Ron Turner was named FIU’s head football coach on January 4, 2013, bringing with him to Miami a wealth of experience at the collegiate and professional levels, which spans over five decades.
Turner’s 36 seasons in coaching have included nine as a head coach with Illinois and San Jose State, along with appearances in eight bowl games throughout his 24 seasons at the collegiate level: Rose, Fiesta (2), Sugar, Aloha (2), Citrus and Micron PC. Most notably, Turner won the 2001 Big Ten Championship at Illinois, while being named the league’s Coach of the Year that same season.
In 12 seasons coaching in the National Football League, Turner has spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears. Highlighting his time in the NFL, Turner has been the Pro Football Weekly Assistant Coach of the Year (1995); offensive coordinator for the 2006 NFC Champion and Super Bowl participant Chicago Bears; an assistant on the Colts’ 2010 AFC South Champion squad; and most recently quarterbacks coach with a Tampa Bay squad that achieved team records for total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Prior to becoming the Panthers’ third head coach in the program’s 11-year history, Turner spent the 2012 season with Tampa Bay where he guided quarterback Josh Freeman to franchise records in passing yards (4,065) and passing touchdowns (27). In just one season with the Buccaneers, Turner helped Tampa Bay amass team records in total yards (5,820) and total points scored (389).
Before joining the Tampa Bay staff, Turner spent two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts where he served as the team’s quarterbacks coach in 2011 and wide receivers coach in 2010. During the 2010 campaign, Turner’s receivers were incredibly productive. Reggie Wayne (111-1,355-6 TDs) produced his seventh-consecutive 1,000-plus yard season, a third 100-plus reception season and a career season-best reception total. With expected starter Anthony Gonzalez out with an injury, Turner helped wide receivers Austin Collie (58-649-8 TDs) and Pierre Garcon (67-784-6 TDs) each to 55-plus receptions, 600-plus yards and five-plus touchdown catches, while rookie free agent Blair White (36-355-5 TDs) also had an impact. Collie amassed his totals in just nine outings, while Garcon missed two games and White appeared in 13 games.
In his second stint with the Bears, Turner directed QB Jay Cutler to a record-setting season in 2009, with the most completions (336) and attempts (555) in team history. As a team, Chicago had 3,473 net passing yards, the third-best club seasonal total with other best totals of 3,362 (2007) and 3,743 (1995), both coming under Turner’s tenure. In all, Turner’s offenses produced four of the top-five and seven of the top-17 passing attacks in club history, topping 3,000 net passing yards in seven of nine seasons under Turner.
The rushing attack produced 8,512 yards in Turner’s last five seasons, including the second- and third-best club totals (2,099 in 2005; 1,918 in 2006) in the last 19 seasons. Chicago surpassed 4,600 net yards annually from 2006-09. The Bears also earned three playoff berths during Turner’s overall tenure.
In 2008, Turner helped QB Kyle Orton set a team mark with 205 attempts without an interception. RB Matt Forte also had success, rushing 316 times for 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 63 receptions for 477 yards and four touchdowns, setting club rookie marks in yards, scrimmage yards (1,715) and receptions. The team’s 375 points tied the seventh-best seasonal mark in club history.
Turner and the 2006 Bears went 13-3, winning the NFC North and earning home-field advantage in the playoffs and a trip to the Super Bowl. Chicago bested Seattle (27-24) and New Orleans (39-14), before falling in Super Bowl XLI to Indianapolis. During the season, the team topped 30-plus points seven times, the best seasonal total since 1956, and produced 5,199 net yards. QB Rex Grossman was 262-of-480 passing for 3,193 and 23 touchdowns, while RB Thomas Jones rushed 296 times for 1,210 and six touchdowns rushing. The club’s 38 offensive touchdowns were the most since 44 in 1995 under Turner. The Bears were the only NFL team with six players scoring five-plus touchdowns, with the last time the club achieving that mark being in 1948.
In 2005, behind a rookie quarterback, Turner helped lead the team to an 11-5 record. The club rushed for 2,099 yards – the first 2,000-plus yard season by Chicago since 1990. Chicago ranked eighth in rushing offense (131.2), topped 100-plus yards 13 times and tied for the league lead with 19 rushes of 20 or more yards. Jones recorded 314 carries for 1,335 yards and nine touchdowns while rookie QB Kyle Orton was 190-of-368 passing for 1,869 yards and nine touchdowns.
During his first tenure, Turner helped Chicago to a 33-33 overall record while working with a different starting quarterback each season. The club’s completion percentages in 1994 (61.4%) and 1995 (60.2%) rank among the highest in team history. Chicago’s net passing yard total of 3,743 in 1995 ranks second in team annals. With QB Erik Kramer (315-522-3, 838, 29 TDs) in 1995, the Bears set a team record for passing offense (233.9) and scored the fifth-most points (392) in club history. Kramer set club records with 29 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. The 1995 squad had the third-most net yards (5,673) and second-most first downs (340) in team history. The offense also featured a 1,000-plus yard rusher (Rashaan Salaam, 1,074) and two 1,000-plus yard receivers (Jeff Graham, 1,301; Curtis Conway, 1,037), the only such season in team history.
