When Al Golden accepted the head coaching position with the University of Miami football team back in December of 2010, he did so knowing that the job came with some inherent risks.
Miami is a distracting city, an appeal that recruits players to this university by itself.
This appeal is a blessing and a curse, and it didn’t take Golden long to figure out just how ugly a curse it can be.
As we sit here in the first week of classes, before a single snap of real football has been played, Golden’s dream job is already a nightmare.
The recent scandal involving an alarming number of past and current players was initially a very surprising development. Indeed, the Hurricane faithful had been told time and time again by the former coaching regime just how clean the team’s off-the-field record was, and how great the Hurricanes’ academic standing was with the NCAA.
As we all know, this was a misleading bill of goods that Randy Shannon and company shelled out to distract from complete mediocrity on the gridiron.
In a city like this, it is virtually impossible to run a 100 percent clean program. There’s too much to do, too many sketchy people running around with big boats and bigger pockets. And now that the news of the Shapiro-gate has finally settled in, it should shock absolutely no one.
Except, maybe Al Golden.
Only a few people know exactly what was said to Golden when he sat down with President Donna E. Shalala and former athletic director Kirby Hocutt before he took the reigns of this once prestigious program.
And if you believe Golden, maybe the only person with his hands completely clean in this mess, he wasn’t told much.
“If they knew this was percolating, I believe they did have a responsibility to tell me,” Golden said recently. “But look, I’m happy here. My wife is happy here. We’ve got great kids on this team.”
Did they know this was percolating? Time will tell. Again, Golden knew that this job came with unique challenges, but he deserved better than this. Make no mistake about it: if Golden stays here through the duration of his contract, he’s a saint.
This isn’t a criticism of the players involved, because at this point this is a bigger problem than free dinners and sex parties. At the moment Ohio State, USC and Miami, three of college football’s most celebrated programs, are all in hot water with the NCAA.
This isn’t a criticism of former coach Randy Shannon who, according to recent reports on CaneSport.com, made it abundantly clear to coaches and players to disassociate themselves from Nevin Shapiro at all costs.
It’s a criticism of the system. The NCAA is broken. It is so, so broken. Just take a look at the case of former Buckeye Terrell Pryor. Last season he was allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl for Ohio State, even though his suspension was already announced for the first five games of the upcoming 2011 season. Apparently too many people bought tickets to that game to not see Pryor play.
And now that he has decided to bolt for the NFL, he will face a five-game suspension at the professional level because apparently the NCAA and NFL work together in disciplining players.
Yet Pete Carroll leaves USC for the NFL while the entire football program burned to the ground and nothing happens. He didn’t receive a five-game suspension. He received complete control of the Seattle Seahawks.
That is why all of this talk about the death penalty is nonsense. Sure, Miami will get hit hard, and you can kiss away any dreams of returning to a national championship for quite some time, but this football program isn’t going anywhere.
There’s just too much money involved, and to completely destroy one of college football’s most celebrated programs would be more embarrassing to the NCAA than the entirety of this mess.
So while everyone wears their orange t-shirts and jerseys to class this week and rallies around the Hurricanes, a team that has only disappointed for the better part of the last decade, think of Al Golden. He deserved better than this.