Florida International U

New FIU coach Davis retains just two coaches from previous Panthers’ staff

FIU interim head coach Ron Cooper was among the coaches released Monday by new head coach Butch Davis.
FIU interim head coach Ron Cooper was among the coaches released Monday by new head coach Butch Davis. adiaz@miamiherald.com

FIU represents Butch Davis’ fourth job as a college or pro head coach, and Monday was one of his four least favorite days.

That’s because Davis let seven coaches go from the previous FIU staff, but retained Tim Harris Jr. to work with the running backs and Bobby Babich to direct the secondary.

Interim coach Ron Cooper was among the coaches released.

Harris, who comes from one of the most prominent football families in Miami — including his father, Tim “Ice” Harris, who is the coach at Booker T. Washington — will help Davis open doors at many South Florida high schools.

“It was important to a certain extent,” Davis said of Tim Harris Jr.’s family, which includes his brother, Brandon Harris, a former NFL cornerback. “But if he couldn’t coach and couldn’t recruit, he couldn’t have the job.

“I watched film, and I watched the way the kids he coaches played, and they ran the ball hard, they blocked and they gave good effort. That was before I spent any time with him. I spent 30 or 40 minutes with him and talked about the vision of the program and his role, and then I told him, ‘Get out on the road. Go find us some more players.’”

Harris Jr. — who was the head coach at Booker T. Washington last season when the Tornadoes won a state title — had joined FIU this season as an assistant.

Babich, who is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was also new on the staff this season. But even though he didn’t start his career until 2006 as a graduate assistant at Kent State, Babich already has NFL experience.

He was a defensive assistant with the Carolina Panthers (2012) and an assistant secondary coach with the Cleveland Browns (2013-15) before becoming FIU’s secondary coach and then interim defensive coordinator when previous head coach Ron Turner was fired earlier in the season.

Davis said people at FIU, from administrators to other coaches, gave Babich and Harris rave reviews.

“Everyone who joins this staff is going to have strengths,” Davis said. “Some are going to bring phenomenal ideas. But all of them are going to have to be passionate about taking athletes and making them better.”

In addition to Cooper, Davis released Steve Shankeiler (offensive coordinator, offensive line); Kirk Doll (special teams); Kort Shankeiler (quarterbacks, wide receivers); Greg Moss (secondary), Jason Brooks (cornerbacks, special teams assistant) and Paul Volero (defensive line).

Davis said “it would be ideal” if he finished hiring the rest of the staff by the middle of December. That would coincide with the month-long “dead period” when NCAA coaches are not allowed to contact recruits.

That period, Davis said, will be used to evaluate prospects.

“We will grind the daylights out of the film,” Davis said. “When it’s time to hit the road, we’ll have identified the players we want to go get.”