KINGSTON, R.I. – "Well, you got me. Four times I've tried for this job."
With those words, the Jim Fleming era officially began Monday morning. Fleming was introduced as the 20th football coach in school history by University of Rhode Island
Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn.
Fleming comes to Rhode Island from the University of Central Florida, where he was the defensive coordinator of the No. 15 Knights. Fleming helped UCF earn a spot in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, where the Knights will take on No. 6 Baylor on New Year's Day at 8:30 p.m. Fleming took a moment to praise his former players and team before turning his focus to the Rams. He made it clear, that moving forward, he is committed to building a winner in Kingston.
"I'm here for the long term, I'm here to build something special," Fleming told the crowd, which filled the Alumni Lounge of the Thomas M. Ryan Center. "I want to see a fast, physical, hard-nosed football team. A team that will play with passion and joy for the game."
Passion is something Fleming brings to the sideline every day. His drive was one of the key factors in making him Bjorn's choice to be the next head coach.
"We are thrilled to bring a coach as high caliber as Jim Fleming to Rhode Island," Bjorn said. "Jim has a tremendous track record of building winners over his 27-year career, and we are very excited that he will be our next head coach."
Before he left the podium, Fleming delivered messages to the current Rhode Island players, potential Rhody recruits and to the URI fan base.
To the current players, Fleming said, "The program and this next year's team will be built on your shoulders, the team that is here. We're going to change the culture in this program with the people who are here now."
His message to Rhode Island fans who were listening was simple.
"Have belief," Fleming said. "We are not able to do this with a magic wand. It will require a lot of hard work."
And to the future Rhode Island players keeping an eye on the program, Fleming was direct.
"Recruits, we are coming to get you," He said. "Our goal is to put rings on your fingers, and degrees in you pocket."
Fleming has a track record of success, including as a head coach. In two seasons at Sacred Heart, Fleming was a two-time Northeast Conference Coach of the Year while posting a 21-1 record. His team won the 2001 Mid Major I-AA National Championship to cap off a perfect 11-0 season. In his first season with the Pioneers, Fleming guided the nation's best turnaround. Taking over a team that had gone 2-9 the previous season, Fleming led Sacred Heart to a 10-1 mark while ending the season ranked No. 5 nationally.
A veteran of 27 seasons of college football, Fleming has coached for teams in the AAC, the ACC, Conference USA, the MAC, the former Atlantic 10 (now CAA Football), the NEC, the Ivy League and the Big Sky Conference.
Fleming's defense in 2012 included safety Kemal Ishmael, the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year who was a seventh-round draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons. Defensive end Troy Davis was placed on the All-C-USA First Team, cornerback A.J. Bouye grabbed a spot on the second team and lineman Deion Green was voted on to the all-freshman team. Bouye, Davis, Cam Henderson and Ray Shipman all signed rookie free-agent deals.
At Kent State in 2010, Fleming coached the linebackers for the MAC's top-ranked defense. The Golden Flashes led the conference in sacks and tackles for loss, and Fleming's linebackers were a major reason. Middle linebacker Cobrani Mixon earned a spot on the All-Mid-American Conference First Team by collecting 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and 82 overall tackles, while All-MAC Third Team selection Dorian Wood led the Golden Flashes with 96 tackles and had 11.5 tackles for loss. Luke Batton delivered 68 tackles at the other outside linebacker position.
Fleming spent six seasons at Akron (2004-09) as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach. He helped the Zips win their first MAC Championship and qualify for the Motor City Bowl in 2005. Under Fleming, the defense produced four All-MAC honorees, including the league's second-leading tackler in freshman Brian Wagner and just the program's second three-time All-MAC selection in Almondo Sewell. Fleming's defenses at Akron consistently performed among the nation's best, ranking 32nd in total defense in 2005, and 31st in passing defense in 2009.
Prior to Akron, Fleming spent two years (2002-03) as the defensive backs coach at North Carolina. That stint came after his remarkable run two-year run as the head coach of Sacred Heart. During their championship run, the Pioneers ranked second in the nation in scoring, pass efficiency and turnover margin, fourth in total defense and seventh in scoring defense and passing yards allowed. Fleming was named the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2001.
A native of New York, N.Y., Fleming also spent two years as defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at Villanova (1998-99) and four years (1994-97) coaching linebackers (1994) and defensive backs (1995-97) at East Carolina. His 1997 squad ranked second in Conference USA in pass defense, while in 1995, the Pirates finished 9-3 and earned a berth in the Liberty Bowl where they defeated Stanford, 19-13. That season, the ECU defense ranked seventh nationally in pass efficiency defense, producing 33 takeaways and 19 interceptions.
Fleming spent the 1993 campaign as the defensive coordinator at Brown where the team went from 0-10 and last place in the Ivy League, to 4-6 and a tie for fourth place in the conference. From 1987-92, he had a successful six-year stretch at Boise State, including the final three seasons as defensive coordinator. His 1991 Broncos' defense led the nation in rushing defense and was third in turnover margin, and led the Big Sky Conference in every statistical category. In 1990, BSU finished 10-4 and advanced to the semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs, leading the conference in scoring defense.
Fleming is a 1982 graduate of the University of the South with a degree in English. While there, he was a four-year starter in football and baseball, earning all-conference honors as a tight end in 1981. Fleming began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at South Carolina in 1985.
He and his wife, Leslie, have four children, Jimmy, Will, Kate and Meg. Will played tight end/fullback for Akron.
Born: September 23, 1959
College: University of the South, Sewanee (Tennessee) '82
Degree: B.A. English
Family: Wife, Leslie; Sons Jimmy and Will; Daughters Kate and Meg
2013: Defensive Coordinator, UCF
2011-12: Linebackers, UCF
2010: Linebackers Coach, Kent State
2004-09: Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach, Akron
2002-03: Defensive Backs Coach, North Carolina
2000-01: Head Coach, Sacred Heart
1998-99: Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs, Villanova
1995-97: Secondary Coach/Special Teams, East Carolina
1994: Outside Linebackers Coach/Special Teams, East Carolina
1993: Defensive Coordinator, Brown
1989-92: Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach, Boise State
1989: Secondary Coach, Boise State
1987-88: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Coach, Boise State
1985-86: Graduate Assistant Receivers Coach, South Carolina