Dec. 13, 2003
Columbia, S.C. – Ron Cooper, who has nine years of head coaching experience and coached the secondary for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish won back-to-back New Year’s Day Bowl games, has been named defensive backs coach at the University of South Carolina.
Cooper, 41, was head coach at Eastern Michigan (1993-94), Louisville (1995-97), and Alabama A&M (1998-01) before serving as secondary coach at the University of Wisconsin during the 2002 season. That year, the Badgers featured the Big Ten Conference’s top two individual leaders in pass interceptions, including strong safety Jim Leonhard, who led the nation with 10 picks. This past season, Cooper was the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Mississippi State University.
While on Coach Holtz’s staff at Notre Dame for the 1991 and 1992 seasons, Cooper helped lead the Fighting Irish to victories in the 1992 Sugar Bowl against third-ranked Florida State and in the 1993 Cotton Bowl against fourth-ranked Texas A&M. During that time span, Cooper coached such defensive back standouts as Tom Carter, Jeff Burris, Bobby Taylor, Rod Smith, and Willie Clark – all of whom played in the National Football League. He was Notre Dame’s assistant head coach in 1992.
“We’re fortunate to get a person like Ron Cooper to join our football staff,” said USC head coach Lou Holtz. “He’s a tremendous individual; he’s a very smart football coach; and he maintains great relationships with his players. I’ve known Ron for a long time. He’s an outstanding recruiter; he’s easy to work with and he’s a person with great integrity.”
As the head coach at Alabama A&M, Cooper helped lead the Bulldogs to the 2000 championship game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, with that team leading the nation in rushing defense and finishing eighth in total defense. During his stint at Louisville, his first Cardinal team in 1995 led the nation in turnovers forced, finished ninth nationally in scoring defense, 18th in total defense and 20th in rushing defense. His 1996 UL squad ranked fourth in the NCAA in both total and rushing defense. Cooper coached three All-Americas at Louisville, including defensive back Sam Madison, who stars with the Miami Dolphins; offensive tackle Roman Oben, who stars for the 2003 Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and linebacker Tyrus McCloud, who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
“I’m excited about having the opportunity to work with Coach Holtz again,” said Cooper. “Obviously, he’s one of the great coaches of all-time and I’m looking forward to becoming a part of helping build a championship program at South Carolina. I was very impressed with the people I met on my visit to Columbia and believe this will be a great opportunity to be a part of something special.”
Born Feb. 11, 1962 in Huntsville, Ala., Cooper was also the defensive coordinator at Nevada-Las Vegas and Murray State University. He was an assistant at East Carolina and Austin Peay and was a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota under Lou Holtz and also at Appalachian State.
Cooper played college football at Jacksonville State, where he helped lead his team to the NCAA Division II playoffs on three occasions. He earned his bachelor’s degree from JSU in 1983 and later received a master’s degree from Appalachian State in 1986. He and his wife, Djuna, have a daughter, Tyler, and a son, Tristan.