Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Colleges

Golden guides Hurricanes on path back toward football elite

RECOMMENDED READING


We love our dynasties in college football.

You know, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nebraska and so forth. We put them on the pedestal, then wait for them to fall.

And when they do fall, we look for them to rise again.

We carefully check in each season, watch every game and look for any little sign that the program is about to return to past glory. We study each victory, look for a signature win and then ask, "Are they back?''

That's where we are now with the University of Miami.

Are the Hurricanes back?

Well, there's a lot to like here. The 'Canes are undefeated. They are ranked seventh in the country. They knocked off Florida in what many Miami fans want to believe is the signature win that proved the Hurricanes are once again among the nation's elite.

I don't know about that. I'm not quite ready to say they are all the way back, but they are headed in the right direction thanks to a dynamic young coach and an NCAA investigation that has finally been put to rest.

This weekend the Hurricanes play their biggest game in recent memory, going to Tallahassee to take on third-ranked Florida State.

Win that game, then I'll say they are all the way back.

Yet even if the Hurricanes take a pounding — and that would not be surprising — the program is starting to look as if the future can resemble the glorious past.

For most of the 1980s and 1990s Miami was the program everyone loathed but everyone wanted to be.

They talked the talk and walked the walk to five national championships from 1983 to 2001. They consistently finished in the Top 10 and almost always showed up on your television on New Year's Day. The Orange Bowl was the most feared football field in the land.

They cranked out Heisman Trophy winners and All-Americans and NFL stars. Even their coaches — Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis — parlayed their successful stints into NFL jobs.

Larry Coker won Miami's last national title, during the 2001 season, played for the title again the next season and finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll the season after that.

And then everything just fizzled out.

Back-to-back 9-3 seasons were followed by 7-6, and Coker was out. Former player Randy Shannon lasted four seasons, going 28-22, and he was out.

That's when Al Golden, a former Penn State star who turned Temple's sickly program around, was brought in to revitalize the Hurricanes. That was after the 2010 season, just about the time the NCAA began what proved to be a 2½`-year investigation because of activities former booster Nevin Shapiro engaged in with the program.

Golden could have bolted and no one would have blamed him. The Shapiro mess didn't happen on his watch. Instead, he stuck it out and was somewhat rewarded when Miami, after a self-imposed two-year bowl ban, found out last week the NCAA was giving it a slap on the wrist: nine lost scholarships over three years and no bowl ban.

The best part is the waiting is finally over. The dark cloud over the program has been removed. When I asked Golden about it this week, he was so giddy that he laughed before answering.

"As I said for the last 28 months, you can't quantify the impact and the negative repercussions associated with that,'' Golden, 44, said. "Well guess what? You can't quantify how excited we are about moving on. That's how we feel. It gives us an opportunity to move our program forward and just get on level footing again.''

Led by senior quarterback Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson and a defense that is giving up only an average 17.7 points a game — 11th-best in the country — the Hurricanes have racked up a 7-0 record. But — and Miami fans won't want to hear this — it's a wobbly 7-0. UM's best victory is over a Gators team that is clearly down and still dominated Miami statistically.

The Hurricanes then needed last-minute touchdowns to narrowly escape upset losses to North Carolina and Wake Forest, teams with a combined record of 6-9.

"Certainly our guys feel they have the opportunity to finish games and to win,'' Golden said. "There are a lot of things we have to fix. The wins down the stretch can't mask what we have to fix. And we're going to have to get better to have an opportunity this weekend.''

Ah, yes, this weekend. Frankly, with the way the Seminoles and quarterback Jameis Winston are playing, this game could turn ugly on Miami. But it shouldn't ruin what feels like the start of something good again in Coral Gables.

"We want to be in these types of meaningful games every year,'' Golden said. "It's great to be a part of it. We're just going to keep checking boxes and focus on the little things and, obviously, get ready for a great opportunity, and, really, approach (it) in no other way than looking at it as an opportunity.''

It's an opportunity that has been a few years coming. And, you get the feeling with Golden in charge, the opportunities will keep on coming until someday soon we'll look up and say, "The Hurricanes are back.''

Comments
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macy’s parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

It’s a Thanksgiving Football Wednesday as Rick Stroud and Tom Jones preview the Bucs-Falcons game, USF-UCF, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan and more.The guys agree on the Bucs game outcome with Rick saying they can’t win. They also agree that Tha...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Call Missouri jinxed, but Michael Porter Jr. injury is its own story

Please repeat after me: There is no such thing as jinxes, hexes, ghosts or cartoonish black clouds looming with personalized curses for select targets.Honest.But, boy, are there coincidences — even if some say there is no such thing as those, either....
Published: 11/21/17

Chip Kelly is not the best candidate for Florida job

For the sake of a beleaguered and bedraggled fan base, here’s hoping Chip Kelly becomes the next head coach of the Florida Gators even though I think he’s not a great fit — culturally, geographically and philosophically — at UF.Gator Nation needs som...
Published: 11/21/17

Lane Kiffin knows speculation about his future grows with each victory

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin already knows what profession he will choose once his coaching career ends.Kiffin, in his first season at Florida Atlantic, thinks he is destined to join the sports-media ranks. It will provide him opportunity to switch roles...
Published: 11/21/17
Jones: Maybe the Florida job isn’t as good as we thought

Jones: Maybe the Florida job isn’t as good as we thought

These are strange, unsettling times for the University of Florida.The Gators need themselves a football coach.They offer a terrific job. Maybe one of the best jobs in the country.Right?Uh, right? (nervous laugh)Well, we’ll soon find out. Maybe this i...
Published: 11/21/17
UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

GAINESVILLE — At last, there’s some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.The Gators sent a group — including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin — to New Hampshire on Sunday to talk with the former Oregon coach about U...
Published: 11/20/17
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI — After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Published: 11/18/17
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher longed for his team to play in this type of game throughout its disappointing season.After Hurricane Irma caused a three-week layoff between FSU’s first two games, forcing it to play 11 in a row to finis...
Published: 11/18/17
A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

GAINESVILLE — Chauncey Gardner wasn’t fooled. He saw UAB snap the ball. He saw the quarterback throw a screen. He saw the receiver fire a second pass downfield. Then a crowd of 84,649 saw the sophomore safety high-point the trick-play pass to earn hi...
Published: 11/18/17