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What If Wednesday: What If Butch Davis Didn’t Leave After The 2000 Season?

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He was in line to become one of the greatest coaches in Miami history, and then he was gone.

Butch Davis

It’s Wednesday again, that special time of week has reached us, and you know that means, it’s time for “What If Wednesday.” Every other week, I take your guys’ suggestions and dive into the history of the Miami Hurricanes, look at different outcomes to losses, coaching decisions and injuries.

This week, we’re looking at a scenario that I've been waiting to do since I started this series, and I'm finally getting around to it. Today, we’re going to look at coach Butch Davis, and what would’ve been if he had stayed at the University of Miami following the 2000 season.

Coach Davis took over at UM prior to the 1995 season, and for six seasons he helped take Miami’s program from the depths of hell brought on by NCAA sanctions, to a position in 2000 where he had the Hurricanes nearly competing for a national championship.

However, days following Miami’s Sugar Bowl victory over Florida in January of 2001, Davis announced that he’d be leaving UM to become the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns, leaving Larry Coker in charge of the Hurricanes.

Now a lot of people like to debate on what would've happened if Howard Schellenberger or Jimmy Johnson stayed at Miami, and in fact I've wrote about it.

For me though, the situation with Butch is the most interesting to consider. What’s really fascinating is the fact that you never hear Jimmy or Howard really say they “regretted” leaving Miami for other jobs, but Davis has said that.

So let’s dive into it!

Let’s state the absolute obvious outcomes if Davis stays. For starters, the Hurricanes still go on to win the national championship in 2001, and perhaps they do it in even more dominating fashion, if that’s possible.

In my opinion, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this thought, Butch was a head above other coaches when it came to recruiting as well as keeping his players on a tight leash.

With recruiting, the amount of talent that Davis was able to bring to Miami is absolutely astonishing. All those players that were on the 2001, 02 and 03 teams, almost all of them were recruited by Butch. His final recruiting class in 2000 featured players such as Willis McGahee, Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams.

When Miami was dealt with limited football scholarships in the mid to late 90’s, it was Butch who was able to see that a guy like Santana Moss could go to UM for track and then walk-on to the football team. Same thing happened with another well-known receiver by the name of Reggie Wayne. Coach Davis was the one who saw more than just a two-star rating that Ed Reed was given.

I mean, I don't think people fully understand the in-depth homework that Davis and his staff did when it came to recruiting.

That’s something that fell off once Butch left. It’s reported that the homework on high school players wasn’t done to the same extent once Coker came in as the head coach. Sure, they’d sign five-star players, but they weren’t Miami guys. They came into the program wanting to do their own thing, and it’s a cycle that just kept repeating itself. They didn’t have guys like Ken Dorsey, Al Blades and Damien Lewis holding them responsible.

So what if Butch stays at Miami, and doesn't jet off to Cleveland? Well, that same level of commitment from players continues throughout the team.

The drop-off was apparent only several years following Davis’ departure, when in 2003 we saw the Hurricanes slowly decline. Fights, suspensions, you name it, that same amount of discipline just wasn’t there.

If Davis stays at Miami, not only do I know they win the title in 2001, I truly believe that they’d win at least two more after that. The direction that Butch had UM going in at the time he left, it was incredible.

Let’s also discuss what would’ve happened to the Browns had Davis not gone to Cleveland. People forget, Butch remains the only coach to lead the Browns to the playoffs since the franchise came back to Cleveland in 1999.

If Butch stays in Miami, the Browns hire either John Fox or Marvin Lewis, who were the other two candidates in their search for a new head coach. With Fox, the Browns most likely would’ve found success, and with Lewis it’s 50/50.

Now let’s get to another subject. As I mentioned before, and something you’ll here from players that played for Butch, he had those guys on those teams in line, and there’s a very good reason for that. Davis took over UM when the NCAA was throwing fire and brimstone at them, he knew it wasn’t fun to have sanctions against you.

Reason I bring this up goes back to that one guy, Nevin Shapiro. I’m not going to express my feelings about Shapiro, but we know what he did. Another thing we know is that he was involved with the University of Miami program from 2002 until 2010, coming into relation with UM right after Butch left.

So, what if Butch stays at Miami? I can tell you that I don't think Nevin becomes involved involved with the program. When you experience the wrath of the NCAA, including the loss of 31 scholarships, you know when something is afoot like a situation with Shapiro.