Update: January 31, 2011
Nine years. That's all it took for FIU football to reach its first bowl game since the program's inception in 2000. And the team is ready to continue its ascension in the college football ranks from this point on.
It was a season of firsts for the Golden Panthers: first Sun Belt Conference Championship, first bowl game appearance, and first bowl win in school history. These are all accomplishments that seemed unattainable prior to Head Coach Mario Cristobal's taking of the helm.
FIU held an 0-12 record the season before Cristobal was given the head coaching job. Defeat became more of a tradition than a result and the program was on a downward slope.
Today, that winless season seems like such a distant memory for FIU as their 2010 conference record (6-2) has overshadowed their forgetful past. What once was a dark, gloomy overcast of negativity that hovered above FIU's football program is now a bright, new dawn with plenty of potential to spare.
What's Next for FIU
The team's 2010 success brings more than just school pride in the present; it brings positive future implications for the program.
Here's some proof: "A Bull Market Boost for FIU Golden Panthers"
But athletes aren't the only constituents that are affected by this. The idea of a successful sporting tradition attracts students in general to a university, and that's exactly what FIU is trying to establish. It's no secret that many students seek entertainment as an important element of their college experience, so having a sports program worth cheering for only adds to that aspect of a university.
Now, FIU may not be anywhere near the status of elite in college football but they are now one small step closer to the next level. In order for FIU football to reach that next level they will need to win a few more bowl games and probably move out of the conference. Nevertheless, programs that are now considered elite had to start somewhere and 2010 can be labeled as that "somewhere" for FIU.
FIU's Pro Prospects
It was a team effort that drove FIU's success this season but we cannot discount the help that a few of there premier athletes with pro potential brought to the table. We're talking about WR T.Y. Hilton and DB Anthony Gaitor in particular. These two studs have made enormous impacts on their respective sides of the field and deserve extra accolades for their contributions. One of those accolades will likely come in the form of a draft selection in future NFL drafts.