My news story posted at http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/04/3168173/ron-turner-joins-fiu-panthers.html a few hours ago.
Now, for other stuff that didn't make the story for lack of space...
Most of FIU's football staff attended to smile, shake hands with the new boss and wait for him to declare himself their old boss. If any are headed to the American Football Coaches Association to do any job hunting, they're doing so on their own dime. Turner said he'd prefer to bring potential assistants to him rather than play in the coaches mixer that is the convention.
"I've gone to the coaches convention as a head coach when you have jobs. It's not a lot of fun," Turner said. "I'd rather be here having a chance to get to know some of our players. I've got some names of some guys. I want to talk to the current staff and get a feel for them. Then, talk to some names that I have. I'd rather bring them here and get them to see this. They come in and see what's going on here and get caught up in the passion, it's like recruits -- you have a better chance to get them. Calling them and talking on the phone...some of them have never been here. They don't know much about the campus or the university or the football program. I want a chance to get them here to see and feel what's going on."
Garcia said, “We are going to emphasize special teams. We’re going to have a special teams coordinator who is devoted solely to special teams. I think only nine other teams in the country have that. There’s no reason why, in South Florida, with the athletes we have here, you shouldn’t win special teams on a weekly basis.”
Garcia also figures Turner probably will call the plays and work with the quarterbacks.
Some current FIU players attended the introductory press conference. Turner plans to have a team meeting early next week, probably Tuesday, and said he wants to schedule a time to meet with players' families.
“For me to truly know what these guys are about and get to know them as well as I want to where I can help them to achieve their goals, it’s important to know their families," he said. "To know where they’re from, what kind of upbringing they’ve had.
"I made that mistake when I went to Illinois. I got to know the families of the kids we recruited and I got to know the families of the kids on the team. I didn’t reach out to get to know the families of the kids who were already there.”
Not spotted there Friday (at least by me), though mentioned often by Turner, was FIU President Mark Rosenberg. Rosenberg did attend the announcement in the same room months ago of the move to Conference USA. I can't recall if he was at the Richard Pitino introduction last spring. Then again, that's basketball and this is a metropolitan area of college basketball philistines. Head football coach isn't the most important position at FIU. It is, however, the most visible. Applications increased dramtically after the Little Ceasar's Pizza Bowl win. The president was involved in keeping Mario Cristobal at each pivotal point in 2011 and 2012. To not be there for the public introduction of Turner doesn't seem right.
Turner was speaking of Garcia and Rosenberg when he said, “I could see the passion. That they’ve got a committment that they want to be the best, that losing is not an option. That this program is going to be successful, and they’re going to give me as the head coach, the director of this program, all the resources necessary to run a very good, clean program that’s going to continue to climb.”
That last part struck me as interesting. One of the consistent carps of the previous staff -- and, really, more than a few FIU coaches over the years across sports -- was the lack of resources compared to those whom the school would like to consider its peers. "Resources" include everything from money for assistant coaches, office goods and program infrastructure to a practice field and a larger academic support system for athletes (Garcia said that doesn't fall under athletics, however). Illinois' athletic department budget at the end of Turner's time there was about twice what FIU's is now without adjusting for inflation.
Illinois came up and Turner described his nine-season stay in Champaign, which began with an 0-11 team, included two bowl teams, then did the Coyote (Eatibus Anythingus) over the cliff the last three seasons:
"The way we got it going there was we recruited some guys who love football. That have a passion for the game, a toughness, who are committed to being successful. I look back on those guys, those are the guys who were texting me today or calling me and wishing me good luck. It was all based on a committment to football. A passion for the game of football, a toughness. A lot of them had that and then we had to teach them, 'Now, you've got to have that passion for the classroom and everytyhing else' beacuse their focus was football, football, football. And 90 percent of the guys who come out, that's what it is. But you help direct their energy to help them understand that the academic side is just as important. And we had a pretty good quarterback (Kurt Kittner).
"After that class left, we dropped down a little bit but we also had a very young class that was heading in the right direction and was going to get back on track because they had the same qualities. That's what we're going to try to recruit here."
The Zooker might disagree. Ron Zook took over from Turner and went 2-9, then 2-10 before his own recruiting classes began to take over the program. Just for comparison's sake, at the same school, Zook went 34-51 at Illinois with three bowl appearances in seven seasons. Turner went 35-57 with two bowl appearances in eight seasons. So, not much difference between the Rons in the same job over almost the same amount of time.
Turner admitted while he's an offensive guy, defense wins titles. When FIU led the Sun Belt in defense, scoring defense and turnover margin in 2010: co-conference title and bowl game. When FIU led the Sun Belt in sacks, pass efficiency defense and was 15th nationally in scoring defense: bowl game. When FIU was last in The Belt in scoring defense and 65th nationally in total defense: 3-9.