In case you missed it, Blake James gave this interview to ESPN. It’s worth a read, but I would like to take this opportunity to respond.
I want to preface this by saying that I personally would not donate to the banner campaign, although I do agree with their message. Al Golden needs to be fired and should have been fired last year. But I take the stance that now that the season is here, I want him to do well and earn his job back (that ship, of course, is on the verge of sailing).
“I’m not sure what the end goal is that they’re accomplishing,” James said in a recent interview. “Are they accomplishing the fact that I am aware or someone’s aware that they’re not happy with the results that Al has had on the field? That’s already well known. I think what it does do is it just gives all the great fans a black eye, and I think it gives the program a black eye in a lot of ways.
Let’s see… Miami is playing one of the best teams in the country on Saturday and the Athletic Director is being asked probing questions about the coach’s job status.
What could the banners possibly be accomplishing?
But I would turn the question back around on him as well. First, I’d like to know what he thinks he is accomplishing by addressing this? As a highly paid professional, I would expect him to be able to not comment on something like this. Second, is he also talking about those fans who flew positive banners in support of Golden before the last game? Or is he only anti-banner when they don’t support the head coach?
Al Golden does not equal the University of Miami football program. And to conflate supporters of Al Golden with “good fans” and those fans who don’t support him with giving the program a “black eye” is a dirty trick that is only going to lead to divisiveness.
“As much as I understand the frustration and the disappointment, the desire to see a change made, flying the banners does nothing to help the situation and does nothing to help the program in my opinion.”
He might claim to understand the frustration, but does he understand he created it? Through most of last year, we trusted this man. Trusted that if the season went south, surely Al Golden would be held responsible. There was a late-season banner, but for the most part, the fans waited for James to do what should have been done.
That trust was not repaid, and at season’s end, the fans were vocal about wanting Golden out. That was always going to carry over into this year. Why would the fans assume that James is going to fire Golden if the team stinks again? They made that mistake last year. When he ignored on-field results, he created this mess.
James complaining about the current toxic environment is like a politician complaining that the political system in Washington is broken. If only we could find the person responsible!
“We’re in a 12-game season, and it’s hard to evaluate a 12-game season until you’ve played 12 games,” James said. “For us and my approach, we have to let the season play out as we do with any sport. You look at the season and look at where we’re at, look at what we like, look at what we didn’t like and then do a sound evaluation and decide what’s best moving forward.”
I addressed this in another article, but he just needs to stop saying this. Because while what he is saying sounds reasonable now, this was him last year, after one game saying Golden was not in trouble:
“I think sometimes people take for granted that just by snapping your fingers it’s going to happen,” James said Wednesday night. “That’s not how it works. You have to build a solid foundation and Al is building a solid foundation. We are going to be a better team at the end of this year than we were at the start of this year. We’re going to be a better team at the end of this year than we were last year and we’re going to continue to get better each year.”
“He’s the perfect person for this job.”
That was the expectation, after one loss. And yet, the team was clearly worse at the end of the year, losing 4 games in a row. So clearly, old “12-game season” Blake James re-evaluated Golden’s position, and after being proven wrong and fired him, right? Of course not. Here he is after the UVA loss:
“Al is our coach and will continue to be our coach.”
“Sometimes you take a few steps forward and might take a step back. That’s the reality of life. We’re experiencing that, but I’m confident we’re going in the right direction.”
So, after one game he had already decided Golden was coming back, but confirmed that he expected the team to be better at the end of the year. With one game left in the season, when by his own admission, the team had taken a step back, Golden’s job was still safe? Excuse us if we don’t take “12-game” James’ word at face value. He has a history of ignoring an entire season.
Insult the fans? Sure, why not!
Back to his recent comments….
“It’s a very passionate fan base and so when they’re not happy, they’re going to make me aware of that, and no one’s happy after a loss,” James said “That starts in our locker room. Al’s not happy with a loss. Our team isn’t happy with a loss. Our leaders aren’t happy with a loss.
What kind of cockamamie bullshit is this? What straw man is he arguing with? Who is claiming Golden is happy when the team loses? That’s not even a thing.
No one gives a crap what he feels about losses. What we care about is how he addresses the problems that cause the losses so they don’t keep happening? How’s he doing? The Canes have more losses (2) than opponents with winning records faced (1) this year.
Stop telling us how upset everyone is, and actually fix the thing.
“A lot of people in the fan base want to continue to see this team get better. People want to see us win every week and those are the Hurricane fans. I guess I struggle to hear people say they’re Hurricane fans and don’t want to see us win. To me, that doesn’t sound like a fan, but there’s definitely a passionate group that wants to see us do well.”
