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THOUGH LOVE
William Nack
August 19, 1996
Coach Butch Davis aims to save Miami football no matter how many players he has to suspend
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August 19, 1996

Though Love

Coach Butch Davis aims to save Miami football no matter how many players he has to suspend

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The players learned soon enough that they were all equal hands sailing a tight ship. Davis had inherited a program in which players who cut class were punished by being made to run extra laps. "That wasn't changing their behavior," he says. "They run laps anyway." So he began to keep the truants in civilian clothes on Saturday afternoons, taking from them what they valued most. "Class attendance went up," Davis says.

When safety Tremain Mack was a few minutes late for the team bus to catch a plane for a game against Boston College last November, Davis's secretary called him at the airport to ask if he would hold the charter. Or did he want the young man put on a later flight? "No," Davis answered to both questions. "He missed the bus. He stays home."

K.C. Jones, the best offensive lineman on the team, had started 28 consecutive games and was shooting for the Miami record of 48 straight when he arrived five minutes late to a team meeting in October. On the morning of the Hurricanes' next game, against Rutgers, Davis called Jones in to tell him he would be benched for the game's opening series.

"I'm sorry," Jones pleaded. "I had a flat tire."

"This is the way we run the program," Davis said. "You were late. I've got to do what I've got to do."

That was "one of the most horrible days of my life," says Jones, who returns for his senior season this fall. "But Coach has a job to do. I totally agree with it. The players all like it. They all respect it. We know we walk a fine line with him." Jones has not been late to another team meeting.

Nothing more vividly conveyed Davis's attitude than the way he handled the incident involving German, Burgess and Taylor. "I attribute two Super Bowls and one national championship to the strength of the character of the football teams," Davis said, preaching his favorite gospel on the day he announced the suspensions. "I'm not going to dance around the issue. It's gonna be this way or the highway."

For years, as the Miami football program orbited beyond the pull of the laws that govern the university community, the Hurricanes had been a source of embarrassment to the faculty. Some professors are encouraged by what Davis has done. "In the past it was win, win, win at whatever the cost," says Michael K. Phang, a professor at the College of Engineering and its faculty representative to the athletic department. "Not anymore. I am comfortable with this coach."

But can the Hurricanes continue to win, win, win now that they're on Davis's short leash? "We did it right last year, and we won," says Coley, the linebacker. And if some coveted recruits have been put off by Miami's lawless image, as has been reported, Davis now stands a better chance of persuading them to come to Coral Gables. This year, with only 12 scholarships to offer, Davis has lured some strong defensive linemen, including Damione Lewis of Sulphur Springs, Texas, a 6'4", 250-pound tackle rated the best in the country.

And Davis, despite the pressures inherent in building a winning team within the NCAA's rules, feels at home at Miami. Last summer, before he had coached his first game with the Hurricanes, someone asked him how he wanted to be remembered. Davis thought about that a long time. "That he did it with class," he finally said.

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