December 12, 2010
Miami went into its coaching search two weeks ago with its sights on a proven headliner whose arrival would strike fear across the state and harken The U's return as a perennial contender. It ended it today, according to ESPN's Bruce Feldman and CaneSport.com, by welcoming Temple's Al Golden into the fold. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
At 41, Golden is young, isn't a blockbuster name, and pretty clearly wasn't the first choice to succeed Randy Shannon. But any and all discussions of his credentials begin and end with this: He's put together back-to-back winning seasons at Temple, a program that had managed a single winning season in 20 years prior to his arrival, and none since assuming role of perennial Big East bottom dweller in 1991. The year before Golden arrived, the Owls went 0-11 in 2005; the two years prior to that, they were 3-20, just pathetic enough to get them booted from the conference after more than a decade of all-purpose futility.
Four years later, they were in the second bowl game in school history after winning a share of the MAC East title. Miami fans may not know or care about the relative competitiveness of the MAC East, but they're more than familiar with the depths of the hopelessness at Temple. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. (Yes, even if you make it with a grand total of two wins – over Navy last year and BCS-bound UConn in September – against teams that finished with a winning record.)
How does that translate to The U? Only in that Golden is used to taking a team across the city to play in a sterile, multipurpose pro stadium that struggles to draw fans on a regular basis. He has no ties to Miami, Florida or the South; he doesn't bring any innovative, record-breaking schemes on either side of the ball. He'd only been an assistant for 10 years before taking the Temple job as the second-youngest head coach on the I-A/FBS level at age 36. Besides the turnaround at Temple, his best selling point may be his square-jawed roots under Tom O'Brien, Joe Paterno (as a player and coach) and Al Groh at Virginia, where he presided over a string of mediocre units as defensive coordinator from 2001-05. Like Shannon, he's considered something of a disciplinarian; unlike Shannon, he's also considered a "dogged" recruiter.
If nothing else, Golden's old-school fashion sense is as close as any contemporary coach comes to the classic Oxford-and-tie look that put the 'Canes on the map under Howard Schnellenberger in the early eighties. If he adds a mustache and a pipe that he occasionally leaves behind on recruiting trips as an excuse to go back to a player's house, it's practically a reincarnation. That ought to get him to the press conference in good standing.
[UPDATE, 8:14 p.m. ET] The university makes it official in a release: Golden is their man.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.