Many knew when Al Golden took over the job at Miami that it wouldn't be an instant turnaround, but on Tuesday, former Hurricanes cornerback Ryan Hill gave fans an idea just how far the program needs to go to regain it national prominence.
And according to Hill, it all starts with maturity.
Hill told the Miami Herald that while former coach Randy Shannon did his best to make sure his players were going to class and acting right, many of them mocked the coach behind his back and did whatever they wanted in spite of their coaches requests. And the behavior wasn't limited to freshmen and sophomores, even juniors weren't acting like the leaders they needed to be:
"In my early years at UM, there were guys who were freshmen who acted like adults — Jon Beason, Teraz McCray, Greg Olsen," Hill said. "When I was a senior last year, some sophomores and juniors acted like freshmen. Guys would do silly stuff like pulling their pants down, wearing crazy stuff.
"Guys would come late to meetings. They would schedule appointments and not show up or listen to iPods in class. I was always told by academic advisors to talk to [teammates]. Some kids got worse after they got here. People were purposely doing stuff to mock Randy Shannon or do their own thing.
"Coach Shannon tried to make sure guys went to class and presented themselves well. But as soon as he turned his back, they would do what they wanted. There are a lot of guys who didn't produce, and how they act off the field has a lot to do with it. That has to change."
Hill also chronicled a snowball fight on the sideline during last year's Sun Bowl. The 'Canes were down 21-0 and the players were more interested in acting like children than winning the football game.
But this isn't Golden's first rodeo. He rebuilt a Temple program that neither the school nor the town really cared about. It had mired in mediocrity and subsequently, the players did the same. Players weren't motivated to work hard or try because what was the point? However, when Golden came in, things changed. He challenged players to be better than what the outside world thought and slowly but surely they bought in. The product off the field improved as did the product on it. There was no doubt that winning helped keep players in line because they didn't want to lose that feeling.
Golden does have the ability to promote the same type of change at Miami, but Hill said he has to get rid of the apathy. He noted that players who dropped on the depth chart stopped trying to work their way up. He also said marijuana has contributed to a lot of the attitude on the team. While Shannon suspended players in past seasons for smoking, it hasn't really stopped the problem.
"Coach Shannon put fear in guys not to do pot during the season. But I know there were a couple guys that beat the system," Hill said. "Nobody got caught. Now coach Golden has a problem on his hands, and he has to figure out how to handle it. I'm sure there are guys still using, though there's no way to know for sure. You have to have a zero tolerance rule, make an example out of somebody. It's a problem across the country."
Golden has already dealt with five players leaving the program and quarterback Tate Forcier pulling out of his scholarship agreement. There's no doubt he's encouraged players to take a long hard look at whether they want to work with him and those that stay will be rewarded. Like any transition this won't be easy, but if Golden can heed Hill's advice and nip problems in the bud early, Miami might get back to the team many of us remember.