Four Reinstated, Now Let Golden Roll

According to the Miami Herald, four University of Miami football players have been cleared while the school is listing eight as ineligible, asking the NCAA to begin the process of reinstatement.

For Miami’s eight to have the clearest cut shot at reinstatement by Labor Day, UM chose to declare them ineligible. This was done to avoid stiffer penalties by the NCAA – in good faith – and now each case will be reviewed individually, with it determined in time who will be fully reinstated and who might have to sit. That’s what we know, but it’s the unknown that keeps confusion alive and well.

One has to believe that University of Miami leaders have a feeling which way things are leaning. They know, to a point, what the NCAA has uncovered and there has to be a clue regarding the severity of what might reign down.

In other words, are these eight being ruled ineligible as part of the NCAA’s reinstatement process, or is this the tip of a much bigger iceberg?

Like Miami today, Auburn ‘went on offense’ last year in the midst of a title run. As the 2010 season wound down, allegations surfaced regarding quarterback Cam Newton and his father shopping around his services before signing with the Tigers.

Auburn declared Newton ineligible soon after a monster comeback against rival Alabama in the season finale, and days before winning the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

Undefeated, headed into the conference title game, a star building his Heisman campaign and the university deems him ineligible. Talk about an eight-day roller coaster.

Newton was reinstated within days by the NCAA, even though it was determined that his father Cecil broke rules by shopping his son around.

You read the Newton tale and the optimistic side of any Hurricane fan looks for hope in the process, but again, without all the facts, it’s impossible to determine which way the wind will blow.

Whatever the case, you hope one thing is certain – that as much as UM fears the NCAA hammer, it equally fears those sands of time ticking away regarding its new head coach.

Al Golden didn’t come to Miami to play the role of babysitter or to clean up somebody else’s mess. Golden and crew made a beeline to South Florida as he’s a driven man on a mission. A professional with an agenda and someone who plans to coach at UM for a finite amount of time as this is just another stop in a bigger journey.

Golden is no “lifer”. This is a man with NFL aspirations. Whether it’s been verbalized or not, it’s blatantly obvious. Golden is climbing the coaching ladder, like his mentors Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells and he took a high-risk gig to expedite the process.

Think back to that initial press conference last December where Golden commanded the room and came off as polished as a veteran politician. Remember those old school Canes who were glowing in the aftermath, comparing Golden to Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson or Butch Davis, depending which era U-member you were talking to.

Something all three had in common? Dreams bigger than staying put in Coral Gables.

Schnellenberger and Johnson each lasted five years at UM while Davis lasted six, needing a little more time to clean up the mess made by his predecessor Dennis Erickson, who also gave ‘The U’ six years before shuffling on.

For Schnellenberger it was the USFL, but for Johnson, Erickson and Davis, the NFL. All four were on the move between their mid- to late-forties, which is where the new forty-two year old Golden will be in five years.

In a sense, it’s crazy to even think this way before the man has coached his first game in the orange and green. In another, it’s the only way to think. Especially when you ponder the past two coaching searches for UM.

No big names were kicking down Miami’s door in December 2006 when Larry Coker was fired, so Randy Shannon was promoted from within. When he was let go four years later, the job was less desirable and again, no established coaches were flocking south.

That doesn’t make the job undesirable, as many in the media tried to put out there last winter. It simply means it’s a niche job and is all about the right guy at the right time. UM is high risk, but win and the reward comes in the ability to write your own ticket anywhere.

South Florida boasts the best high school talent in the nation, but most coaches know it’s easier to recruit some locals to other destinations than to hunker down in Coral Gables, working tirelessly to keep the best talent home, while putting up walls to keep opposing coaches out.

Picture-perfect weather and a pro sports town that loves a winner (and is often in need of a new one), there are many pluses for a UM head football coach. But there’s also a tremendous downside.

Lose and you’ll be both ridiculed and run off. Miami is one of the nation’s largest media markets, meaning a loss on Saturday and you best not turn on local sports talk radio come Monday. A pro sports mentality becomes a liability when you’re a loser and in a town with multiple options regarding how to stretch the entertainment dollar, fans will tune you out on a dime.

Over 75,000 turned out to watch a 3-1 Miami squad take on rival Florida State last October. Six weeks later an “announced” crowd of 40,000 (closer to 30,000) were on hand to watch the Canes absorb a late November loss at the hands of South Florida, en route to a 7-5 regular season.

Golden can absolutely have long-term success at Miami in due time, but after a 28-23 run by Shannon – including three straight bowl losses – the winning needs to start now and Golden needs to win the crowd, a la “Gladiator”. Doing that with an arm tied behind his back due to suspensions – it’s not the foot anyone wanted to start on. Especially Golden.

No new coaching staff is going to sit back and make excuses, but you can believe they’re paying close attention to what’s shaking down and they’re charting the future course of Miami football as it’s directly tied to their next career move.

You don’t want to believe Golden is going to abandon the task he signed up for, but regarding a driven man with a plan, you realize he’s building a resume and doesn’t have time to wait, like the rest of the administration and a loyal, long-time fan base must.

Should it come down to it, you couldn’t fault UM for playing “risk” players, knowing that down-the-road forfeits could be an option. A long-term vision is usually the best approach, but sometimes being short-sighted has its advantages and in this case, getting Golden some wins out the gate seems an important part of this overall process.

Of course that’s a scenario you pray never comes to light, hoping for a more Newtonesque ending here. Ruling eight ineligible and putting it in the hands of the NCAA seems the right play twelve days from kickoff. It can – and should – be re-addressed around or after Labor Day regarding the NCAA’s next move, though. – C.B.

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5 thoughts on “Four Reinstated, Now Let Golden Roll

  1. I understand this is the process. I can only hope that the NCAA expedites the process for each player, a la Newton, a 200k recipient. I still think we have enough to beat Maryland without these players, but I would hope we find out the verdict on all 8 guys beforehand.

    As far as Golden and any coach goes, it’s a shame we have to wonder how long a guy will stay before he even is on the sidelines for one game, but I honestly wonder the same thing myself. If not the NFL, I see Golden wanting to return to Penn State which could open up any day. I hope not, but who knows. I just want a committed coach to establish some much needed stability so the team can move forward and strengthen. We haven’t had stability really since Butch Davis left (between HC and coordinator turnover). The program, the kids and the fans deserve better. Here’s hoping Al sticks it out a few years and gets us back up where we belong. Go Canes!

  2. I think Al Golden will stay about five years and have great success by year three. I think he has made all the right moves so far, and with persistence we will be great!

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