Just like his players, Miami coach Al Golden didn’t have any say in the matter.
One day after becoming bowl eligible with a last-second 6-3 win over South Florida, Miami AD Shawn Eichorst walked into Golden’s office on Sunday and told him that the university decided to self-impose a bowl ban for this season in order to hopefully offset possible NCAA sanctions resulting from a widely publicized investigation.
Golden, who walked into this mess in his first season as head coach, said it was the “right decision” and that he is “100 percent behind the decision.”
And he should be.
Considering the allegations that have been levied against the program -- claims that a former booster provided 72 players and recruits with extra benefits from 2002 through 2010 -- Miami didn’t have much choice in the matter. This is a preemptive strike against what likely would have happened anyway. Now, with players already having served their suspensions and missing a hard-earned bowl game this year, Miami can take the first step in putting the pieces back together under Golden.
At least that’s what he’s hoping for.
“The current players on our team have been reinstated and have paid their debt,” Golden said. “Now, as a team and a program, we feel like we’re paying our debt and we feel like we have a chance to put these issues behind us. That’s why I feel it’s the right decision at this time.”
“Clearly this is something we have to do now to move the program forward in the future,” he said.
This could be just the beginning of sanctions for Miami, but if you listen closely to Golden, it also might not be nearly as bad as many first thought when the Yahooo! report was first released. The university did not self-impose any scholarship reductions – another punishment that many assumed the NCAA would meter out, considering the scope of the investigation. Golden, though, seems to think it’s a good sign.
“Based on what I know, which is very little, I’m very positive about the direction we’re going, and clearly, I think the expeditious reinstatement of our current players back in August or September should be a clear indication that we are headed in a positive direction,” he said. “When the story initially broke, it was certainly sensationalized. We understand that there was wrongdoing, but I think as expeditiously as four players were reinstated and the others served penalties … I think that was a silver lining and perhaps this is one as well.”
Despite the uncertainty that still surrounds his program, Golden has repeatedly stated there is nothing uncertain about his future at Miami. Speculation about his contract has taken off this season, especially with the firing of his former coach, Joe Paterno, coupled with the investigation that caught him completely off-guard this past summer just months after being hired.
“I don’t have any decisions to make,” he said. “I’m just coaching the Miami Hurricanes and getting the team ready to go against Boston College and move the program forward. As I’ve said a million times, we really enjoy living here, my family and I.”
While Sunday’s news ended any hopes of a postseason, Miami still has to finish the regular season. The Canes play on Friday against Boston College, and Golden said he doesn’t anticipate any problems keeping the team together for the regular season finale.
“Anybody would be disappointed and saddened, but I really think our seniors are going to take the approach that they can take this game, but they’re not going to take our spirit, they’re not going to take our unity, and they’re not going to take our toughness,” he said. “Our guys are going to look at this as an opportunity to show the country our unity, our character, and how much we’ve changed. These seniors mean a lot to me, mean a lot to our staff. … This won’t be a culmination, this will the start of a long relationship for us with these young men, and obviously we’re grateful to them.”
Sunday’s news had to feel like a punch in the gut, especially to the seniors, but it’s important to remember that some of those players put Miami in this position to begin with.
It’s time for the Canes to start moving on – without a bowl game.
“I’m excited about the direction we’re going,” Golden said. “I think that clearly we’re disappointed in not being able to participate in a bowl game, but we know that we’re one step closer to putting these issues behind us. As sad as we are, it also gives us an opportunity to move forward and move the program forward.”