Wrongdoing: Butch Davis Earns Millions After Firing
Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was an old curmudgeon to some folks, a demanding taskmaster to his players who loved him, and surely a coach with a very short fuse.
That hot temper cost him his job when, on Dec. 29, 1978, he punched Clemson’s Charlie Bauman after the defensive back intercepted an Art Schlichter pass late in the Gator Bowl game that the Buckeyes lost, 17-15.
The following day, Hayes was fired, ending his very successful 28 years as Ohio State’s football coach, 1951-1978.
Ohio State opened its 1979 football season with Earle Bruce at the helm and Woody Hayes a mere spectator in Ohio Stadium, Sept. 8. Nobody suggested Hayes should not be there for the game as Ohio State defeated Syracuse, 31-8.
That day was the last time I got to talk with Woody Hayes, when I ran into him having breakfast with friends before the game in the Columbus motel where I had spent the previous night. He was as pleasant as ever as we spoke of times gone by and of the future for Ohio State football.
I always liked Woody for his candor and intelligence. As usual, he gave me a good story to write that morning.
When the game ended, Woody got up with his friends and left Ohio Stadium. He attended many another Ohio State game just as John Wooden attended UCLA basketball games for years after he retired as the Bruins’ longtime and very successful coach.
But at the conclusion of Ohio State’s first game after Hayes was fired, coach Earle Bruce, who played under Hayes and was an assistant coach under Hayes at Ohio State, did not present Hayes with the game ball even though Buckeye fans would probably not have objected if he did. After all, Woody lost his temper, not the school’s reputation for athletic integrity.
The Buckeyes’ football reputation was destroyed 23 years after Hayes died in 1987.
How times have changed.
Take North Carolina’s fired football coach, Butch Davis, for instance. He surely has chutzpah.
Everett Withers, who is the interim head coach, surely has poor judgment.
In one of the bizarre acts involved in the University of North Carolina’s currently messed up football scene, Butch Davis not only attended the Tar Heels’ opening game victory over James Madison, Sept. 3, in Kenan Stadium, but he had the temerity to accept the game ball from his former assistant, Withers, who apparently does not know exactly where his loyalties should be.
All of this happened just five-and-a-half weeks after Davis was given the ax by North Carolina’s chancellor, Holden Thorp, in a long overdue move to begin restoring a modicum of integrity to the Tar Heels’ football program. In a sense it was a move to regain honesty for the entire North Carolina athletic program, which suffers from what happened in the football department under Davis.
Davis earned a $1.7 million annual salary at North Carolina and was given a $2.5 million payoff upon being told to get lost. This severance will be paid over two years.
The details of the recruiting and academic misconduct by North Carolina’s football personnel plus the involvement of pro agents with the Tar Heel football players have been told and retold time and time again over the past 14 months. The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the university have suspended some Carolina players for a few games as a result of their involvement in said wrongdoing.
But meanwhile, Davis lives high off the hog with those big paychecks still coming in. He can easily afford to pal around with the North Carolina high roller boosters who camp out on home-game Saturdays in those fancy Blue Section seats at Kenan.
That must be wonderful news for students, faculty and other employees of the University of North Carolina’s 17-campus system, where 488 full-time and 2,500 part-time workers have been dismissed because of drastic statewide budget cuts.
UNC-Chapel Hill has been hit harder than any of the other 16 institutions with the largest budget reduction in the system, at nearly 18 percent.
According to a report by Jane Stancill in the Raleigh News and Observer nine days ago, most of the faculty members let go “were contract instructors, known as adjunct professors.” Stancill wrote, “That means bigger classes and fewer academic choices for the university system’s 220,000 students. For example, UNC Greensboro has cut 975 course sections, or about 40,000 student seats.”
How nice to know that Davis, the man in charge when the Chapel Hill football people misbehaved, is being paid more money to go away than would be necessary to save the jobs of many of those honest faculty members.
Three cheers for big time football. It seems to beat big time academics every time.
In addition, Butch Davis gets to keep a game ball because the temporary head coach doesn’t realize that Chancellor Thorp is his boss and that no longer is Davis in the picture.
Woody Hayes, the grand old man of Ohio State football who is an icon in the state of Ohio to this day, never came close to being paid $1.7 million a year. And he did not walk away with $2.5 million in severance.
These present day football coaches remind me of Wall Street bankers. They screwed up for a fare-thee-well and are laughing up their sleeves as they get more and more money to do the same thing over and over again.
Davis, a University of Arkansas student and football player under coach Frank Broyles, worked his way up in coaching through high school football and then as an assistant at Oklahoma State and the University of Miami before becoming an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys for five years. He was head coach at the University of Miami, 1995–2000, and then head coach of the Cleveland Browns, 2001–2004.
Davis served as a TV commentator on the sport for a couple of years until hired by North Carolina to be the Tar Heels’ head coach in 2007. The rest is history, even if a bit shady at that.
Considering all the economic troubles our nation and state are going through at present and considering the cloud under which Davis stood before departing North Carolina’s head coaching job, it might be nice if Davis would at least turn over the lion’s share of that cash he is getting to some of the charities he keeps saying he serves so well.
He should also return any game ball he receives since they showed him the exit door at Chapel Hill, not the door to the trophy room.
Woody Hayes might have lost his temper and thus his job. But his misconduct never resulted in him taking home a small fortune plus a game ball.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His email is email@example.com.
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