On May 4, 2012, FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg and Director of Sports & Entertainment Pete Garcia hosted a community engagement in the club room at Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium to accept an all-sports invitation to join Conference USA for the 2013-14 academic year. The invitation would be symbolic of the tremendous strides the FIU Athletics program has gained under Garcia’s direction since 2006.
The C-USA invitation provided the athletics program increased national television visibility and aligned the school’s academia with other like institutions across a vast geographical footprint. FIU would go on to join a conference whose schools stretch across the Gulf States and into Texas and north into the United States’ Mid-Atlantic region.
During Garcia’s tenure, FIU teams have enjoyed 16 conference championships, 20 postseason appearances and over two dozen student-athletes have garnered All-America selection. The Student-Athlete Academics Center (SAAC) has been bolstered with increased advisors, tutors and computers. The compliance office staff has grown as well.
For 2015-16, FIU recorded its highest overall grade-point average (3.1) on record, while increasing its Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) 19 percentage points. Under Garcia, the Panthers registered their highest Fall GPA on record only to follow that up with the highest spring GPA on record. During the Spring of 2016, 273 student-athletes registered GPAs of 3.0-or-better and 143 Panthers were named to the FIU Dean’s List. In all, FIU student-athletes combined to earn a 3.0-or-better 515 times, Dean’s List 270 times, a 3.75-or-better 154 times and a 4.0-or-better 60 times during the 2015-16 academic year (Fall 2015 and Spring 2016).
FIU’s Graduation Success Rate (76 percent) has increased a total of 10 percent over the past two years. The four-class average FGR for FIU student-athlete’s increased six percent from the previous report, led by the men’s basketball and football teams. Men’s basketball made a tremendous jump, improving by 17 percentage points, while football made a jump of eight. The FGR for all students that entered FIU in 2009-10 was 57 percent compared to 70 percent for FIU student-athletes in the same timeframe.
Under Garcia, student-athletes have become champions in the community as well. With the hard work of its teams and coaches during the 2015-16 academic year, FIU student-athletes combined for over 4,700 hours of community service; an increase of 300 hours from a year ago when FIU Athletics won the inaugural NCAA Team Works Award.
Over the past 10 years, the FIU Athletic Department has made a number of improvements to its facilities that has pushed the total commitment over $50 million.
Highlighting facilities growth during his tenure, Garcia oversaw the building and operation of the University’s on-campus football stadium, Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium, and the R. Kirk Landon Fieldhouse, which houses the Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Athletics Training Complex. Most notably, FIU Stadium saw the completion of its latest expansion prior to the 2012 season, which saw the enclosing of the venue’s north side creating one of the loudest and intimate multi-sport facilities in South Florida.
FIU Arena has also become a model facility and annually hosts commencement, athletics and entertainment events. Partners such as Lime restaurants and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, have joined together to recreate a beautiful “South Beach” ambience when fans come to campus to attend basketball games. This includes one of the most tropical basketball courts in the United States, along with a courtside “cabana” section, reminiscent of being pool side at one of the Beach’s top hotels. In 2012, FIU finished nearly $10 million in renovations and enhancements to FIU Arena, which now includes a suites level and grand entrance.
Off-campus, Garcia is quite active across the South Florida sports and entertainment landscape. He is among a select few named to the Executive Committee of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission, a member of the Board of Directors for the Miami Beach Bowl, a Collegiate Representative committee member for the Orange Bowl Committee since 2007 and had represented FIU on the 21-member NCAA Division I Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid Cabinet. Garcia first worked at the University of Miami from 1990 through 2000, and it was in 1992 that he became the football program’s recruiting coordinator. In 2001, Garcia joined the Cleveland Browns as director of football development. Two years later, Garcia was promoted to vice president.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Garcia’s family came to Miami in 1967. He graduated from Hialeah High School and the University of Miami before landing a position with the Miami Dolphins in 1989.