FIU Head Coach Butch Davis Will Not Return to Panthers Next Year

FIU Head Coach Butch Davis Will Not Return to Panthers Next Year article feature image
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Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: Butch Davis.

Butch Davis, who led Florida International to three bowl games and the biggest win in school history against Miami in 2019, will not return as the Panthers’ coach, he told The Action Network.

Davis’ contract expires on Dec. 15. Davis’ agent had asked FIU for a one-year extension, but FIU officials would not extend his deal.

Before Davis arrived at FIU in 2017, the Panthers had five consecutive losing seasons and had only been to two bowl games in school history. FIU had only two winning seasons in 13 years before Davis’ arrival.

However, Davis immediately turned around the program, with back-to-back winning seasons. In his first three seasons, FIU was 23-16, the best three-year mark in school history.

Davis, who is 24-30 in five seasons with FIU and has a 103-73 record as a college coach, was notified by FIU he would not be returning four days before his 70th birthday.

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Davis Succeeds Despite Challenges from FIU’s Administration

Davis’ success at FIU was more impressive, considering the challenges he faced at the school from his administration.

Davis said he was allowed to only offer one-year contracts to assistants, hampering his ability to hire coaches who could get multi-year deals elsewhere.

When Davis arrived in 2017, he found out all the shoulder pads were at least 10 years old. The school wouldn’t provide the money to purchase new shoulder pads, but an assistant coach had a contact at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs’ program had shoulder pads that were five years old, but they were replacing them, so Mississippi State gave FIU its shoulder pads at no cost.

“They were five years old,” Davis said. “But they were new to us.”

In today’s college football world, where some schools get new uniform combos literally every game, FIU is using uniforms that are nine years old, Davis said.

Davis also said his coaching staff was not allowed to go on the road recruiting the past two years because of the school’s financial reasons and COVID-19.

In early October, the school ultimately undercut Davis. After five games, FIU posted on the school’s official website and also the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) website an opening for the head coaching position.

The school said FIU’s university website lists job postings for each head coach and assistant in every sport even when there are no openings but did not address the AFCA posting.

“This year has been a nightmare,” Davis said. “You can imagine the players’ reaction when a head coach’s job was posted online. The administration has been sabotaging the program.

“Their decisions to post the job has resulted in a major negative impact on the football program and our ability to recruit and retain players.”

Athletic director Pete Garcia, who hired Davis, stepped down last week as the school’s AD.

FIU Decimated by Injuries Past 3 Years

FIU is 1-9 this season and has been decimated by injuries for the past three years, losing 34 players to season-ending injuries, including 13 this year.

Of 85 scholarship players on this year’s team, 21 have suffered season-ending injuries or left the team for various reasons, including 13 starters.

Last year during COVID-19, Davis said he didn’t believe it was safe to play because FIU didn’t have enough healthy players.

FIU had only 50 players available — 20 of those were walk-ons — but still played five games.

Davis’ resurrection of FIU was the latest where he turned a program around.

Before FIU, Davis was head coach at North Carolina, Miami and with the Cleveland Browns. At UNC and Miami, Davis’ teams had winning seasons in eight of his 10 years and Miami finished No. 2 in the final 2000 AP Poll.

With Cleveland from 1995-2000, Davis took the Browns to their only playoff appearance in a 22-year span between 1995 and 2019.

At FIU, the school enjoyed the best three-year record in school history and achieved the highest APR in school history.

The opening at FIU is the 11th FBS coaching change at this point of the season. Other current openings are at LSU, USC, TCU, Washington, Washington State, Akron and UMass.

The other three have already been filled at UConn (Jim Mora), Texas Tech (Joey McGuire) and Georgia Southern (Clay Helton). Also, FCS member Jacksonville State, which is transitioning to FBS and will join C-USA in 2023, also made a coaching change.

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