Florida International has hired veteran NFL assistant and former Illinois coach Ron Turner as its next head coach, according to a source with direct knowledge of the hire.
Turner, 59, served as the quarterbacks coach for Greg Schiano with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. He has also served two separate stints as the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, and he was named Big Ten coach of the year with the Fighting Illini in 2001.
He will replace Mario Cristobal, who athletic director Pete Garcia fired in December in one of the most surprising moves of the offseason. Former Miami coach Butch Davis had long been considered the favorite for the job, but a report from Foxsports.com last week said that a contract dispute between Davis and his old employer, North Carolina, inhibited him from getting the job.
Turner inherits a program that had been on the upswing until an injury plagued 3-9 campaign led to Cristobal's firing. Cristobal went 15-11, appeared in two bowl games and won a Sun Belt title in the two previous seasons.
Turner last worked an entire season in college football in 2004, when Illinois fired him after a 3-8 season and a two-year stretch in which he won just one Big Ten game. Turner had led Illinois to the Sugar Bowl and a 10-2 record in 2001, and that Kurt Kittner-led team proved to be the peak of his success in Champaign, Ill. (Turner worked for a few weeks for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford before leaving prior to spring practice in 2010 to return to the NFL.)
Since his firing at Illinois, Turner has worked for the Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Bucs before Garcia tabbed him as FIU's next coach.
Turner is known as an offensive guru and comes from a strong football family. Turner's brother, Norv, was recently fired as the coach of the San Diego Chargers. Ron's son, Morgan, is an offensive assistant at Stanford, and his other son, Cameron, served as the Minnesota Vikings assistant to the head coach the past two seasons.
Turner's debut at FIU will come at Maryland to open the 2013 season.