Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 1/4/13
MIAMI (AP) -- Florida International announced the hiring of football coach Ron Turner at an introductory news conference Friday. Turner signed a five-year deal with a base salary of 500,000 on Thursday night. He takes over for Mario Cristobal after a 3-9 season and will look to lead the Golden Panthers into Conference USA from the Sun Belt. "I really believe this program is ready to take the next step, which is to win at a high level in Conference USA, to win consistently and compete for a Conference USA championship on a regular basis," Turner said. "That's our goal. That's our vision." The 59-year-old Turner returns to college football for the first time since he was fired at Illinois in 2004 after eight seasons as the head coach. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past season and has coached 12 years in the NFL. "I love the challenge of being the head coach," Turner said. "The happiest times I've had in coaching were the nine years that I was the head coach in college. I love the relationships that you establish, that you build with the student-athletes, with their families. Those are the kind of things that when you go through what you go through, that last a lifetime." Turner was fired at Illinois three seasons after taking the Illini to what was their first Big Ten title in a decade. Illinois went to the Sugar Bowl after that 10-2 season in 2001 and Turner was Big Ten coach of the year. Illinois won only nine of its next 34 games under Turner, including just one Big Ten game in a two-season span. He left Illinois with a 35-57 record in eight seasons. Turner worked with elite NFL players such as Peyton Manning (he was an offensive position coach with the Indianapolis Colts at the time) and Devin Hester (when Turner was the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator). "FIU has made an excellent decision in naming Ron Turner as its head coach," Manning said. "He was an important part of the offensive staff with the Colts during his two years with the team. I respect his knowledge of the game and his passion for coaching. I'm happy for him and wish him all the best at FIU." Turner is the brother of Norv Turner, who was fired as coach of the San Diego Chargers this week.
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