3. That game was postponed from Nov. 7 due to COVID complications in the Mean Green program.

The cancellation marks the sixth postponement or cancellation for FIU. The Panthers are scheduled to play at Charlotte on Dec. 5.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2018; Miami, FL, USA;  FIU Golden Panthers place kicker Jose Borregales (30) wears a decal on back of helmet to honor Conference USA commissioner Mike Slive, who passed away in May 2018 at the age of 77 of prostate cancer, during the game against the FIU Golden Panthers  at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

FIU cancels game at UTEP due to COVID-19 outbreak

The Florida International and UTEP football teams both will not play for the second week in a row as a COVID-19 outbreak at FIU caused the school to cancel the scheduled Saturday game in El Paso.

The FIU athletic department issued a statement that read, “In an abundance of caution, due to the number of healthy scholarship football student-athletes available for this game, and to ensure a sufficient number moving forward, we regret to announce that we will not be playing the football game this weekend.”

The Panthers (0-3, 0-1 Conference USA) previously postponed four games this season, including their scheduled Oct. 30 contest against then-No. 19 Marshall.

The Miners (3-3, 0-2) didn’t play their scheduled game against North Texas last week with the Mean Green deciding they didn’t want to go to El Paso, where COVID-19 cases were on the rise. UTEP’s scheduled Oct. 17 game against Southern Mississippi also was postponed due to an outbreak involving the Golden Eagles.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2018; Miami, FL, USA;  FIU Golden Panthers place kicker Jose Borregales (30) wears a decal on back of helmet to honor Conference USA commissioner Mike Slive, who passed away in May 2018 at the age of 77 of prostate cancer, during the game against the FIU Golden Panthers  at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

FIU postpones game vs. No. 19 Marshall due to outbreak

A COVID-19 outbreak within the Florida International program prompted the Panthers to postpone their scheduled Friday home game against No. 19 Marshall.

FIU posted a statement on its website Tuesday that read, in part, “Due to FIU football’s lack of available scholarship student-athletes, the Oct. 30 game against Marshall will be postponed to a later date.

“The action follows Conference USA COVID-19 guidelines, which require a threshold for the game to be played safely. The shortage is due to quarantining of COVID-19 positive tests and contact tracing, as well as injuries.”

The Panthers got the season off to a late start when the school postponed its full fall sports calendar until late September, citing an “abundance of caution” surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The scheduled game against Jacksonville State (home opener on Sept. 3) was pushed back to last Friday, when FIU lost 19-10, and a scheduled Sept. 12 contest at UCF was canceled.

FIU (0-3, 0-1 C-USA) subsequently postponed its scheduled Oct. 17 game at Charlotte due to COVID-19 issues.

Both the Charlotte and Marshall games might be made up the first two weekends of December, with the C-USA championship game scheduled for Dec. 18.

Marshall (5-0, 3-0) is coming off a 20-9 home win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday. All five wins have been by double digits.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Brenden Knox (20) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 Marshall looks to keep rolling at winless FIU

Fresh off a fifth consecutive double-digit victory, No. 19 Marshall hits the road for the third time in four games when it takes on winless Florida International in Miami on Friday night.

The Thundering Herd (5-0, 3-0 Conference USA) got by Florida Atlantic 20-9 last weekend, holding an FBS foe to single digits for the second time this season. The Herd won 17-7 over visiting Appalachian State on Sept. 19.

“When a defense can hold a team to nine points, you’ve got a shot at winning,” coach Doc Holliday said. “We got to keep getting better. At the end of the day it’s a ‘W’. We’re happy where we are. We’re still right on track. The leadership on this team is as good as any team I’ve been a part of at Marshall or anywhere.”

Even with No. 1 receiver Broc Thompson sidelined with a foot injury, quarterback Grant Wells passed for 251 yards and two touchdowns and Brenden Knox posted his fourth consecutive triple-digit rushing game with 101 yards on 25 carries. Knox also had a 58-yard touchdown reception, taking a short pass in the flat to the house in the first quarter against FAU.

Holliday called it a “grind-it-out” victory.

“Defense played lights out again,” he said. “Just so pleased with our team to get that victory and go 5-and-0. We weren’t sure exactly what we were getting into. It was like a first game for us.”

FIU will be making its second consecutive Friday night appearance after losing 19-10 to an FCS team, Jacksonville State, at home last week. The Panthers (0-3, 0-1 C-USA) have been dealing with COVID-19 issues throughout the season after their opener was delayed to Sept. 26.

FIU lost that game 36-34 at Liberty and then lost 31-28 to visiting Middle Tennessee on Oct. 10 before their scheduled conference opener against Charlotte on Oct 17 was postponed.

Among sick or injured FIU players for the loss to Jacksonville State were left tackle D’Antne Demery, starting center Shane McGough, and running back Shaun Peterson. Peterson rushed for 117 yards in the loss to Middle Tennessee.

Veteran wide receivers Shemar Thornton and JJ Holloman and freshman Teddy Richardson also have missed time.

“Between injuries and coronavirus, we are down 24 players, and we probably lost more tonight,” coach Butch Davis said after last week’s setback. “It’s not like it’s just a sprained ankle. When you have guys having knee and shoulder surgeries, they’re not coming back.”

Davis also has been dealing with quarterback issues with a different starter for each game. Redshirt freshman Steve Norton, who started against Jacksonville State, has completed 17 of 32 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns for the season, and junior Kaylan Wiggins, the starter against Middle Tennessee, has completed only six of 19 attempts for 42 yards with an interception in two appearances.

Maryland transfer Max Bortenschlager, the opening game starter, has only three completions in nine attempts for 29 yards.

Combined, FIU’s quarterbacks are 26 of 60 for the season for 278 yards with three touchdowns against one interception.

–Field Level Media