How do you deal with the familiar unfamiliar? Do you go over and say hello to break the ice? Do you give the subtle nod of acknowledgment while you continue on about your day? Or do you purposely ignore the other person’s existence and the swelling of emotions associated with them? On Saturday afternoon, Butch Davis and the Miami Hurricanes find themselves chugging forward to an inevitable collision.
Most weeks, the most any fan, analyst or scribe care about from the opposing coach is a rundown of the opponent, breaking down the keys to victory for his team and hopefully a sound bite or two for the media to run with leading up to the game. All those things matter, but this week is different — it’s more personal for all sides. The goal starts with getting a win, yet it’s also about getting the respect you deserve from the opposition.
Butch Davis was one of the primary architects in molding the Canes into one of the most dominant college football programs ever to dig their cleats into a grass field. Davis is also the man who bolted to the NFL for the challenge of resurrecting the Cleveland Browns. Davis left the best situation in CFB, the most talented roster in the history of the sport and burned a few bridges with his unexpected exit. Some players and fans understood the opportunity and need for a challenge. Others, as you can imagine, weren’t so forgiving.
From 1995-2000, Davis served not only as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, but as the face of the program. Davis saw Miami through sanctions, scholarship reductions and bowl bans to elevate and hold the program to an elite standard. Winning on the recruiting trail as well as on the field, Davis banked so much goodwill that it was impossible to see where coach and school separated. A man who has coached or help recruit the likes of Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Sean Taylor and Jonathan Vilma, Davis stocked the cupboard of UM’s roster. He orchestrated the model for improving a football program the right way.
Then Butch left.
Following the departure, the Canes went on to win their fifth national championship with a roster engraved with Davis’ signature. After amassing 51 wins and 20 losses as UM’s head coach, UM looked to continue a tradition, while their former coach searched to prove that he was not limited to being just a college football mind. After posting some modest success with the Cleveland Browns, Davis became a free agent in the coaching ranks.
His hiatus from football did not last long. The University of North Carolina supplied a soft landing for him with their head coaching position. Not only did the hire mark Davis’ return to the CFB stage, but it would also pit Davis against his former employer each season as ACC Coastal rivals. Miami is 1-3 all-time against their former coach, dating back to 2007. Davis was unceremoniously relieved of his duties after a scandal involving academic fraud and impermissible benefits to UNC players in 2010 and was ultimately fired in 2011 in what the Tar Heels deemed a move to restore the integrity of the university.
After firing Al Golden, the Miami Hurricanes were in need of a head coach. Davis, who was working for ESPN at the time, was looking for the right fit to help him make a comeback. There was mutual interest from both sides, yet at the end of the process, the Hurricanes choose to slide the ring on the finger of Mark Richt, leaving Davis alone at the altar. Looking to get back in the coaching game, Davis accepted the job at FIU. Butch is once again in a situation where a team has potential, yet needs his patented restorative touch to really make them shine.
The Hurricanes have embarrassed the Panthers in each of their past two meetings. The infamous brawl to end them all in their first-ever meeting in 2006 was a huge a blemish that all involved would rather forget. The Hurricanes won the ‘07 rematch 23-9, meaning the Hurricanes defeated FIU by a combined score of 58-9 in the all-time series. With the two schools separated by a few miles, hostilities are bound to bubble to the surface.
Davis wants show Miami they should have chosen him over CMR. Likewise UM is looking to show that they’re doing just fine with their selection. The Canes look to once again crush the dreams of the little guys and put together one final beatdown before they set off to regain the ACC Coastal division crown. Don’t expect either head coach to admit it, but the one-upmanship between the two should be on display as the battle of the 305 renews once more.
Butch may be back, but this time around that familiar face wears unfamiliars colors. Instead of helping to building up the U, he’ll look to demolish all semblance of progress for the Canes. Regardless of your feelings for the former coach, all parties feel they’re trending towards a breakthrough. Hopefully not at the Canes expense.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!