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Finding a Replacement for Al Golden at Miami

Photo: Icon Sportswire

It was time.

Al Golden’s tenure as the head football coach at the University of Miami came to an end, fired after the Hurricanes suffered the worst loss in school history, a 58-0 defeat, at home, to Clemson. Golden had lost the team, lost the backing of the school administration and, perhaps misguidedly more important, lost the support of former ‘Canes players like Michael Irvin and Warren Sapp.

(Serious digression time – Karma’s a you-know-what, isn’t it? It was 30 years ago that Miami and then-coach Jimmy Johnson ran it up and scored 58 points against an outgoing Gerry Faust coaching Notre Dame in his last game.)

So Miami now joins two other high-profile job openings on the college football landscape at USC and South Carolina and, of course, speculation now turns to who the Hurricanes will hire as the new head coach. Every college football program is different, of course, but the one common link at many of them is tradition. Miami has five national championships – perhaps equally important, it has had coaches like Johnson and Dennis Erickson who have perpetuated the bad boy swagger image that the program feasts on.

Whether that next coach has that himself remains to be seen, but at this point it’s safe to assume Miami would at least like to keep it in the family. Here’s a list of the names being bandied about and my thoughts (in no particular order):

* Mario Cristobal, a former Miami player and now Alabama assistant. A solid choice, good ties so the fertile south Florida recruiting base.

* Greg Schiano, a former defensive coach at Miami who did wonders as the head coach at Rutgers. Also a solid choice, but I’d be worried that his success at Rutgers came in a moribund league and his NFL tenure was a disaster.

* Brett Venables, no ties to Miami but the Clemson defensive coordinator is one of the hot assistant names out there. But would his selection please the alumni base?

* Scott Frost, also no ties to Miami but another hot name out there in the assistant world for his work as Oregon’s offensive coordinator and coaching a Heisman Trophy winner. Again, would he please the alumni base?

* Butch Davis, the former head coach at Miami. No, no, no, no, no.

* Justin Fuente, who already has won 17 games in the last two seasons as the head coach at Memphis. Offensively, a dream.

There are more, of course, some of them a bit outlandish, some of them hopeful thinking. But for my money, there’s only one choice out there who fits the bill.

Rob Chudzinski.

Full disclosure – I had the great opportunity to deal with Chudzinski when I covered the Hurricanes during the 2000 season when Davis was the head coach. He is an engaging guy with an incredible football IQ.

But it doesn’t matter what I think.

What matters is that Chudzinski is a great candidate from an overall perspective. He is a former tight end on two Miami national championship teams. He stayed with the program as a graduate assistant starting in 1994, was the tight ends coach for five seasons – including the year I covered the team – and was elevated to offensive coordinator in 2001 for the next three seasons.

Since then, Chudzinski has bounced around the NFL in various roles, but working with a bevy of incredible coaches from whom he has learned a tremendous amount of football knowledge–including Romeo Crennel, Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner.

Chudzinski was a head coach in the NFL for one ill-fated season, although I would caution you not to read into the 4-12 mark since it came with the Cleveland Browns, arguably one of the worst franchises in the league along with the Detroit Lions.

Nonetheless, his NFL experience makes him a valuable commodity and lengthens his resume on the recruiting trail.

Moreover, he knows his way around the Miami program – from the administration, to the incredible highs and sometimes pitfalls of the Florida recruiting scene, to the alumni.

Does he have swagger? I would call it more confidence than swagger.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t bring the swagger back.

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