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Klaus: A tribute to Al Golden

| Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Miami fired their head coach, Al Golden, this past weekend following a woefully lopsided 58-0 loss to Clemson Saturday.

There had been a sense around the Miami program all season that Golden’s tenure would soon come to an end. From the Hurricanes’ first loss in early October, Miami fans have not held back in publicly demonstrating their disapproval of Golden and desire that the University fire him. This frustration has been perhaps epitomized best by the flying of anti-Golden banners behind planes during home games.

Former players of the once-elite program have also been unafraid of voicing their displeasures with Golden in recent weeks: In particular, Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and former offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie (among others) were very critical of Golden on social media during Saturday’s game.

Given the 58-0 score, the “Fire Golden” banners around the stadium were admittedly the most entertaining portion of the game Saturday, but I am here to defend Golden — at least to an extent. It is hard to ignore embarrassments like Saturday’s defeat (especially given the fact that many had thought Miami could upset the Tigers), but all the anti-Golden propaganda that has made him a marked man seems too critical for a coach that has been up against unfair standards ever since his arrival.

Golden was hired from Temple in late 2010 after turning around their program. He was immediately met with disadvantageous conditions at Miami when the Nevin Shapiro scandal became public at the end of Golden’s first season. The scandal caused Miami to, in fear of worsening their eventual penalty from the NCAA, voluntarily withdraw from bowl consideration for Golden’s first two seasons. The NCAA ultimately decided to expropriate nine scholarships from the Hurricanes for the 2014-2016 seasons.

So, in defense of Golden, Miami was far from an optimal setting for a coach to have success throughout his tenure there. Moreover, amidst the scandal, Golden did make some valuable contributions to the program. Recruiting statistically improved slightly during the Golden era, which is particularly impressive given how difficult it can be to recruit as a coach when scholarships are being confiscated and there is uncertainty surrounding postseason eligibility. Also, for possibly the first time in the history of Miami, academics were emphasized under Golden.

To clarify, it is still completely understandable that Miami parted ways with Golden. Golden’s performance on the field was undeniably middling, which is usually not good enough for job security in a position that pays handsomely. A 58-0 blowout to a conference foe in which Clemson’s third-string quarterback scored 14 more points than Miami’s entire team also undoubtedly highlighted the need for changes to be made within the program.

If I were a Miami fan, I too would have advocated excessively for Golden’s firing over the past several weeks, but this would have been caused by the delusion that Miami was as elite now as it was at the beginning of this century. However, the truth is that Miami is no longer an elite program in college football; this had been the case for at least a half-decade before Golden was even hired. So, while I agree that Miami can potentially do better in the coaching department, Miami fans and alumni should probably temper expectations and criticisms for their next hire, especially if he is forced to encounter tumultuous circumstances similar to those that Golden faced.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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