Florida International University's football program joined the FBS ranks in 2006, but eight years later, they still do not look like an FBS program.
Sure they moved up a notch from the Sun Belt to the C-USA, but that's only because the non-power conference needed to replace their lost Florida asset when Central Florida joined the American Athletic Conference and won the Fiesta Bowl in their lone opportunity to reach a BCS bowl.
They also needed some sort of Miami presence. That's all they're good for. Florida Atlantic is only based an hour away from Miami in a lovely place called Boca Raton and has a brand new stadium which hosts a bowl game and have an ocean view from the press box.
Doesn't matter! They have to go to hostile territory to face the powerhouses of the Power 5. FIU on the other hand, play in the third smallest stadium in the FBS, and is a poor excuse for a college football stadium in that level. Yet this year, Louisville and Pittsburgh of the ACC will travel to FIU because they apparently can't have more than seven home games a year, and it's a trip to Miami that comes with an easy matchup.
That's all what FIU athletics is good for. They allow power teams to schedule an early season road game to majestic Miami and not have to play the Hurricanes.
Maryland came to town in 2007, they won 26-10. South Florida came down in 2008 when they were ranked 12th in the nation, they won 17-9. Rutgers paid a visit to start the 2010 season and won 19-14. Duke showed up in 2011 and not for basketball, still won 31-27. Louisville game its star quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, a homecoming in 2012 and won 28-21. UCF began their Fiesta Bowl run at FIU Stadium with a 38-0 shutout.
This year it's Pitt and Louisville. Next year it's UCF at home and road games at Indiana and Maryland, then those two teams show up at FIU in 2016. There is a reason why ACC and Big Ten teams find the need to schedule home and homes with FIU rather than just pay them nearly a million dollars to just come take a whooping.
It's college football's best kept secret: come to Miami early, enjoy the beaches and all that encompass it, beat up on a bad team and get on with your season.
FIU got lucky when they had Wesley Carroll transfer from Mississippi State to throw touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton from 2010-11, their only winning seasons. A 2010 Sun Belt championship banner flies on top of the tinderbox that is FIU Stadium.
It may be the only sign of success they may ever have. After firing head coach and Miami Hurricane legend Mario Cristobal after their first season post Hilton/Carroll didn't pan out so well, FIU lost their South Florida pipeline. Sure they were still recruiting local talent, but only those who would otherwise not make the rosters of the Hurricanes and other power conference teams.
FIU is one of those vacation destinations where anyone can play. I should tell the 6-0, 235 pound high school defensive end who I currently cover in Douglas about FIU. There will be humidity, but he'll get over it.
The school itself is fine. It's football team just looks like they're in the wrong league.
And that's just on the field. Their facility is tiny and below FBS standards. There are colleges with dorms bigger than FIU's press box, so small that I covered games outside on the upper concourse in a freaking tent. They recently denied credentials for one of only two beat writers that they have, and one that got his credential covers the team for the school newspaper.
They eventually gave Miami Herald FIU sports reporter David J. Neal his credential after the Herald decided on principal not to cover the game and treat the game recap (a 14-12 loss to FCS Bethune-Cookman) like some high school football recap (which I did a lot for them as a freelancer last year).
This doesn't change the notion that FIU is a silly little FBS program with FCS level facilities and despite being based in the State of Miami, they only get the sloppy seconds, thirds or on average fourths. But at least you can watch an ACC team lay the beat down on them every once and a while for pennies on the dollar compared to watching the Hurricanes.
Thank goodness they play in Miami.