By J. Darin Darst
Ask a Florida Gators fan what its like to be 7-5. Or a Miami Hurricanes fan if they feel good with their team at 7-5.
Now ask an FIU fan (if you can find one), how it feels to be 6-5 today?
I'll tell you -- It feels FANTASTIC. Why? Because with FIU's victory over Arkansas State, the Golden Panthers won the Sun Belt and are headed to a bowl game for the first time in school history.
We won't be running through the streets of Miami celebrating or racing online to purchase New Orleans Bowl tickets, but it's nice to know the school you currently go to or graduated from is finally going to a bowl game. Not everybody in the Sun Belt can say that.
I would venture to guess most of the 42,000+ students had no idea FIU was playing for a bowl game today. But that's ok, I knew. And as a proud graduate (class of 1996), I'll be one of the first to get my "FIU: New Orleans Bowl" t-shirts that go on sale in a couple of weeks.
You see, Florida International is a commuter school in West Miami. It's one of the largest universities in the nation, but only 3,000 students live on campus. When I went to school there in the mid 1990s, the enrollment was in the 20,000 and it was basically -- drive to school, go to class, get in your car and drive home.
The football team started in 2002 and before this year, the best season was 5-6. FIU has never beaten a BCS team and its most impressive victory was probably beating Toledo on the road in 2008.
That all changed this year -- when FIU won at Troy 52-35. After that win, a bowl game was in grasp. All it had to do was win two of the final three games of the year. And it did!
So now we are probably headed to the New Orleans Bowl to play either Southern Miss, East Carolina, UTEP or another C-USA team.
GO GOLDEN PANTHERS!