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Hello, Cleveland

Browns officially hire Butch Davis as head coach

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Tuesday January 30, 2001 12:14 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 30, 2001 4:34 PM

  Butch Davis Team president Carmen Policy said Butch Davis was the No. 1 candidate of the Browns organization. AP

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Nobody's hiding secrets, withholding information or denying rumors anymore. Butch Davis is the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns introduced Davis on Tuesday, a day after he ended a month of speculation and gossip about his future at the University of Miami by resigning as coach of the Hurricanes.

Davis, a six-year NFL assistant who won two Super Bowl rings in Dallas, spent six seasons at Miami and returned the Hurricanes to national title contention. He'll have an even bigger job in Cleveland, where the Browns have been outclassed by the rest of the NFL for the last two years.

"If I was going to make the change and leave the University of Miami, this would be the this would be the premier place I could go," Davis said. "This would be the type of organization that would give you a chance and give you the resources to win."

The surprising announcement that the Browns had hired Davis was welcome relief to Cleveland fans still reeling at the sight of seeing former Browns owner Art Modell winning a Super Bowl title with Baltimore.

SI's Peter King
The Browns have some talent but will still need to stock up heavily at the draft to become a winner. Butch Davis' experience in getting the scoop on prospective draftees from his days with the Cowboys can only help him build a winner in Cleveland. 

Team president Carmen Policy said that from the start of the Browns' coaching search "Butch Davis was the No. 1 candidate of this organization."

But the Browns didn't think they had a chance at hiring Davis until last weekend.

Davis received a five-year deal. According to Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, the deal is worth $15 million.

Kansas City recently signed Dick Vermeil to a $10 million, three-year contract.

In recent weeks, both Davis and the Browns had rejected rumors that he would come to Cleveland, and Policy said only a series of unexpected developments led to the hiring.

Davis met with Policy and team owner Al Lerner in Florida on Jan. 13 but rejected a pitch from the Browns.

Davis repeatedly denied his interest in the Browns' opening, and agreed to terms last week on a contract extension with the Hurricanes. Davis never signed the deal and it became apparent that he and Miami officials had some issue that remained.

Policy said things changed late last week when he spoke with Davis' agent, Marvin Demoff, who said there might be a glimmer of interest.

"That started a whirlwind of activity that lasted until about 2 a.m. Monday," Policy said, adding that he missed the Super Bowl because of the negotiations.

A good portion of the deal with Davis came together during the weekend, but Browns officials kept it under wraps until after Super Bowl on Sunday. The league asks teams to not make any major announcements that would steal some of the spotlight from the NFL's title game.

However, according to a league source, Davis and university officials are believed to have been negotiating the terms of a buyout clause for about the last 10 days. The sticking point became when the sides could not agree on the terms of Davis' buyout clause that would allow him to pursue an NFL head-coaching opportunity.

In effect, the university was asking Davis to repay a significant portion of his salary for the past two seasons in order to coach the Browns. The talks among Davis and the Browns and the university and Davis have ebbed and flowed for the past 10 days. As recently as Sunday night, the terms of Davis' buyout clause was still an issue, with the possibility of being a deal breaker.

The Browns had been looking for a coach since Jan. 11, when they fired Chris Palmer after a disturbing and injury-ravaged 3-13 season.

"He's a solid coach and a great pick," Browns guard Jim Pyne said of Davis. "He's a high-energy guy who has a lot of enthusiasm and fire. He's a tough disciplinarian, and that can only help a young team. I'm really happy he's coming."

The Browns had one of the league's youngest rosters last season, and Policy had hoped to hire a coach who would relate to young players. Davis was tough but popular with his teams at Miami.

For weeks Davis denied he would leave Miami, where he inherited a program in 1995 racked by scandal and under NCAA sanctions. He had been working on a contract extension with the university.

Money could be another big reason Davis changed his mind.

Davis' contract with Miami paid him $900,000 annually, and the school's new five-year offer was said to be worth about $1.3 million a year. Palmer made about $1 million a year with Cleveland and is being paid the final three years of his deal by Lerner, a billionaire banker.

Davis told the Hurricanes' players of his decision Monday morning. His departure came just a week before national signing day, leaving the school in a bind to keep recruits.

The 49-year-old Davis, who interviewed for the expansion Houston Texans' head coaching job, reportedly had lost interest in pursuing a job with the Browns because he would not have full control of football operations in Cleveland. Dwight Clark is in charge of personnel decisions with the Browns, and that's the way it will stay, Policy said Tuesday.

Davis turned around Miami's troubled program, which had been hit with numerous NCAA violations that stripped the school of scholarships and banned the 'Canes from bowl appearances. A Sports Illustrated cover story called for the university to abolish the program.

This season, Davis led Miami to an 11-1 record and a 37-20 rout of Florida in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.

Known as a strict disciplinarian, Davis also served as a defensive assistant coach, then coordinator for Dallas under Jimmy Johnson from 1989-94, when the Cowboys won two Super Bowls.

Davis inherits a Browns team that went 5-27 in its first two years back in the league.

The Browns ranked near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories in 1999 and 2000. They were shut out four times last season in losing 12 of their last 13 games.

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks contributed to this report.

Related information
Cleveland fires Palmer after two seasons
Cleveland to name Davis head coach
SI's Ivan Maisel: Davis' departure shouldn't slow Hurricanes
SI's Peter King: Davis came into picture (again) late for Browns
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