CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Butch Davis wants to be a head coach again.
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North Carolina fired him last July amid a series of embarrassing revelations during an NCAA investigation of his football program. The school said there was too much damage for him to stay even though he wasn’t linked to a violation, and now he’s working as a consultant with an NFL team hoping to become a head coach again.
“I would love to think that the things we’ve accomplished over 37 years, that this one particular deal will not define me as a man nor as a coach,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The former University of Miami and Cleveland Browns coach said he tried to build a reputation of “someone that people can believe in, somebody that people can trust.” He pointed to his success rebuilding a Hurricanes program racked by NCAA sanctions into a power that won the 2001 national championship the year after he joined the Browns.
However, Davis is still involved in a public records fight with media outlets seeking his personal cellphone records. The outlets, including the AP, have argued he used his phone for job duties instead of his university phone. His attorney has said the records aren’t public records, though Davis — who said he’d release them before he was fired — wouldn’t object to a judge reviewing them to protect the privacy of friends and professional contacts.
The school has said outside counsel reviewed Davis’ records and found “nothing of concern.” A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Davis is fighting to rebuild his reputation, which was tarnished by the investigation of improper benefits and academic misconduct at UNC.
The only career opportunity currently on the table is working as a “special assistant” to Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, a former Davis assistant at Miami. But Davis is ready for the next round of job openings, armed with the NCAA’s March ruling that doesn’t cite him for wrongdoing.
Dick Baddour, UNC’s former athletic director who hired Davis in 2006, said that report will help. He even called schools supporting Davis for jobs last fall and is willing to do it again.
“I hope Butch gets another chance,” Baddour said. “I believe he will get another chance. I think he deserves another opportunity at the collegiate level.”
The infractions, including players taking jewelry from outside the program and receiving improper assistance on papers, touched Davis only by occurring on his watch. When he fired Davis, Chancellor Holden Thorp said he didn’t believe Davis knew of the violations, including by a tutor who had worked previously with Davis’ teenage son and an assistant tied to an NFL agent.
Since the firing wasn’t “for cause,” it could cost $2.7 million by 2015 in contractual obligations unless Davis gets another coaching position.
Seven months later, the NCAA imposed a one-year bowl ban and additional scholarship reductions (15 total) on top of self-imposed school penalties that included 16 vacated wins from 2008 and 2009, and probation.
“The timing of the dismissal made everybody look like the other shoe was going to drop: `Why would they do it a week before the start of the season? There’s got to be something,'” Davis said. “And you can say to people that, `Well, here’s what I know: I’m not going to be named in the allegations when it comes out.’ But now it’s us sitting here having to wait … to finally prove in writing what we had been saying all along.”
Davis, 60, said he wanted UNC to be his final coaching stop. Instead, he’ll watch Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora take over this fall with a roster that includes his son, Drew, as a walk-on freshman quarterback.
Davis’ wife, Tammy, described the past two years as “excruciating.” She said investigations by the NCAA, school and North Carolina Secretary of State’s office — which reviewed whether state sports agent laws were broken — would’ve uncovered any wrongdoing by her husband and that he was punished for others’ misdeeds.
Davis has denied any connection to the school’s investigation into the Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM). The probe found fraud and poor oversight in 54 classes between summer 2007 and summer 2011, with football players representing 36 percent of enrollments.
Davis said he never met the now-retired department chairman cited in the probe nor steered players to AFAM classes, adding that coaches only told players to avoid conflicts with practices.
Regardless, the mess hangs over an otherwise strong resume.
An assistant to Jimmy Johnson with Miami and the Dallas Cowboys, Davis won five bowl games and coached 32 first-round picks as a head coach. He led the Browns to their only playoff appearance since returning to Cleveland in 1999. The American Football Coaches Association recognized his teams for graduation rates, a point of pride for the former high school biology teacher.
But he’ll also have to talk about how everything went wrong at North Carolina.
“To me, past and previous experiences have an awful lot to say about what you’ve done,” he said. “I would like to think that people would look at the successes and the things we did with the program at Miami. I am regretful that things got out of hand here. I wish that I would’ve been able to have prevented it.”