There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that head coach Al Golden led the University of Miami football program through one of its most tumultuous periods in history. Scholarship restrictions, bowl bans and probation were all part of an exhausting and difficult battle against the NCAA’s ruling following the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
In his fifth season in charge of the Hurricanes, Golden now faces a new type of battle, one against the pressure of excellence. For a storied program longing to relive the greatness of the teams from the ’80s and early 2000s, just making progress will no longer cut it.
Things looked rosy at the start of the 2013 season as the Canes reeled off seven consecutive victories, including a thrilling 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida. Shooting up to No. 7 in the rankings, Miami found itself in a prime-time game against No. 3 Florida State and Jameis Winston. Since that crushing loss against the eventual national champion Seminoles, it has seemingly been all downhill for the Canes.
The Hurricanes have gone 8-11 since the loss to FSU and haven’t found the momentum that carried the program back into the BCS Top 10 for the first time since 2009. To make matters worse for Golden and the coaching staff, Miami fans have watched as rival Florida State has grabbed an edge in recruiting, a clear dominance in the rivalry and the trophies that make them the best team in the Sunshine State.
Despite the fact that Golden had to deal with damaging NCAA restrictions in his first season, Canes fans seem steadfast that the coach needs to at least contend for an ACC Coastal title this year to keep his job.
In the unforgiving world of college coaching, it doesn’t matter that Duke Johnson broke his ankle in 2013 vs. FSU, costing the Canes their most talented player for the season. Golden receives little credit from the rabid fanbase for his decision to start Brad Kaaya at quarterback as a true freshman.
Golden has done well with the cards he’s been dealt, but for the glory-hungry fans of “the U”, that doesn’t cut it.
A 28-22 overall record at Miami, is that good enough?
Having seven players drafted into the NFL from the 2014 team that finished 6-7, is that acceptable?
Those answers may be unclear, but what is clear to see is that Golden is under immense pressure to win now and contend for a division title this season. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s obvious Golden has another big battle on his hands.