FIU made as big a splash as a CUSA team could make, hiring former Miami, Cleveland, and North Carolina coach Butch Davis to take over the Panther program, starting in 2017. Davis engineered Miami's return to national prominence in the late 90's/early 2000's and assembled perhaps the most talented roster in college football history.
Perhaps more impressively, Davis took the Cleveland Browns to the NFL playoffs in 2002, Something the Browns haven't done since his departure. When you take the Browns to the playoffs you're either a wizard or a good football coach.
FIU is an interesting landing spot for Davis who cut his teeth under Jimmy Johnson at the "U" just up the road. Davis knows how to recruit and evaluate talent and he's done it in south Florida. FIU has been searching for the right hire since it let Mario Christobal go in 2012. Christobal is the only head coach in the Panther's brief history to achieve a winning record and take FIU to a bowl game, actually consecutive bowl games in 2010 & 2011. Perhaps Christobal is a wizard.
For the league as a whole, Davis adds some credibility to its coaching roster which is a good development. Making smart hires is of upmost importance not only for a school but for its league as well. Take the AAC, people rolled their eyes at the league's formation, with members spanning the half the country, but the AAC has risen steadily and is now considered at worst a notch below the Power Five if not on somewhat equal footing with the Big 12. Last week Bill Connelly and Steven Godfrey on his "Podcast Ain't Played Nobody" show made a pretty compelling argument that the top six of the AAC could match the top six of the Big 12.
A big reason is the AAC's coaching roster. Last season the conference boasted a number of talented coaches that elevated their respective programs to heights never before attained. Look at what Tom Herman, Justin Fuente, Matt Rhule, Willie Taggart, Ken Niumatalolo and Phillip Montgomery have done in their time in the AAC. Fuente moved on and many suspect Herman will be next. Now Chad Morris, a slam dunk hire for SMU, is turning the Mustang program around and Scott Frost, the former Oregon assistant has revitalized Central Florida. The AAC's upper echelon is competitive with most Power 5 programs.
CUSA has a decent roster of coaches, but adding Davis raises the profile of the conference. With four new hires in the Western Division, none of whom who've been head coaches, Davis helps the league with an established, name brand coach. The two Florida schools, FIU, and FAU have always been more form over substance. They're located in a large market, with large enrollments, but football has never take off at either institution. Attendance is sparse and neither school moves the needle either at a league level or nationally. Maybe Davis can change that at FIU and by doing so, elevate the league.
At this point, with expansion and realignment on the back burner for now, the league has a chance to build its brand and more importantly the brand of the member institutions. Hiring coaches like Butch Davis who can make non-competitive program more competitive only helps.
|1998||Miami||9–3||5–2||T–2nd||W Micron PC||21||20|
|2007||North Carolina||4–8||3–5||4th (Coastal)|
|2008||North Carolina||8–5||4–4||T–3rd (Coastal)||L Meineke Car Care|
|2009||North Carolina||8–5||4–4||4th (Coastal)||L Meineke Car Care|
|2010||North Carolina||8–5||4–4||T–3rd (Coastal)||W Music City|