Butch Davis’ ties to south Florida were a big selling point for FIU, but they’re not all in the conventional way.
Davis hasn’t coached since 2010, and he hasn’t coached in Florida since 2000. A lot of the local high school coaches have moved on. But they’ve been replaced by some who may have worked with Davis in different ways.
“Obviously there’s a lot of guys in south Florida that were head coaches when I was here until 2000 and have either moved or become athletic directors,” Davis said on Open Mike radio in Orlando. “The unique thing about it is there’s probably 15-20 of the kids that played for me at Miami that are now either head coaches or coordinators at schools in south Florida. That’s a big part of it. You try to plug into those.”
There are also young coaches who have moved up.
“Even in the first couple weeks as we started calling kids across the state, you’re speaking to guys that say, ‘Coach, I came to your coaching clinic back at Miami and really enjoyed that,’” Davis said. “There’s a significant amount of coaches in the state of Florida that love the idea of being able to have their kids stay at home, stay in Florida and not have to go someplace outside the state.
“If we build the kind of program we want to try to build here, we’re going to be a really viable option for a lot of kids to stay at home and play on great teams.”
Davis built Miami back into a national contender from 1995-2000, but he left for the Cleveland Browns, and Larry Coker won the 2001 national title with perhaps the most talented team in college football history. Davis lasted four years with the Browns. Does he regret leaving?
“In retrospect looking back, maybe it was a career decision that I should have stayed at Miami. But the situation never presented itself,” Davis said. “We tried to work out the contract, tried to stay at Miami. Probably a week or so before Signing Day, it just wasn’t going to work out.
“Going to the Browns, I learned a ton. Recreating and building a program and doing some of the things we did at Miami when we lost 31 scholarships, you’ve got to think outside the box, going to the Browns as an expansion franchise, and two years later, we’re in the playoffs. That part was positive. You can never see in the future.”
Davis’ hiring was part of a big month for the state of Florida, with Lane Kiffin (FAU) and Charlie Strong (USF) also becoming head coaches in the state. Add the Big 3 schools and UCF, and recruiting in Florida will go up a notch.
But Davis downplayed a huge change, saying it’s always been that way.
“When I came back in 1995, Bobby Bowden was at Florida State, Steve Spurrier was at Florida, Jim Leavitt came and did a great job at South Florida, George O’Leary did an outstanding job at UCF, FAU didn’t even exist,” Davis said. “Then you’re dealing with the out-of-state coaches.
“One thing that gives us an opportunity is that last year, there were over 430 kids sign Division I scholarships out of the state of Florida. We just need to get the best 25 that fit our program. Our focus will be exclusively in this area, from Tampa, Orlando, space coast. We’ll cherry-pick outside the state for a few kids, but the lion’s share will give their family a chance to be involved and be here every single Saturday.”