This is a pet peeve of mine. My father has been teaching at the University of Miami since 1994. My brother has a degree from there. I have two degrees from there. My sister has three degrees from there and also works there.
If my family had a family business, that business would be the University of Miami.
And even with my personal self so intertwined with this university, I would never have the audacity to tell people they are or are not Hurricanes fans.
The fan base is diverse. Some will always be positive, some will always be negative, the vast majority sway back and forth based on results. Some boycott games. Some attend every game. And yes, some fly banners.
But they are ALL fans! What gives Blake James the right to tell people they are or are not fans? Because he came here from Maine to do marketing then fell ass backwards into the athletic director job after so many quit that he met the stringent requirement of “will not leave?”
He needs to keep his judgmental asshattery to himself. Does he understand that some of the “not a fan” crowd plan their entire lives around these 12 games a year, and have done so for decades? Sanctimonious bullshit. That’s what this is.
Mission Impossible: ACC Coastal
“I don’t look at it and say, ‘We need to get to this number of wins,’” James said. “The goal is to win the Coastal. To win the Coastal, they’re going to have to play some great football here because there are a lot of teams that want to win the Coastal. Everyone’s in position.”
First, if he wants to pretend that he understands Miami, he might want to stop holding up the sorry ass ACC Coastal as some sort of Holy Grail. How hard it is to amend that to winning the ACC? “Well, we hope we can win our half of the ACC, but when we get to Charlotte, who cares if we win!” Huh? These are all pulled out of thin air. At least aim high.
Second, excuse me if I don’t hold my breath. Last year, he said the team would get better, and when it got worse, he said, “hey, sometimes you take a step back.”
What James doesn’t realize is he lost his credibility last year.
We can all envision him, after the year, saying, “we made progress towards the ACC Coastal. Last year, we finished last, this year we moved up.” And that’s why the banners fly, and will continue to fly.
There is genuine, rational fear that come the end of the season, James will find some way to twist himself into a pretzel and retain Golden, regardless of results.
There is a small minority of fans that think Golden should be fired no matter what. But even those that strongly believe Golden should have been fired last year are not worried that he is going to go win the ACC and — as a result — keep his job. We want him to win the ACC!
No, the fear is that he’ll continue to be below average, and James still won’t fire him. The banners will stop when one of two things happen:
- The team starts winning consistently OR
- Al Golden gets fired.
It’s that neither of those things have happened that has resulted in the toxicity.
Dear Blake James,
I still have hope. That either Golden somehow turns it around starting Saturday, or more likely, that he is dismissed at year’s end.
But here’s the rub, Blake. You’ll probably be here. You will be tasked with hiring Golden’s successor (presumably after you inexplicably gives Chuck Neinas a ton of money to do God knows what).
For better or worse, you’ll be in charge of this school’s athletics. This is all new to you, too. I understand that. I’m willing to accept something of a learning curve.
But, here is some unsolicited advice:
- Learn the words, “I don’t comment on the status of coaches. It serves no purpose for them, me or our fans.” Anytime anyone asks you about any coach, regardless of sport, say that, and nothing else.
- Whenever you think you are sympathizing with fans by saying things like, “I understand…” or “I know…”, stop talking. Even if you are being truthful, no one is going to buy it. You weren’t here for the good times, and you’ve retained a coach after he had an identical record to that which got the previous coach fired. No one trusts you, and we’ll judge you by your actions, not just in the past, but going forward. There is nothing you can say that will make us think you get it. Only what you do.
- Understand that while Al Golden’s reign of terror is entering Year 5, we haven’t played in a major bowl since the 2003 season. It’s not five years for us, it’s 12. And your next hire will have the ability to end that drought, or extend it way past 15 years. This is where our frayed nerves are coming from.
- Those five championships are more than just a marketing slogan or a thing for you to put on infographics. They are our standard. They are what we know the program can and should be. So please don’t tell us about winning the ACC Coastal. We’re beyond baby steps. And don’t tell us how “difficult” things are. We’ve dealt with worse as a program, and emerged out of it quicker. History is our friend and our guide. We don’t need you to educate us.
Do those things, and we can start to regain some trust in this administration. Al Golden, when he was hired, talked openly of winning national championships as the standard. He’s clearly come off that. You can either hold him to that standard, or follow him into the abyss. The choice is yours.
But we’re all hoping that you display more competence going forward than you have in the past. After all, contrary to what you might believe, we all want what is best for the program. And your success is the best way to ensure that.
Follow Vishnu on Twitter (@VRP2003)