Yesterday marked the first day of classes for the University of Miami football team. It also marked head coach Al Golden’s first pregame news conference of a brand new football season. While there’s plenty of optimism that comes with the start of a new year, there’s one lingering cloud that continues to hang over the program.
“It’s felt like 50 first dates,” said Golden in response to a question about the NCAA’s investigation into the program.
Miami is still waiting to hear from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions whether it will announce any additional penalties against the program following its investigation into former booster Nevin Shapiro and impermissible benefits he provided to former UM athletes.
The NCAA’s decision could come any day now, and while it could provide a distraction as the team heads into its season opener against Florida Atlantic University on Friday night, Golden expects his players to ignore that looming storm cloud that has drenched the program for over two years.
"I hope we have a mature group, I really do," said Golden. "I hope our guys are focused on just one thing and that's Florida Atlantic and getting better today. I feel like we did. I feel like we came over here with a purpose. All the distractions that may come along with it being the first day of school, hopefully our guys will treat them as blessings and not be stressed out about it. If we have to change a class, or have to go get a book, and all those little things, I hope our guys take care of it and treat them as blessings.”
"I believe our guys are focused 100-percent on Florida Atlantic and they have trust and faith in [UM] president [Donna] Shalala and our athletic director and legal counsel that we've done everything we can do at this stage."
From the moment Golden arrived at the University of Miami his program has been under investigation by the NCAA. Not only has he had to grow from the adversity but his players have had to as well. As he heads into his third season as UM’s head coach he believes his team has the chance to show the strides its made from its 7-5 finish a season ago.
“Clearly this is a more mature team than we’ve had,” said Golden. “It’s a deeper team. It’s embraced competition and I think they look at Friday night as an opportunity to prove to themselves what they are developing and what they want to become in terms of their brand and what they want to be on the spectrum of a Miami Hurricanes football team.”
Golden continued to make clear how important it is for his team to focus on the task at hand.
“There’s a lot of urgency right now,” said Golden. “There’s only 14 of these games and I think our guys are approaching it in that manner which is important.”
The first of those 14 games will be Friday night when the Hurricanes host the FAU Owls at Sun Life Stadium. Kick off is set for 8 PM and can be seen on ESPNU.