As the Canes embark on another season, nerves are frayed.
A 45-0 demolition of Bethune-Cookman won’t change that. At this point, it’s hard to imagine what will.
At the center of the storm lies head coach Al Golden, entering into his fifth season at Miami. Perhaps a victim of circumstance, he now tries to recover from years of self-inflicted wounds, having been given the fifth year so many thought should not have been, and that his predecessor was not afforded.
But the feeling of angst predates Golden and will likely result in an increasingly short fuse not just for him, but for any successor. As a program, the University of Miami has underachieved for over a decade. The last 10-win season was shockingly in 2003, a full seven years before Golden became head coach. And to a certain extent, he gets blamed for things out of his control, or at least ostensibly out of his control.
In a way, Golden is easy to judge. He has essentially two metrics: (1) Win-Loss Record and (2) Not getting the team on probation.
If he succeeds at those things, he will be here a long time. We can debate whether he has done enough in the first component at this point (spoiler alert: he hasn’t), but at least there is an objective metric.
And this is where judging the Athletic Department becomes difficult. We really only see them when they screw up. And several high-profile incidents have marred their reputation, at least with me. Some of them are exclusive to the “Internet World” while others are more public.
The first is the continuing elephant in the room — the Nevin Shapiro scandal. I think we’re all sick of discussing this, but suffice it to say the Administration created that scandal, and any sort of benefit of the doubt went with it.
While they’ve certainly improved in the compliance department, so much so that Associate AD Brian Bowsher won an award, there are still issues outside that sphere. In the past few years, they’ve run a promotion urging fans to go to fewer games, stopped tweeting during the Pitt game midway through the third quarter when it was apparent the Canes were going to get blown out, sent out a tweet advertising National Signing Day featuring a player that had decommitted, and sent out then deleted “embarrassing” team photos.
These things have nothing to do with Al Golden, but when the same athletic department that seems to be flailing around and ignoring the obvious is also the organization defending him, it does him no favors.
My advice: be honest. Now there is a fine line between honesty and throwing the head coach under the bus, with the latter being unadvisable. But the Pitt game? Why stop tweeting? Did they think, “well, there’s no other way to find out who won the game, so if we just pretend it didn’t happen, no one will know?” Your behavior in terms of discourse with the fans shouldn’t be tied to the scoreboard.
Same goes for the pictures. Whether you agree with them or not, everyone saw them. How about just saying the kids were having fun and they’re in college. Who cares? Would that not have been better than deleting them and pretending they didn’t happen?
In general, the attempt to shape the narrative is futile, so I don’t see why they invest so much energy in that. You can’t change reality. Claiming a late-season collapse was the only thing wrong with last season when the Canes lost three games before the FSU game (even winning vs. FSU, UVA and Pitt wouldn’t have won the ACC Coastal, something the Canes were predicted to do before the year) elevates the distrust. They can defend Al Golden without denying reality, so they should probably opt for that route. It will give them a lot more credibility when addressing the issues surrounding his job status.
Al Golden’s Extra Chance
Which brings us to Golden Al. I’ve made it no secret I thought this man should have been fired last year. He wasn’t.
So what do we do with this year? I think it serves no purpose to root against him. For one, it’s in everyone’s best interest he succeeds, as @romancane succinctly put on Twitter:
@justinrgrrb for the programs sake we need golden to win. We can't keep control alt deleting the program every 4-5 years
— rOmaN (@romancane) September 7, 2015
Also, just in general, last year should have proved how futile it is to think that if he loses just enough he will get fired. We don’t know the administration’s thinking or standards.
The most important thing about this program is the players. They come first. And those players make the program unique. There are obviously players from all over the country on the team, but there is something special about local kids going to the local school to make good. Hoping Golden fails is also hoping those kids fail, and I can never do that.
But I also don’t have the authority or desire to tell any fan what to do. I can see a diehard fan simply concluding that Golden will never win here (keep in mind the standard is national championships), that the worst thing that can happen is he wins enough games to just get by, and the best thing for the program is undeniable — catastrophic failure in 2015 to usher Golden out the door as soon as possible. I won’t criticize those fans anymore than I would criticize fans that will never be convinced Golden needs to be fired. Anyone still following a program that hasn’t been in a major bowl since 2003 has earned the right to support (or not) the program how they see fit.
I do think there is real risk in that we are in danger of “losing the plot” here, however. That every game becomes a referendum on Golden’s tenure — an absurd notion. The man has been coach for four-plus years now. Asking questions like “What if the Hurricanes start slow but finish on a significant winning streak?” is insane.
Who cares if they end on a winning streak? He’s had five years to accomplish something. If we aren’t sure he is the guy to win national championships here by the end of the year, he needs to be fired. This year is about doing what he has not done in four years — remove doubt. How he does that is in the eye of the beholder, but the laser-like focus on the ups and downs of individual games this year will obfuscate the five-year record he will have amassed.
The question I most get asked is what gets him fired.
The truth is I don’t know. And I also don’t know what should. It’s possible to not win the ACC Coastal while winning 11 games and “removing doubt.” On the other hand, Georgia Tech made the ACC Championship game in 2012, lost that, lost their bowl game and finished 7-7. I don’t see how that is acceptable.
It is possible that there is a complete collapse early in the year, removing doubt in the negative, a tipping point loss, but barring that, we need to take stock of the five-year tenure at the end of the season and see if Golden deserves the sixth year, not just based on 2015, but based on 2011-2015.
The thing I want most out of this season is Golden to succeed to an extent that only a moron would fire him, to remove the question as a weapon. So he has my full support during games.
That doesn’t mean I won’t criticize him. There are only two things infallible in Miami: (1) God and (2) Publix. Golden is neither of those things. And I understand any criticism threatens to snowball into a “Fire Al Golden” bandwagon, which is something I don’t actually want to have to happen, because I want him to earn his job back. If it becomes a necessary evil, so be it. But it is not the optimal outcome.
I’m sure I’m not the only fan grappling with these issues, but to come full circle, Golden objectively produces a Win-Loss record each year. And he’s 1-0 right now. I just hope that win total keeps increasing. Time might be running short, but it is not quite out yet.