Following an embarrassing 58-0 loss to Clemson on Saturday, it was evident that Al Golden’s days as Miami’s head football coach were numbered. The only real question remaining after the humiliating defeat was whether or not the Hurricanes coach would make it to the end of the season.
That question was answered on Sunday evening when athletic director Blake James announced that Golden had been let go.
“Coach Golden has led our program through some very difficult times, and he has done so with class, integrity and a true desire to see our students succeed on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” James said in a statement. “However, we have a proud tradition of excellence at Miami, not just in football but in all sports, and we want to compete for ACC and national championships. I simply believe that now is the time to bring the Hurricane Family together and rally behind our young men.”
The part about wanting “to compete for ACC and national championships” sums up the difference between the program’s goals and the direction in which Golden’s team was headed.
When Golden was hired at Miami, the Hurricanes were seven years removed from their last 10-win season, but championship aspirations were still present. While there were no expectations of a top-10 finish in Year 1, his job was to guide the program back to national relevance.
Between rebuilding a team that finished 7-6 the year before he arrived and dealing with an NCAA scandal — a scandal that originated before he was hired — that resulted in 2011 and 2012 bowl bans and years worth of uncertainty, the coach had his hands full early on.
However, the program got off to a 7-0 start in 2013, and while the team failed to finish strong that season, there were promising signs that Miami was becoming a legitimate contender within the ACC. Despite being picked by the media to win the Coastal Division in 2014, though, a disappointing 6-7 finish erased hope that the Hurricanes were on the verge of a special run.
By no means was the Golden era a total disaster. Despite what seemed like a never-ending NCAA investigation, Golden recruited fairly well while in Coral Gables. His win percentage was slightly better than that of his predecessor, Randy Shannon. There are even some nice pieces in place for whoever is hired as the next full-time head coach.
But a change had to be made. On multiple occasions this season, planes would fly over stadiums before Miami games with banners calling for Golden to be fired. The players didn’t appear to be on the same page as the staff. The team would often quit when trailing, and this season the Hurricanes have been by far the most penalized team in the ACC.
Most importantly, there was no reason to believe that Golden had Miami in position to compete for championships. The 58-0 loss on Saturday was the worst in school history and was an indication of how far the Hurricanes are from being a championship program.
There’s no guarantee that Golden’s successor will be able to win at a higher level, but it at least provides hope that, with a fresh start, Miami could once again become a national contender. As evidenced by James’ comments, that’s exactly what the Hurricanes need right now.