The Miami Hurricanes bucked recent tradition and hired an honest-to-God real football coach. And days away from this iteration of the Canes’ debut, excitement is growing.

New stadium. New coach. Al Golden a safe distance away in Detroit, where he might inadvertently run into a still backpedaling defensive back that he sent out in coverage three years ago.

I get it. We should all be cautious. Patient. Realistic. It takes years to replenish talent. Years to unknot the tie that spent five years strangling the program. That Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we should all be prudent. That the rational approach, after having been burned time and again, is to patiently await results, view progress with a healthy bit of skepticism, and only invest emotionally in this team when they prove that the corner is actually being turned.

The hell with that!

We just got rid of a coach who was so lost that he actually argued that the mere threat of sanctions is worse than actual sanctions, after which we watched North Carolina ascend to the top of the ACC Coastal amidst multiple academic scandals.

And what did we replace him with? Only a coach that is 94 games over .500 in his career and 46 games over .500 in the SEC. That’s our coach!

Are you kidding me?

Somehow, at the confluence of Georgia impatience and Miami procrastination was Mark Richt. Our defensive coordinator actually called for “unwavering violence!” What a difference a year makes.

The Ironic Twist of Under-performance Increasing Expectations

One of the challenges at a program like Miami that measures success at the national championship level is that it’s very difficult to be successful, and any failure just increases the pressure. There is very little patience after the last 15 years for any sort of rebuild.

We’re all Veruca Salt at this point.

Everyone knows that Miami has not won the ACC Coastal since the division came into existence in 2005. But less publicized is just how far away they have been from winning.

Forget being the bridesmaid, the Canes haven’t even been the flower girl.

But as time passes, and the grains of sand pass through the hourglass, as players who were on the 2001 National Championship team retire from the NFL as legends, my feelings diverge.

On the one hand, that ACC performance is so abject that I’d be happy with a moderate improvement, with winning the ACC Coastal. It would be a huge step in the right direction.

On the other hand, we’re the University of Miami. I’m tired of baby steps, false starts, and new beginnings that lead nowhere. I don’t want to compete with North Carolina, I want to compete with Alabama. That’s what this program is about.

And while that might not be realistic right now, and probably isn’t, I’m fighting the impatience bug that is inexorably gnawing on my ear. I’m sick of being mediocre or worse…we have a legitimately great coach, a legitimately great stadium, and play in the ACC Coastal. Unbridled optimism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you can’t have hope in August, when can you?

Hope vs. Dope: A Fine Line Between Optimism and Delusion

If any team with Miami’s track record even mentioned winning the ACC Coastal, we’d laugh at them. Yet anything short of that will surely be a disappointment.

Is that fair? Probably not. Mark Richt is not responsible for 15 years of underachievement, malfeasance, ineptitude and abject failure. Yet he bears that burden, inheriting not just his predecessor’s baggage, but those of several staffs prior.

But he also inherits the deepest backfield in the ACC, pass catching threats at WR and TE, and the best QB in the ACC Coastal by a mile. Richt is a coach whose reputation has largely been built on his ability to get the maximum out of QBs and to develop offenses. The defense has holes all over the front 7, but shouldn’t a great offensive coach be able to extract enough out of the offense to compete for the ACC Coastal?

And that’s where hope collides with fairness.

Because as fans, we should never lose our optimism, never not believe, never deviate from the end goal. When failure is accepted, it is perpetuated. We spent the last five years listening to a coach tell us that we asked too much…nonsense.

Dream big. I will join you.

Where we can so easily cross the line is blaming the coach for not realizing our loftiest goals. If we can dream a path to the ACC Championship Game, we should hope for it, and expect it…to a certain degree. Expectations for a coach should be based not on fans’ dreams, but on reality based context. And the context is that since 2005, Miami’s average finish in the ACC Coastal has been between 3rd and 4th…right in the middle.

Over time, expectations convert into “where the program should be.” Our immediate expectations in Year 1 should be predicated more on where we came from than where we  hope to be. And where we came from is this:

If you had the audio on, you would hear the commentator perfectly sum up the state of the program when he points out that the Canes haven’t won a bowl game since 2006 just as they attempt a half-back pass in a blizzard which predictably ended in disaster.

The top of the mountain is a long way away.

Time for Fun

So what’s the point? What’s the point if no one would be surprised if the Canes simply mirror last year’s 8-5 mark? What’s the point if we can’t immediately compete with Alabama and Clemson?

The point is that at its core, this is a game. And games should be fun. Al Golden’s greatest crime was that he made the game impossible to enjoy.

Not only did we not win enough, but we were horrible to watch even in victory. The team was comatose, the style wimpy, the approach displaying a profile in lack of courage.

Mark Richt has an aggressive offense. Manny Diaz has an attacking defense.

This is going to be fun!

But the best part?  We no longer have to watch the team go through the motions, hoping a non-existent switch is flipped, concerned that the coach might win just enough to sneak another year and waste another year of our lives.

Instead, the question of “if” has been replaced with the question of “when.” That subtle difference makes all the difference.

I don’t know what fair expectations are for the 2016 Miami Hurricanes. I don’t know how much time is enough time to make a fair evaluation of Mark Richt. I don’t know how long it will take to reach the mountaintop.

But I’ll enjoy the journey, secure in the knowledge that ascension is imminent. The sun can never be allowed to set on the University of Miami. And with Mark Richt in charge, it won’t. The Era of Incompetence has been replaced with the Era of Achievement. This program has several chapters left to write, and several championships left to win.

You turn me on, you lift me up
And like the sweetest cup I’d share with you

You lift me up, don’t you ever stop, I’m here with you

Now it’s all or nothing
‘Cause you say you’ll follow through
You follow me, and I, I, I follow you

The Canes Family is one again. Moving forward together. And the University of Miami Hurricanes is Alive and Kicking.