And so it begins.
In September, the college football coaching carousel is underway. Florida International has set the tone. The Panthers relieved head coach Ron Turner of his duties following an 0-4 start, including Saturday’s 53-14 beatdown at the hands of UCF in front of a home crowd at Ocean Bank Stadium. Turner went 10-30 in three-plus seasons at FIU.
Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Ron Cooper has been named interim head coach of the Panthers. Cooper was a head coach at Louisville from 1995-’97 before becoming an assistant at Power Five conference schools Wisconsin, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and LSU. He was also the defensive backs coach for the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Turner had been making progress from his first season with the Panthers, but then again, there was nowhere to go but up. The Panthers were 1-11 in 2013 and improved to 4-8 the following season before a 5-7 season last year gave FIU hope of becoming a bowl-eligible team in 2016.
In his fifth season at Illinois, Turner guided the Illini to the 2001 Big Ten championship after an 0-11 start in his first season there in 1997. After a 10-2 season and a conference title, Turner’s Illinois team tumbled to 5-7 the following season and 1-11 the next. He coached one more year at Illinois and in 2004 finished 3-8.
He just couldn’t match that championship season at FIU, and when the direction of the football program headed south, FIU pulled the plug on the Turner era.
The names of possible replacements, as suggested by FOX Sports reporter Bruce Feldman, are quite interesting, especially the one at the top of the list – Butch Davis. Would the 64-year-old take the job? Would FIU offer it to him?
It would certainly be ironic if that’s the direction the Panthers go. Davis wanted the Miami Hurricanes job and there were plenty of ‘Canes fans who would have been perfectly happy having him. Had Mark Richt not become available, who knows if that connection would have come to fruition.
Davis helped bring back the Canes from NCAA sanctions, posting a 51-20 record, including a No. 2 national ranking in 2000 and a Sugar Bowl victory.
Some of the other names are even more intriguing. They include ‘Canes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and ‘Canes interim coach Larry Scott, who did a magnificent job of keeping the program together after Al Golden was fired midseason. He’s currently enjoying success as an assistant at Tennessee.
Another intriguing name is Geoff Collins, Florida’s defensive coordinator. Collins is a former FIU assistant. He was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator before moving on to Mississippi State and now Florida. Before all that, he was the recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech and director of player personnel at Alabama.
It will be interesting to follow the progress of FIU’s plight in its search for a replacement and its ultimate choice. A lot will happen before that’s decided; many more coaches will be handed pink slips and the coaching carousel will be in full speed by that time.