Wilfredo Lee/AP

Former South Florida defensive backs coach Ron Cooper is joining Florida International as defensive secondary coach and assistant head coach.

By Thayer Evans
March 03, 2015

Former South Florida defensive backs coach Ron Cooper is joining Florida International as defensive secondary coach and assistant head coach, according to a source.

The move, as first reported by SI.com and confirmed later Tuesday by FIU, reunites Cooper and Golden Panthers coach Ron Turner, who worked together as assistants for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012. Cooper coached the team’s defensive backs, while Turner oversaw quarterbacks.

With Cooper’s hiring, linebackers coach Tem Lukabu will move to coach the defensive line, according to the source. Lukabu was hired last month from Colgate, where he coached linebackers.

Defensive coordinator Matt House will now coach linebackers, while newly promoted Greg Moss will remain cornerbacks coach, according to the source.

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Cooper, 53, had spent the past two seasons coaching defensive backs and serving as assistant head coach at South Florida before being fired in December. He has 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).

Before Cooper’s season with Tampa Bay, he was defensive backs coach at LSU for three seasons, a tenure that included coaching Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. Cooper was a defensive assistant from 2004-08 at South Carolina, defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in 2003 and defensive backs coach at Mississippi State in 2002.

Prior to Cooper’s head coaching jobs, he was an assistant at Notre Dame from 1991-92 and defensive coordinator at UNLV in 1990. He was also an assistant at East Carolina in 1989, defensive coordinator at Murray State from 1987-88 and an assistant at Austin Peay from 1985-86.

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Cooper got his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Appalachian State (1983) and Minnesota (1984). A Huntsville, Ala. product, he played at Jacksonville State from 1979 through 1982.

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Turner’s assistants have been in high demand this coaching cycle, and he has had to hire five new assistants this year. He lost defensive coordinator Josh Conklin (Pittsburgh), running backs Kerry Dixon (Florida), linebackers coach Rob Harley (Pittsburgh) and defensive line coach Randy Melvin (Miami). He even lost his son, Cameron, who had been FIU’s quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers as assistant wide receivers coach.

The Golden Panthers had a 4-8 record this past season in Turner’s second at the helm and return 16 starters, including rising sophomore quarterback Alex McGough.


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