Florida International wants to be a college hoops contender. But playing North Carolina in Isiah Thomas' college coaching debut wasn't what athletic director Pete Garcia had in mind.
Not one bit.
The Panthers are slated to be part of the Coaches vs. Cancer preseason tourney, with a Nov. 9 game at Chapel Hill. But Garcia is livid at the prospect of facing the defending champs, threatening to withdraw the school from the event. He says FIU's being "bullied" into the matchup.
"Would they do what they're doing to us to Duke, or to North Carolina? No," Garcia said Tuesday. "But they'll do it to FIU and any other school out there like FIU."
The school signed a contract in Nov. 2008 agreeing it would play either UNC or Ohio State sometime between Nov. 9-13. Garcia admitted as much. He just doesn't want to play Carolina, saying "it's a matter of principle and a matter of the contract."
OK. I can understand not wanting to play the defending champs at their place. FIU may lose by 20, 25 points, which probably isn't the way Thomas wants to begin his career.
But traveling to Columbus to lose by 15 or 20 to Ohio State isn't any better. And Garcia's going to have to throw a fit to have his way. And if FIU does withdraw, it's not going to ruin the tournament.
Nice move, Garcia. Have fun dealing with tournament officials and schedule makers in the future.
For example, take Rick Giles, president of the Gazelle Group, which runs Coaches vs. Cancer. He doesn't sound pleased with Garcia's stance.
"They don't get to schedule the entire tournament," Giles told Yahoo! Sports. "I'm not sure what their motivation is or why they would or should try to break a contract or if it's because of them, the A.D. or Isiah getting their way.
"We expect them to play in the tournament like everyone else. To threaten to pull out when they're not getting their way is not how it's done."
The Gazelle Group isn't run by saints, to be sure, but this one seems plain. The contract says either or. And UNC vs. FIU is a far more interesting game. Just run with it and take the exposure.
Well played Garcia. Here's a tip: If the Panthers ever get an invite to the NCAA tournament, don't bitch about where FIU is slotted. Just be grateful you're in.