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Butch Davis energized to build a winner, restore reputation at FIU

butch davis
COURTESY FIU ATHLETICS

Much of who Davis is as a coach is influenced by his father.

“He taught history and he used to tell me all the time, ‘If you are going to be a coach, you got to be a great teacher,’ ” he said. “… He said, ‘Every kid on your football team is going to be different. You got to figure, ‘How do you relate?’ “

‘Stabbed in the back’

Along with numerous peaks, Davis’ coaching career also has seen its share of valleys. He doesn’t hide the disappointment he still feels from his one NFL head-coaching opportunity.

“I left a great great job (at Miami) to go to Cleveland to work for Carmen Policy, who had won four Super Bowls, and Al Lerner,” Davis said. “We go to the playoffs my second year, Al Lerner dies of brain cancer and the son (Randy Lerner) takes over and fires Carmen — complete culture change.

“The son tells me, ‘We’re no longer doing this my dad’s way.’ His father told me, ‘You got 10 years to turn this franchise around.’ The son says, ‘We’re not doing one thing the way that my father did.’

“We just went to the playoffs six weeks ago. He says, ‘You’re $33 million over the salary cap; you got five weeks to get under.’ The only people that you can cut to get under the salary cap are the guys that can play. … Who were the most pissed off (players)? The kids that had to stay, not the guys that lost their job. The kids that had to stay because they’re like, ‘We’re going back to being like an expansion franchise; we got no chance of winning.’

(Randy Lerner) ended up screwing it up and sold the team after he fired five more head coaches.”

Davis resigned near the end of the 2004 season, then became coach at North Carolina following the 2006 season. His tenure at UNC came to a jarring end in July 2011 despite being officially exonerated of any wrongdoing related to NCAA violations.

“It tarnished 37 years of everything that I had ever did, that I had, that I was proud of,” Davis said. “We did things the right way every place — cleaning up the Miami program, rebuilding the (Dallas) Cowboys, rebuilding Oklahoma State (as an assistant) — and to sit there and get blamed for something that now, 10 investigations later, they found out that not only did I not have anything to do with it, it was going on for 15 years before I ever got there. …

“It is what it is, but I have faith and I believe this with all my heart: God has a plan for everybody and nothing happens by accident. Nothing. When bad things come, it’s like, ‘What’s God want me to learn from this?’ “

Davis had offers to return to coaching before FIU, but none felt right.

“Almost every one of them (job offers), something they would say made me go, ‘Not taking it,’” Davis said. “Might be the governor of one state called me, ‘Will you please come and take this job?’ He says, ‘You can come,’ and he says, ‘You can leave after one year. It will be OK.’

“I’m sitting there and I’m going, ‘I have got to sell my soul to kids in a living room to come and play for me knowing that in nine months I’m jumping ship, I can’t do that.’ When somebody would offer me a job, there would always be something that would be just completely contrary to what I believe that coaching is for and why you do it. Whether it was academics, money or whatever it was, there was always something that would be a death blow.

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