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Is Al Golden the Right Man for Miami?

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Miami’s 36-9 drumming at the hands of Louisville Saturday night was not how the Hurricanes expected this season to end. Head coach Al Golden and his coaching staff came into this season with the goal of winning the ACC Coastal Division and making the program’s first ACC Championship game. Not only did that dream disintegrate in mid-November but the Hurricanes’ lackluster performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl also left a very sour taste in fans’ mouth.

The 36-9 defeat ended Golden’s third season at Miami’s head coach. In those three years Golden has posted a record of 22-15 but is just 1-5 against ranked opponents in the past two seasons after going 2-1 in his first year in Coral Gables. Fans are once again frustrated, so much so that they took to social media sites following the loss asking if the University should move on from Golden and go in a different direction.

As frustrating as the bowl loss was, fans need to take a step back and look at the entire picture, including the framework that Golden started with when he first got here. If Louisville’s beat down Saturday night proved anything it proved that Golden still needs more time to get the Hurricanes back to where they belong in college football’s grand landscape.

Miami is in the middle of a rebuilding project and Golden still has a ways to go to finish his blueprint. Even he admitted that after the game Saturday night. It’s a project that has also been held back over his first three years. Golden is finally clear of the NCAA investigation that clouded his program since his first game as head coach in 2011. The sky is finally clear over Coral Gables and I believe the future of the program is as well.

I understand the frustration from fans. Miami started the season 7-0 for the first time since 2003 and was ranked in the Associated Press top ten for the first time since 2009. It finally looked like the Hurricanes were turning that elusive corner before it dropped four of its final six games. That was enough to get fans yelling again, but if you take a step back and look at the entire season as a whole, you’ll see Miami made good strides this year.

The Hurricanes won nine games for the first time since 2009. That’s a big improvement over the past three seasons. He also did it was a lot of guys that were recruited by former head coach Randy Shannon. Yes Miami tailored off at the end of the season but Golden understands that there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. Canes fans aren’t satisfied but neither is Golden. Here’s his quote to Christy Chirinos, Hurricanes beat writer for the Sun-Sentinel, after the loss Saturday night.

"Everybody recognizes that we're not where we want to be yet, but we're scratching and fighting and clawing to get where we want to be and keep moving forward," Golden said. "We've done it, you know, against terrible odds. I'm not going to discredit the guys we just played, but we have to get better and we're going to play [Louisville] again in the near future and we've got to get better."

Miami fans need to be reminded that when Golden arrived in 2011 the cupboard was pretty empty. Many of Shannon’s recruits never panned out as expected and Golden had to make due with what he had. On top of that, recruiting took a hit because of the NCAA investigation into claims made by Nevin Shapiro. That investigation no longer looms over the program and most of Shannon’s guys have either moved on to the NFL or graduated.

Golden now has the guys he recruited to live and die with. He also currently has the fifth ranked recruiting class according to rivals.com for next season. This is a young Miami team. I don’t believe you can judge Golden in these past three seasons. He deserves a longer timetable after everything he went through when he first arrived in Coral Gables. He deserves to be judged on what he does with his past two recruiting classes and the one he’s bringing in for next season.

Miami played awful against Louisville. It was one of the worst performances I’ve seen out of a Hurricanes team in years. Nobody showed up on either side of the ball and that led Golden to also say this after the game.

"I'm going to evaluate the whole program, just like I do every year. It's not going to be any different. Again, there's things right now, but in terms of moving the program forward, we're going to keep moving it forward," Golden said. "We're going to be resolute in that and we're not going to flinch with that. … We're going to continue to recruit, continue to develop, but in terms of the young kids in our program and everything, I don't want to trade the young kids. I want to keep going. I want to keep moving forward. I just think overall…it's really important that every coach, every unit, every player, everybody is evaluated.”

Golden believes the program is headed in the right direction. He’s said over and over again that he’s committed to getting Miami back to where it belongs. I can’t tell you for sure if he’s the right man for the job but I can surely tell you that he deserves more time to finish his blueprint before we make a decision.

NOTE: It was reported yesterday that Golden’s name is on Penn State’s wish list of candidates for its next head coach. Golden has plenty of ties to Penn State as he played tight end for them from 1989-1991 and was also a linebackers coach under Joe Paterno in 2000. Golden showed his commitment to UM back on Novemeber 25, 2011 when signed an extension through Feb.1 2020, but it would certainly throw a wrench into Miami’s rebuilding process if he decided to leave. Penn State is looking for a replacement for Bill O’Brien, who left to become the head coach of the Houston Texans after two years in Happy Valley.

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