by Jim Alderson, 1/30/01
I have a rather different perspective on Canes football than that of some TSL regulars. My various Internet rants have, among other things, enabled me to become friends with some great Miami alumni and fans such as Grassy regulars Rondo and Carlos. I have found them to be passionate college football fans that are doing exactly the same as many of us, supporting their team (I have also found Rondo to be a world-class tailgater who is always welcome at our gathering). My view of Miami is that of a worthy adversary (and this year they were pretty darn worthy) rather than some personification of evil.
I also had a lot of admiration for Butch Davis. He took that job when a lot of other quality coaches would not (I find it interesting that Sonny Lubick, who wouldn’t touch the job when probation loomed, seems interested now that Butch has done the dirty work). Frank Beamer has stated that he was unaware how harsh the impending NCAA sanctions would be when he took over the Tech program, but Butch walked into Coral Gables with his eyes wide open. He endured the probation and dealt with it. He never made excuses, and while he could have, I do not recall him blaming the mess made by the previous regime for any losses.
For the most part, he recruited players who actually belonged in the University of Miami, and ran an exemplary program. Yes, there were some problems, but I really don’t think we are in a position to call that kettle black. Butch might not have been the best sideline coach in the business, and some of his antics that included the celebrated headphone toss and his tendency to engage in heated arguments with players and assistants at critical game junctures became as much a part of Canes football as that ‘U’ on the helmet. In fairness, however, Frank had about a fifteen-year head coaching start on Butch, who was a career assistant prior to taking over Miami, and he improved, while his recruiting prowess eventually demonstrated that any sideline tactical deficiencies could be overcome with talent.
Butch was linked with other jobs seemingly before he even coached his first Miami game. Every year somebody came calling, and he was constantly mentioned with other jobs, processes with which we also have become quite familiar. While he never made any secret of his desire to one day coach in the NFL, Butch always turned other jobs down. Until now.
I suppose it should have been a dead giveaway that Butch was heading out the door when he began talking about spending the rest of his career at Miami. We have heard that before, and if not for some last-minute negotiation it would not have been a truthful statement here, either. Butch’s timing was spectacularly lousy, and bolting a week before Signing Day did not display much loyalty to the place that gave him his first head job and enabled him to be in a position to extract many, many large from the Browns. There are indications that Miami AD Paul Dee bent over backwards to meet Butch’s contract demands, and what he got in return was being lied to his face, until Butch quit returning his calls and only contacted him to inform him that he was out the door. This demonstrates the often-fragile relationships between athletics directors and the coaches they employ, something we are also familiar with (I think it is safe to assume that Frank and jimmy are not the best of buds). It also demonstrates that this is a tough business.
What happened at Georgia and Ohio State, where the greatest crimes committed by Jim Donnan and John Cooper were not losing, but failing to win enough, was not lost on any coach, including Butch. Closer to home, it was hard to miss the not-so-subtle manner in which Don Nehlen and George Welsh, coaches who had done much for their respective schools, were shoved out the door. We have also recently been afforded front-row seats to what is likely to be the beginning of the end for Joe Paterno at Penn State.
The financial rewards in college athletics go to those that win big, and coaches are under increasing pressure to do just that; loyalty has become a one-way street, and coaches are reacting in kind. Message boards abound with posts claiming that all will be well if only the incumbent coach be fired (I remember reading posts on Grassy’s Canes board following their loss to Washington demanding that Butch be fired that very instant). We are not the only ones in the Big East ramping up our football recruiting, and it is going to become increasingly difficult to maintain the level of success to which we have become accustomed. How loud will be the howling on the TSLMB if Frank and his staff string together a couple of 8-3 records? I think we know the answer to that. Pressures on coaches are mounting, and many are electing to do as Butch did and grab while the grabbing is good, even if it means lying to bosses, players, recruits and the media. It has become the nature of the game.
Butch is gone and I will miss him, his rather messy departure notwithstanding. He took over Miami when the Canes were in serious trouble, such that could have sent the Canes program down the tubes, and perhaps the BEFC with it. He righted the ship and kept the Canes on an even keel until they indeed were back. Miami’s tradition and commitment to winning football will ensure that a quality coach will be roaming the Orange Bowl sidelines, and they will continue to be a force to be reckoned with, for one thing is certainly for sure: Butch has left the football program of the University of Miami in a lot better shape than when he found it.
Jim Alderson,who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.