New coach ushers in next era of FIU football

In his 36 years coaching football, Ron Turner says the best times have been the nine he spent as a college head coach. At FIU, he’s getting the chance to do it again. Turner takes the reigns of FIU’s football program as it moves into Conference USA this year.

“I am honored and excited to be standing here,” Turner said Friday at the press conference announcing his hiring. “I really believe this program is ready to take the next step to win at a high level at Conference USA.”

Turner brings to FIU a 36-year history in football, including 24 seasons coaching in college with nine as a head coach at both Illinois (1997-2004) and San Jose State (1992).  Widely known for his work with quarterbacks, Turner most recently spent 2012 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tutoring young star signal caller Josh Freeman.

Turner’s collegiate career has had numerous highlights, most notably his Illinois 2001 Big Ten Championship and Sugar Bowl appearance. That same season he was unanimously selected as Big Ten Coach of the Year.

As he greeted the FIU community on Friday, he said he was looking forward to getting to know all the players. “I love the relationships you build with student-athletes and their families. They are ones that last forever,” he said.

Turner will hold his first team meeting this week. With 30 graduating seniors, the team has some hard work ahead. He said he would like to see a team based on speed that is fast, explosive and physical. “I believe you’ve got to have explosive plays to win,” he said.

Aside from mentoring several notable quarterbacks in the NFL, Turner is also known for his development of college quarterbacks. At Illinois, he tutored Kurt Kittner, who became one in a long line of successful Turner coached quarterbacks who played in the NFL. Others on that list are Jeff Garcia, Erik Kramer, Jim Harbaugh, Steve Stenstrom, Sean Salisbury, Rodney Peete, Bucky Richardson, Sandy Schwab, John Congemi and Dave Kreig.

“He is no doubt the best quarterback coach in the country,” said Pete Garcia, director of sports and entertainment during Turner’s introduction. “He is one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. He’s actually called the plays in a Super Bowl. He coaches really, really good players. He develops a lot of great players.”

A lot of friends, he said, have been asking him, Why FIU? “There are a lot of reasons,” Turner said. “It’s one of the top up-and-coming programs in the country. You look at the track FIU is on, it’s on the fast track.”