In between his time with the Bears, Turner was the head coach at University of Illinois for eight seasons (1997-2004), where he is the fourth-winningest coach in school history. He guided the Illini to two bowl bids. The school won the Big Ten Championship in 2001 and earned a BCS Bowl bid to the Nokia Sugar Bowl. Turner was the unanimous 2001 Big Ten Coach of the Year and presided over three of the top-six offenses in Illini history in terms of total yards, while four of his eight squads ranked in the school's top-11 for scoring. The 2001 unit had a school-record 390 points. Three of the top-six all-time leading rushers at Illinois and three of the school's top-10 all-time leading receivers played under Turner, as he helped place more than 20 players on NFL rosters.
The championship run in 2001 marked many firsts for the Illini. It was the first outright Big Ten title for Illinois in 18 years and the team’s first-ever berth in the Bowl Championship Series. The 10-win season was only the fourth for an Illini squad in its storied history. For his efforts, Turner was unanimously named the 2001 Big Ten Coach of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson, Bear Bryant and the AFCA Coach of the Year awards. Illinois' No. 7 ranking in both the Associated Press and coaches' poll at the end of the regular season was the highest for an Illini squad since 1990. The team finished No. 12 in both final polls.
Aside from mentoring several notable quarterbacks at the NFL level, Turner is also known for his development of college quarterbacks. At Illinois, Turner tutored Kurt Kittner, who was a Johnny Unitas Award finalist and a Davey O'Brien Award semifinalist. He became only the sixth Illinois quarterback to pass for over 3,000 yards in a season and with a win over Northwestern in 2001, he became the winningest quarterback in school history (24-15). He set the school record for touchdown passes in a career with 70 and broke his own single-season record of 24 set in 1999 with 27 in 2001.
Kittner also became one in a long line of successful Turner-coached quarterbacks who played in the NFL. Others on that prestigious list are: Jeff Garcia, Erik Kramer, Jim Harbaugh, Steve Stenstrom, Sean Salisbury, Rodney Peete, Bucky Richardson, Sandy Schwab, John Congemi and Dave Kreig.
Turner began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Pacific before earning his first full-time college job coaching running backs and receivers at Arizona (1978-80). He moved on to Northwestern (1981-82), Pittsburgh (1983-84), Southern California (1985-87), Texas A&M (1988) and Stanford (1989-91) before earning his first head coaching job at San Jose State (1992).
In just one season at San Jose State, Turner led a remarkable turnaround, leading the Spartans to a 7-4 record and a second-place finish in the Big West Conference. Turner guided San Jose State to its best record in six years and directed a potent offense that churned out 400 yards per game while averaging 30 points per contest, good for 15th in the nation.
A proven offensive teacher and tenacious recruiter, Turner earned the San Jose State post after coordinating the Stanford offense for three seasons under Dennis Green. Turner began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Pacific before becoming the receivers coach at the University of Arizona, a post he held for two seasons (1978-79).
After coaching the Arizona running backs in 1980, Turner joined Green at Northwestern University in 1981 where he spent two seasons as quarterbacks/receivers coach. At Northwestern, Turner helped turn the Wildcat offense into one of the most exciting in the Big Ten, tutoring NU quarterback Sandy Schwab to several school and Big Ten records. As an assistant at Northwestern, Turner also recruited all-time NU punt and kickoff return leader Steve Tasker, who went on to a long career in the NFL.
In 1983, Turner became the quarterbacks coach at the University of Pittsburgh, working with Panther QB John Congemi for two seasons. He joined the Ted Tollner staff at Southern California in 1985 in a similar role before he was elevated to offensive coordinator in 1986, coaching 1988 Heisman Trophy runner-up Rodney Peete.
In 1987, new head coach Larry Smith retained Turner on the USC staff as receivers coach as the Trojans romped to the Pac 10 Conference title. The following season, Turner moved to Texas A&M University as the quarterbacks coach before moving to Stanford University in 1989. With the 2002 Sugar Bowl appearance, Turner has been a part of nine bowl teams, including the 1988 Rose Bowl team and the 1991 Stanford Aloha Bowl squad.
Turner was a second-team junior college All-America wide receiver at Diablo Valley Community College and was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. He then earned a scholarship at Pacific, where he led the Tigers in receiving in 1975 and 1976 with 40 receptions, 666 yards and three touchdowns.
A native of Martinez, California, Turner is married to wife, Wendy, and the couple has four children: Morgan, Cameron, Callan, and Madison. Sons Morgan and Cameron have followed in their father’s footsteps, as Morgan currently serves as an offensive assistant at Stanford, while Cameron joined the FIU staff as an assistant coach for quarterbacks and wide receivers. Brother, Norv, is also longtime NFL coach.