Florida International secondary coach/assistant head coach Ron Cooper has been promoted as the team’s new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, according to a source. Edinboro University defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Bobby Babich is FIU’s new secondary coach, per the source.
Panthers coach Ron Turner announced the moves later Friday. Cooper replaces former defensive coordinator Matt House, who left last week to be Kentucky’s inside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.
Babich is the son of San Diego Chargers linebackers coach Bob Babich, who was an assistant with Turner with the Chicago Bears from 2005–09. The younger Babich’s stint at Edinboro was brief and came after he spent the past three seasons as the Cleveland Browns’s assistant secondary coach, working with All-Pro defensive backs Joe Haden and T.J. Ward.
This past season was Cooper’s first at FIU. Under him, the Panthers were second in passing defense in Conference USA (221 yards allowed per game). They also had the sixth-most passes defended (51) and pass breakups (42) in a single season in school history.
Prior to FIU, Cooper, 54, was defensive backs coach and assistant head coach at South Florida for two seasons after a year as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive backs coach. He had a 45–55 record in nine seasons as a head coach at Eastern Michigan (1993–94), Louisville (1995–97) and Alabama A&M (1998–2001).
He was LSU’s defensive backs coach from 2009–11, a tenure that included coaching Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. Cooper was a defensive assistant from ’04–08 at South Carolina, defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in ’03 and defensive backs coach at Mississippi State in ’02.
Before Cooper’s head coaching jobs, he was an assistant at Notre Dame from 1991–92 and defensive coordinator at UNLV in ’90. He was also an assistant at East Carolina in ’89, defensive coordinator at Murray State from ’87–88 and an assistant at Austin Peay from ’85–86.
Cooper got his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Minnesota (1984) and Appalachian State (’83). A Huntsville, Ala., product, he played at Jacksonville State from ’79–82.
Prior to Babich’s tenure with the Browns, he worked two years with the Carolina Panthers, spending his first season as an administrative assistant before moving to defensive assistant. He was Eastern Illinois’s secondary coach from 2007–10.
A Tulsa, Okla., native, he got his start in coaching as a defensive graduate assistant at Kent State in 2006. He played cornerback at North Dakota State from ’02–05.
Florida International had a 5–7 record this past season under Turner. His team returns 14 starters, including star junior quarterback Alex McGough, who set several single-season school records last year, including passing yards (2,722) and touchdown passes (21).