If it had not been for events outside of Golden’s control, Miami would be on the same projected three-year national title paths as Brian Kelly and Nick Saban have followed at Notre Dame and Alabama, respectively. Unfortunately Nevin Shapiro and the NCAA trashed that blueprint. It was a stroke of bad luck for Golden, but for The U, they had the perfect head coach land on campus in the moments before their football program’s near implosion.
Instead of bolting, Golden’s leading the Hurricanes back on track in the ACC. After watching his five-year transformation of a Temple football program that lacked a pulse and three wins in three years to a regular nine-win squad, Golden’s wife is a believer in her husband’s Midas Touch.
"We were meant to be here," Kelly Golden, told the AP in February. "Regardless of how it happened, what was said or not said, we need to be here right now. He needs to be here. Not sure who else could weather this storm the way he has. It was for a reason."
Divine intervention may be a bit of a reach, but Golden has some experience with resurrections. As the youngest defensive coordinator in the country, Groh improved the Virginia Cavaliers defense from 108th nationally to 18th in his debut season. His first head coaching assignment came with a lifeless Temple football program that had their Big East citizenship revoked a few years prior for being non-competitive.
The Hurricanes head coach is also a former Penn Stater, who remembers The U’s players strutting off the plane and onto the Phoenix tarmac before the 1987 Fiesta Bowl rocking army fatigues.
As Golden was in the midst of giving the Temple Owls a wake up, he was being mentioned as a leading candidate to succeed Happy Valley’s deity Joe Paterno. Instead, Paterno ignored his mounting health issues and kept kicking the retirement can down the road, so Golden took his talents to Coral Gables.
Golden had no warning before Nevin Shapiro and Yahoo Sports dropped bombshell allegations on The U months after Golden accepted the head coaching position. The NCAA, which promised never to drop the NCAA equivalent of an atomic bomb onto a program looked ready to devastate The U.
There were more high-profile coaches than Golden, but The U couldn’t have asked for a more apt coach for the times. If the NCAA gives Miami a break for time served for self-imposed sanctions, the combination of Golden’s extensive defensive coaching background, his ability to recruit across the South Florida hotbed and his physical pro-set offense should The U. an SEC feel in the ACC.
For years, the NCAA’s been looking to crack down on The U’s wild ways and the image of Golden in a dress shirt, slacks and his collection of orange, white and green-striped tie that double as a swaying wind vane is in sharp contrast to the rep Miami has constructed over the past 30 years. The new Miami has had to ditch the swag, outsider’s mentality and NCAA bylaw disdain for something that resembles conformity.
Two years into his gig, Golden appears to have survived the university’s self-imposed scholarship reductions and two-year bowl ban. Now they are prepping for the initial blast from the NCAA’s assault on their program. In comparison to what the NCAA did to Golden’s alma mater, the NCAA’s investigation has been an Acme Bros. gun with a bang flag. The expectation is that soon The U will able to transition into full-fledged rebuilding mode.
Randy Shannon’s folly was his inability or unwillingness to invest in recruiting the greater Miami-area. Only five players from Florida were in Miami’s 2013 Signing Day recruiting haul. Three quarterbacks from South Florida, including one that was originally committed to The U, have made tidal waves at other schools, but Miami-born quarterback Stephen Morris emerged as a surprising consolation prize for Geno Smith, Rakeem Kato and Teddy Bridgewater after his freshman season. Running back Duke Johnson is also the top returning tailback in the ACC and the Hurricanes have again been picked to win the anemic Coastal Division.
National relevancy is the endgame though. ESPN U’s Tom Lemming compared Golden’s auspicious recruiting touch to a young Saban’s. Alabama has been running up the score on their contemporaries for the recruiting trail for the past half-decade, but Miami isn’t trailing too far behind in 2014 with the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class.
I still believe the old U. is dead, but the program has avoided extinction and last season’s 7-5 Hurricane squad was one of the youngest in the nation.. It sounds like the title of a self-help video, but this is the New U. Let’s see if the can win like the old one.