“Well, you got me. Four times I’ve tried for this job.”
With those words, the Jim Fleming era officially began on December 23, as he was introduced as the 20th football coach in school history by URI Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn.
Fleming came from the University of Central Florida, where he was the defensive coordinator of the No. 15-ranked Knights. Fleming helped UCF earn a spot in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, where it defeated No. 6, Baylor, on New Year’s Day. At his introductory press conference, Fleming 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 of as high a 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.”
Fleming had a message to the URI fan base: “Have belief. We are not able to do this with a magic wand. It will require a lot of hard work.”
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.