Is Scott Carr a home run hire?
The story is yet to be written on how the 49-year-old Gainesville native’s tenure will play out, but as evidenced by his introductory press conference, the next era of FIU Athletics will be heavily shaped by the blueprint followed by his former employer, which led them to unimaginable heights.
“So why FIU, it reminds me of UCF in a lot of ways,” said Carr at FIU’s Graham Center as he takes over as Panthers Athletic Director. “I see the tremendous potential for growth and success here and it’s extremely exciting for me to be here.”
In his first address to the FIU community, Carr referenced UCF eight times during his 14-minute, 19-second speech. Most notably, being shaped by current Knights’ AD Terry Mohajir and former UCF AD’s Danny White and Keith Tribble.
Tribble, a Miami native and current president of Jackson Health Foundation gave Carr one of his earliest opportunities in athletics and was in attendance.
“I learned a tremendous amount of Terry in the last 11 months and he really embraced me, I learned a lot from Danny White who hired me at UCF, I learned about the vision he had at UCF which was bold and aggressive and a great deal of that sticks with me today,” said Carr.
Carr joins FIU after a five-year run at Central Florida, where he served as deputy athletics director for brand activation, followed by a stint as interim director of athletics following the departure of White to Tennessee earlier this year.
Brand activation is an aspect of FIU athletics that is severely lacking — as recognized from the president’s office to student-athletes.
Carr notes that an emphasis will be reaching out to a fanbase that’s been dismayed at the previous administration, as well as engaging the university’s current enrollment of over 58,000 students — which in large part drew him to FIU.
“You don’t want to square peg to round hole anybody, but something that really excites me about FIU is looking at the size of the student body being over 58,000, looking at the alumni base of over 260,000 with 80% of those living in South Florida,” said Carr. “There’s just so much untapped potential...when you look at UCF there’s a lot of support from people and not just within athletics and I’ve seen and heard that here and I’m excited about how invested people are and are going to be in athletics here.”
Of equal importance for Carr and FIU President Mark Rosenberg will be selecting a new head coach of a football program that after making three consecutive bowl games from 2017-2019, boasts a record of 1-18 over the last 25 months and hasn’t beaten an FBS opponent since November of 2019.
Carr noted that just as quickly as Rosenberg and the search firm moved to bring him in, they’re expected to move in a similarly accelerated fashion to hire a head coach.
“The goal is to move as fast as we can now that I’m officially named,” said Carr. “Goal number one is to find the right person, but goal number 1A is to get someone in here as fast as humanly possible, I’m looking to crank up the search starting tomorrow.”
In the five days since FIU’s season ended at Southern Miss, the Panthers hold the dubious distinction of leading all FBS teams in players declaring their intent to enter the transfer portal with 13, most notably wide receiver Tyrese Chambers, who broke the program’s single-season record for receiving yards and touchdowns this year.
Chambers, along with Miles Frazier, another portal entry have gone on record about the need for upgrades in resources for student-athletes. Carr stated that he plans on addressing the current football players so they can meet him face-to-face and reassure them on FIU.
“I plan on meeting with them tomorrow,” said Carr matter of factly. “Meeting with the football team prior to starting the football search, I think that’s a critical piece of the puzzle and I want them to know me personally, I want to understand and gain their thoughts on a coach because it’s important to me.”
The Panthers have struggled with attendance across the board in athletics for the better part of the last decade. In the last athletic year that required attendance reporting (due to COVID-19), FIU’s average paid attendance was 13,874, the lowest among FBS teams in-state and lower than FCS Florida A&M. The figure was the second-lowest among Conference USA teams.
In specificity to football attendance, much has been made about stricter tailgate policies enacted by FIU administration that came as a result of a confluence of events — most notably neighboring Tamiami Park wanting tailgating to occur on school property.
Carr believes that the key to unlocking higher attendance is by re-engaging the alumni base and establishing an identifiable brand, but admits that it will not happen overnight.
“It’s through hard work and getting out in this community, but it’s hard work, ideas, building the brand,” said Carr. “I don’t have a magic wand but I’ve got a road map.”
Carr’s contract with FIU is for four years and when asked if he believes that is enough time to rebuild the athletics program, affirmed that it’s enough time to prove that he can have things trending in the right direction.
“(Four years) is a enough time to prove that I can get some more time,” said Carr. “I’m very pleased with the contract and the term and I think it’s enough time to show everyone we’re doing the right things and maybe we’re not exactly where we need to be, but we’re a lot closer than currently.”
Whether it’s the head coaching search, meeting with student-athletes or addressing attendance and alumni, the concept of time is clearly not lost on Carr.
After finishing addressing the media, he was approached by a handful of students who identified themselves as part of Greek life on campus. Carr stayed around for an extra 15 minutes to hear out their concerns — moving in as he stated “nitro speed” to hit the ground running as AD.