The FIU football program will have a new head coach next season. Former coach Ron Turner was let go four games into this season, all losses, two of which (Indiana and Maryland) were to Big Ten foes and another to an American Athletic Conference (Central Florida) team.
Still, they were losses in a season many expected to end in a bowl game. The Panthers have gone bowling only twice in program history and haven’t accomplished the feat since going back-to-back in the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Interim head coach Ron Cooper did an outstanding job in salvaging the season — so well, in fact, that the Panthers won the first three games in which he was given the keys. Once again, bowl aspirations were revived and the possibilities for competing in the Conference USA East Division began to appear very real.
However, the Panthers have not been able to maintain the momentum. They’ve fallen in three straight games to C-USA contenders, knocking the Panthers out of contention for either a bowl game or a chance at a conference title.
FIU, now 3-7, has a bye week and then close the season with a home game against Marshall and the season finale at Old Dominion.
Then it’s time to turn attentions to bringing in a new head coach.
The hot rumor going around lately is that former Miami Hurricanes head coach Butch Davis will soon be announced as the Panthers’ fourth head coach.
Sure Davis brings name recognition and perhaps even some legitimacy to the program. After all, Davis won 51 games (51-20) in six seasons at Miami. The Canes won or tied for first place in the Big East in three different seasons, and rose to as high as a No. 2 ranking in the nation before heading to the NFL Cleveland Browns.
Most recently, he also coached four seasons at North Carolina, taking the Tar Heels to three bowl games. Though he has a winning percentage of .648 at the college ranks, Davis hasn’t coached since 2010 and is about to celebrate his 65th birthday.
That’s not what FIU needs right now. It’s not what the school should be looking for.
What that program could use is another young, up-and-coming coach like a Mario Cristobal, who in six seasons guided the Panthers to their only two winning campaigns – and bowl appearances. Cristobal is now in his fourth season as offensive line coach at Alabama.
The program needs an energetic young coach that can grow with the program and bring it up to a competitive level. That could mean stripping it down and starting over, which means patience while that process is completed.
That’s not what Davis brings to the table. He would be a temporary placeholder, an extended interim coach if you will, until the aforementioned type of coach could be hired.
So why not skip the middle man and go straight to someone who would be willing to build the program? Then give him the time and opportunity to do so.