The football players' voices boom across the FIU practice field as a running back picks up the ball, lowers his shoulder and blows past a defender during a tackling drill. The Panthers, split between offense and defense, roar in support for their sides while high school players and fans talk ball on the sidelines.
There is new life around the team since head coach Mike MacIntyre was hired in December.
"You can really feel the energy and intensity every day,” says sophomore linebacker and sports management major Gaethan Bernadel. “It’s a big difference from last year."
Under MacIntyre, FIU Football has adopted a motto for 2022: “It’s a New Day.” Come next week, fans will get their best opportunity yet to see what the current era has to offer.
At 6 p.m. on April 9, the football team will host its Spring Showcase at FIU Stadium. Admission is free and includes food trucks, prizes, post-game field access and the ability for fans to call plays. The Alumni Association will also be hosting a special reception for Panther grads.
The showcase is the latest effort from MacIntyre to get fans more involved. He has hosted private tours of FIU’s facilities, brought the football team to an FIU basketball game and opened practices to the community.
“Coach ‘Mac’ is doing a great job marketing the team,” Bernadel says. “He’s bringing all the alumni back, the former players. The Spring Showcase is going to be live.”
On the field, the difference is already noticeable, says senior wide receiver Tyrese Chambers.
“Our team is much more disciplined than we were last year,” Chambers says. “Coaches are really strict on being on time, doing the little things right, wearing your pads correctly and making sure you hydrate. Small stuff like that goes a long way. We’re all buying into the standard and trying to lay a foundation down.”
The team is locked in on winning a conference championship and making it back to a bowl game, Chambers says. He is poised to be a big part of FIU’s season. In 2021, Chambers surpassed TY Hilton’s FIU record for most receiving yards in a season and eclipsed Jonnu Smith’s mark for most touchdown receptions in a year.
Chambers says that he turned down offers to play at other universities to help FIU reach its full potential.
“When I was a young kid, I always thought that having Power 5 offers meant that you were among the best players in the world," Chambers says. "As you get older, you realize that’s not that important in your college career. You want to be in a place where you feel comfortable, where they accept you for who you are and where they feature you, man. FIU is the place that I call home.”
The new coaching staff is prioritizing making FIU feel like home for everyone. One new change: The team has been organized into family groups to help players bond.
“That’s one of my favorite parts, getting to know guys that you’ve never really spoken to before,” Bernadel says. “The family groups are really bringing us together.”
In this new era of FIU Athletics, the Spring Showcase will be the first opportunity for fans to see how their team will look in game situations at FIU Stadium.
“If you’re in Miami, the showcase is where you better be at. You don’t want to miss this," Chambers says.