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Miami's Butch Davis decorates his office with a coach's typical accoutrements: pictures of his wife and son (to show visitors he's a family man), keepsakes from his playing and coaching careers (to show he has a proper football pedigree), a row of motivational books (to show he wants all the latest know-how on leading young men) and various Hurricanes trinkets (to show he bleeds orange and green). His suite overlooking the on-campus practice fields in Coral Gables is also filled with empty moving boxes, as Davis waits for construction to begin on Miami's $8 million weight room and football offices and he's asked to temporarily relocate. "I'll start packing when I see bulldozers outside my window," Davis says. "That's when I'll believe it's going to happen."
This attitude is nothing new for Davis. While restoring the Hurricanes to greatness since taking over Dennis Erickson's probation-burdened mess in 1995, Davis has encouraged a sort of glass-half-empty cult of sympathy. Pity Miami for the talent vacuum created by the loss of 31 scholarships over three years as a result of the NCAA sanctions. Pity Miami for its meeting, practice and training facilities, a Division I-A ghetto compared with the palaces at places like Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Pity Davis for turning down the bigger money offered by NFL teams and other college programs—"Twice my salary here," he says—to stay at Miami.
In the week leading to last Saturday's game against Virginia Tech, Davis aimed his frustration at the ground that hadn't been broken for the weight room and football facility. (Athletic director Paul Dee says that the city of Coral Gables, which has strict construction codes, is delaying the project.) "The money's been raised, a lot of it from former players," Davis said. " Edgerrin James [now of the Indianapolis Colts] wrote a check for $250,000."
Last week Davis also re-pledged his allegiance to Miami, though he said his salary (at least $700,000, according to sources) "isn't even in the top 30 among college coaches." Dee blanched at that assertion. "At the start of this season, he was clearly in the top 10," said Dee. "I'm afraid Butch is a little bit given to overstatement."
Davis doesn't speak like a coach who has brought a program back from embarrassment but like a man who has become accustomed to complaining. It's a habit he must break, because the crying game is over. Miami is mighty Miami again.
Though the rebuilt Hurricanes proved their mettle in a 27-24 upset of then No. 1 Florida State on Oct. 7, their 41-21 throttling of Virginia Tech, which was 8-0 and ranked second in the nation, was just as significant. In that game Miami rediscovered its identity. The Hurricanes scored five touchdowns from at least 42 yards out; smacked around the Hokies, who had spent the week whining about Miami's dirty play in the teams' 1999 game; and in general parried with an Orange Bowl crowd of more than 77,000 as if it were '89. "I've been coming to this place my whole life," said senior free safety Al Blades, whose brothers Bennie and Brian starred for rough and raucous Hurricanes teams in the '80s. "Today was the way if s supposed to be. Crowd going crazy, us playing hard-nosed football."
Beating Virginia Tech was cathartic for Miami, whose long afternoon of intimidation included two personal fouls and one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. As the Hurricanes stammered through probation and its aftermath, the Hokies blossomed into the premier program in the Big East. They beat Miami five consecutive times, including a 43-10 thrashing in Blacksburg a year ago. This season the Hurricanes had a theme. "Enough is enough," said senior cornerback Leonard Myers after Saturday's game. "That's what the seniors kept telling the young guys on the team."
One of those seniors, wideout Santana Moss, was at the center of the victory. He caught four passes for 154 yards, including two of Ken Dorsey's three touchdown throws. The first came from 42 yards, when Moss crossed through the middle of a blown coverage and gave the Hurricanes a 7-0 lead. Early in the fourth quarter Moss ran a deep route and scored on an 80-yard play, stretching Miami's lead to 35-7
Few careers have begun less auspiciously than Moss's did in the fall of 1997. He had won two state triple-jump championships while at Carol City High in North Miami and came to Coral Gables on a track and field scholarship, though he intended to play football too. After the second game of his freshman year, a 28-17 loss to West Virginia at the Orange Bowl, Moss was arrested after a fight at a nightclub and charged with battery on a police officer, a felony. Moss says he simply put his arm on a policeman's shoulder, trying to help a friend, but that explanation didn't keep him from having to spend a night in jail. His parents visited him, as did Davis. Frightened and embarrassed, Santana wept openly.