Five years ago this week the Miami Hurricanes were in El Paso, Texas—gearing up for a Sun Bowl showdown in the wake of a coaching change. Al Golden looked down from the television booth and shared his thoughts on fixing the Canes’ broken culture, while Miami was boat-raced up and down the field by Notre Dame.
Five years later, another Lone Star State showdown and some frustrating turmoil regarding a handful of suspension—hinting at the fact that UM is still in need of a cultural overhaul as new head coach Mark Richt takes the reigns completely in the coming days.
Junior safety Jamal Carter was sent packing days back; sent home from El Paso and suspended for the bowl game against Washington State. Carter was hit with the ambiguous, “violation of team rules”—while sophomore defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins was also Miami-bound, ruled academically ineligible, and won’t be available to take on the “Air Raid” Cougars.
Sophomore wide receiver Tyre Brady is also sidelined—his fourth suspension of the season and third in a row. Brady missed the season opener against Bethune-Cookman and then back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. Junior tight end Standish Dobard also took a seat in the match-up against the Yellow Jackets.
Carter missed the first half of Miami’s loss to Cincinnati earlier in the season, suspended for a late game targeting call in the Canes’ overtime win against Nebraska.
While hard-hitting is part of the game and targeting calls can be ticky-tack, whatever hijinks have Carter missing the post-season seem to reek of the stench that surrounded this program last time Miami touched down in west Texas.
The Canes scored late against the Fighting Irish in that 33-17 loss five years back, making for a more semi-respectable blowout loss—but no stat-padding could distract from news of disinterested Miami players having sideline snowball fights under interim head coach Jeff Stoutland; taking over for the recently-fired Randy Shannon.
Former cornerback Ryan Hill called out the antics months after departing from “The U”; pointing to a lack of leadership from older players who once showed him the way, as well as of a lack of respect for Shannon—to a point where players openly mocked him. Hill also spoke of a pot culture within the program and the stereotypical lack-of-motivation that can come from partaking; players who’d fallen on the depth chart doing nothing to work their way back up.
The Yahoo! Sports piece laying all this out was quick to point to Golden’s rebuild at Temple—his ability to challenge players to be better than what outsiders expected of them. As a result the products on and off the field improved and players bought in.
Unfortunately that metamorphosis never took place on his watch over four-plus years in Coral Gables. Miami instead folded in the face of adversity on Golden’s watch; unable to bounce back from let downs, while equally as bad handling prosperity. Last year’s edition of Hurricanes versus Seminoles as a perfect example.
Miami built a lead, blew it, unraveled with the pressure was on, surrendered the lead and couldn’t respond in a big-time moment. From there, three consecutive losses to close out the season—Golden admitting that FSU ripped UM’s heart out; ultimately delivering a knockout blow that ruined the season.
Interim head coach Larry Scott took over a 4-3 team mid-season and from there won four of his next five games. Addition by subtraction regarding the Golden effect, while sending a subliminal message; if a solid temporary replacement can have this type of positive impact, how huge is the hire of a veteran and pro like Richt for the Canes’ future?
Lots of focus on the positive storylines as Miami’s bowl game comes and goes; the job Scott and staff have done with this team, opposed to the fact that it’ll be the last game as Canes for most of them. Meanwhile, positive background noise about Richt on the recruiting trail, his hero’s farewell in Athens and his general good-guy nature that has him universally liked and respected in all college football-related platforms.
The suspensions of Carter, Jenkins and Brady—an unfortunate footnote in the current Canes-related narrative—but a stark reminder of what was and what needs to change. File this up there with sloppy, undisciplined play all year—as well as veteran players losing their cool at crucial moments on game day.
Golden may have had Miami dotting it’s i’s and crossing it’s t’s, but when it came off to checking those toughness-related, disciplined and championship-caliber boxes—the Canes whiffed big time; but to their credit, stood strong down the stretch on four of five occasions.
Nothing like that occurred once in four-plus year’s under Golden; rising to an occasions, opposed to crumbling under pressure.
Miami is one day from ending one chapter and beginning another. May these Canes close out with an accent mark-type bowl game win—earning them one more ounce of good fortune when sporting the orange and green one final time.