FIU football | coaching search

Ron Turner expected to be hired as next FIU Panthers coach


Ron Turner, a former college head coach and NFL assistant, will be FIU’s next coach, taking over for the fired Mario Cristobal.

Former University of Illinois and San Jose State coach Ron Turner will be the third football coach in FIU history, according to school sources. Turner is expected to be introduced Friday afternoon.

Turner has spent 12 of the past 20 seasons as an NFL assistant, most recently as quarterbacks coach with Tampa Bay. The other eight seasons, 1997-2004, Turner went 35-57 with a 20-44 Big Ten Conference record in eight seasons at Illinois.

“I love being a head coach,” Turner said. “I love the college game. People would ask me which I liked more and I’d tell them, ‘Whichever one is where I am.’ I love working with young guys as 18-year-olds, watching them grow and leave four years later as men. I’ve got guys I recruited my first year at Illinois that I still keep in contact with.”

His first Illinois team went 0-11, but in 2001 it went 10-1 and won the Big Ten before losing the Sugar Bowl to Louisiana State. After that, however, the Illini went 5-7, 1-11 and 3-8.

Turner returned to the job of Chicago Bears offensive coordinator, a position he had held previously under future Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt. During Turner’s second run as offensive coordinator (from 2005 to ’09), with University of Florida product Rex Grossman at quarterback, Chicago went to Super Bowl XLI at then-Dolphins Stadium, where they lost to Indianapolis.

“I’m excited about everything Pete Garcia and the president [Mark Rosenberg] have been doing to get this thing going,” Turner, the brother of veteran NFL coach Norv Turner, said Thursday night. “Not that it hasn’t been successful if you look at the strides made in a short amount of time.”

This comes almost exactly one month after FIU fired Mario Cristobal, who took the Panthers from 1-11 in 2007 to consecutive bowl games in 2010 and 2011. But a 3-9 season riddled with injuries, close losses and a poor relationship with FIU athletic director Pete Garcia led to Garcia firing Cristobal on Dec. 5.

Turner, 59, said he would strive for a balanced offense, and, though his background is more with the West Coast offense, that he wants to be able to stretch the field. He also said he would like an up-tempo offense with many NFL elements that incorporate some spread-option attack, but “we’re not going to do it exclusively.”

The team Turner takes over returns quarterback Jake Medlock and running back Kedrick Rhodes, both of whom were injured at various times during the 2012 season. After midseason, wide receivers Willis Wright and Glenn Coleman looked like the type of receivers with NFL talent coaches thought them to be. But seniors packed FIU’s offensive line as well and at significant defensive spots.

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