Jim Fleming was named the 20th head coach in Rhode Island football history in December of 2013. He enters his sixth season at the helm in 2019.
Fleming has turned the Rhode Island program around, leading the Rams to their first winning season in 17 years in 2018. Rhody was 6-5 overall, including a 4-1 record at Meade Stadium. Fleming's team broke into the STATS FCS Top 25 on Sept. 10 for the first time for the program since 2005, and the team got as high as No. 16 in the STATS poll and No. 15 in the AFCA FCS Coaches poll during the season. It was the first time URI was above .500 since 2001. The team also was 4-4 in CAA Football action, the first time the program was .500 in league play since 2010. Junior tackle Kyle Murphy and junior wide receiver Aaron Parker both earned CAA Football First-Team All-Conference and NEFWA All-New England recognition. Receiving second-team all-conference nods were senior quarterback JaJuan Lawson, senior tight end Tyler Burke and junior punt returner Ahmere Dorsey.
In 2017, Fleming saw six of his players earn all-conference honors. Harold Cooper earned CAA Football All-Conference Second Team honors as a running back and third-team recognition as a kick returner. Wide receiver Aaron Parker was named to the second team, while wide receiver Marven Beauvais, defensive tackle Brandon Ginnetti, offensive tackle Dino Boyd and punt returner Matt Pires were all on the third-team. The Rams also had their most victories in seven seasons.
For the second consecutive season, Fleming's team set a program mark for number of players to earn CAA Football Academic All-Conference recognition. The Rams had 22 players earn the honor in 2016, after having 18 receive the recognition in 2015. In 2016, Fleming had two players earn CAA Football All-Conference honors, as kick returner Harold Cooper was named to the second team and defensive end Jose Duncan took home third-team honors. Fleming also led the team to its first Governor's Cup victory since 2011 as the Rams defeated Brown 28-13 in the annual in-state battle.
In his second season the Rams earned eight spots on the CAA Football All-Conference Team, the most for Rhode Island since 1995. Sophomore Harold Cooper was a first-team selection as a kick returner and a third-team pick at running back. He also was named to the 2015 Division I All-New England Football Team as a kick returner. Also earning CAA Football All-Conference honors were left tackle Tyler Catalina (second team), linebacker Adam Parker (second team), safety Tim Wienclaw (second team), defensive lineman Mike Ezirike (third team), tight end Charlie McKeeman (third team) and cornerback Myles Holmes (third team).
Though the Rams went 1-11 mark in Fleming’s first season in Kingston, the team improved as the year moved along. Five players - linebacker Andrew Bose, fullback Justin Favreau, wide receiver Robbie Jackson, offensive tackle Tyler Catalina and kick returner Myles Holmes all earned a spot on the CAA Football All-Conference Team. Bose was the first Rhody linebacker to earn first-team honors in 16 seasons. He and freshman tight end Charlie McKeeman earned All-America honors from TonySoftli.com. Rhode Island also had 12 players earn a spot on the CAA Football Academic All-Conference Team.
Following the season, Bose signed as an undrafted free agent with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, while running back Lyle McCombs signed with the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts.
Fleming came to Rhode Island from the University of Central Florida, where he was the defensive coordinator for the No. 15 Knights. In 2013, Fleming helped UCF earn a spot in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
The 2013 season marked the second straight year that Fleming has helped guide UCF to a bowl game. In 2012, the Knights had the top-ranked scoring and pass defense in Conference USA and were ranked 29th nationally in scoring defense en route to a spot in the Beef O’Brady Bowl, where they defeated Ball State, 38-17.
Fleming has a track record of success, including as a head coach. In two seasons at Sacred Heart, he 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 year with the Pioneers, Fleming orchestrated the nation’s best turnaround. Inheriting a team that had gone 2-9 the previous season, Fleming led Sacred Heart to a 10-1 mark in 2000, ending the season ranked No. 5 in the nation.
A veteran of 29 seasons of college football, Fleming has coached for teams in CAA Football, 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 Mid-American Conference’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-MAC 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 (11.5 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 the program’s second-ever 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 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 both 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.
No stranger to the Ocean State, Fleming spent the 1993 campaign as the defensive coordinator at Brown where the Bears 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, 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 from 2009-12 and is now on the Rhode Island staff.