Whenever people mentioned Al Golden and his next job, the talk always turned to Penn State. He seemed a natural fit, having played there and learned from his coaching role model, Joe Paterno.
But Golden has taken a different route, down to Coral Gables and the University of Miami. The Hurricanes were the latest in a line of schools that had reached out to Golden over the past two seasons. So how did he become one of the hottest names in college football?
Simple. Temple turnaround.
What he has done for the Owls has been remarkable and it is worth a retrospective. Temple had been kicked out of the Big East in the mid-2000s because it could never compete with the upper echelon of the league. When Golden was hired before the 2006 season, the Owls were coming off an 0-11 season. In fact, the Owls had won three total games in the three seasons before he took over.
Golden got to work, instilling discipline and a no-nonsense attitude. The improvement was incremental, but it was there. All of his efforts paid off last season, when Temple went 9-4 and made a bowl game for the first time since 1979. It was the third bowl appearance in 111 years of Temple football.
This season, expectations were high for the Owls. They were the preseason pick to win the MAC East with many of its best players returning. That included Bernard Pierce, a running back the school began to tout for the Heisman. The season featured a win over Connecticut, but ended in disappointment. The Owls lost two straight to end the season and were left out of the bowl picture despite going 8-4.
Though Golden and his players were bitterly disappointed, this was the first time they posted back-to-back winning seasons since 1978 and 1979. Success like that at a program that has known nothing but misery will get you a higher profile job any day.
There is still plenty to be done at Temple, and Golden knew that. As recently as last month, he talked about his big plans for the program. Of the things yet to be accomplished: the Owls have not played for a MAC championship, and they have never beaten a MAC team with a winning record.
As for who could succeed him, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio could top the list. Whoever takes over certainly has room to grow, but also will have high expectations to continue what Golden started.
“He engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Division I history, and not only did he turn Temple football around, he did it in such a way that it will last long after his departure," Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said in a statement.
“He hands off a program that is built for success, and for that Temple University is grateful.