The U: What’s next
November 3, 2015
After being man-handled at home to the number six ranked Clemson Tigers 58-0, the University of Miami (UM) Hurricanes fired their head coach, Al Golden, after 5 seasons.
Although the Hurricanes started off the season with a perfect 3-0 record, losses to Cincinnati and rival Florida State lessened the hype surrounding the program. A 1-3 record after the perfect start has all but dashed the hopes of the Canes, a team that was seen by many to be a threat in the Atlantic Coastal Conference pre-season.
Athletic director Blake James struggled with the decision to fire head coach Al Golden but he ultimately decided it was appropriate, given the circumstances that surrounded the worst loss in the program’s history. Golden went a total of 32-25 as the University of Miami’s football team head coach. The move seemed imminent to fans, many of whom gained nationwide attention for flying banners around the Hurricanes home, Sun Life Stadium, before games with statements encouraging the coach’s fire.
The Canes had limited success under Golden, going to only two bowl games under Golden and losing both of those games. While the Hurricanes achieved some big wins under Golden, all the losses his teams went through seemed to balance out these wins.
While Golden was praised for lifting Miami out of an NCAA scandal and being a top recruiter, the team’s poor production on the field justified James’ decision. Moreover, the Hurricanes talent under Golden wasn’t the main reason for inexcusable losses, given that the Canes sent seven players to the NFL via the draft this year, many more signing as undrafted free agents.
Right now, there are many possible candidates for the UM coaching job. The most notable include former Miami assistant coaches Mario Cristobal and Greg Schiano and Memphis head coach Justin Fuente, who took over a small university such as Miami and created a winning culture at a school with no football tradition. The sentimental frontrunner among fans has been Butch Davis, the Hurricanes head coach from 1995-2000, largely credited with revitalizing a Miami program struggling in similar circumstances to this one and building the 2001 National Championship team, regarded as the greatest college football team of all time.
As the UM rebuilds, they will look towards answers and quickly, due to a fanbase notorious for unrealistically high expectations. These expectations are usual for the Hurricanes, given that they won a total of five National Championships in an 18 year span, reaching an additional three championship games in those years.
Coming off of a controversial miracle win against the 22nd ranked Duke Blue Devils, there may be some hope for the program to win the ACC coastal division title. A game riddled with penalties from the opening kickoff, the Hurricanes found a way to lead almost the entire game, despite an ACC record 23 penalties caused by the team. UM blew a three-point lead to the Blue Devils on a one-yard run with six seconds remaining in the game and was forced to empty the playbook. After initially recovering Duke’s ‘squib kick’ at the 25 yard line, eight laterals and one long run along the sideline, amidst many controversial calls that should’ve prevented the play altogether, created potentially the wildest ending in college football history since the 1982 “The band is on the field” play between Cal’ and Stanford. And despite national scrutiny and an apology from the ACC regarding the inaccurate officiating on the final play of the game, the Canes succeeded in providing a faint glimmer of hope for fans.
Although the controversial outcome won’t be enough to launch the Hurricanes into the National Championship playoff picture, it may be just enough to turn the season back around and focus on building for the future.
Nonetheless, the Canes can’t let the pandemonium created by the Duke win affect their search for a new head coach. And while the miracle win now overshadows the fact that the Canes played the worst game in their 90 year history just last week, the demise of the program has been evident since the Canes were forced out of their former home, the Miami Orange Bowl, eight years ago. One loss can’t restore this once-winning program. Moreover, five losses in a row to rival Florida State is another reason to worry. The Hurricanes must take advantage of the most fertile recruiting ground in the nation and find the right head coach if they hope to retain status as an elite national powerhouse. If not, the program affectionately known as ‘the U’ might be gone forever.