“The mediocrity is done,” junior starting quarterback Stephen Morris recently declared.
And that's fine. You want confidence from your QB. Morris' mindset is mirrored by Canes fans who still wear those T-shirts that proclaim Miami “invented swagger.” But swagger is something neither teams nor fans inherit. Swagger does not begin with attitude. It begins with results.
Golden inherited not just the NCAA cloud but also a wheezing, out-of-shape roster. Conditioning had eroded. Golden won't comment because previous coach Randy Shannon is a member of The U family. But another member of the current football staff told us only 11 Canes players in Golden's first spring practice could bench press 225 pounds (the NFL Combine standard) 20 or more times, and zero could do 30-plus. This past spring, one year into the Golden era, 41 Canes did 20-plus reps and 11 topped 30.
There has been little time for Golden to reflect.
Last season was all about dealing with the hand he'd been dealt. Eight players, many in key roles, were suspended at least one game and as many as eight games related to their involvements with Shapiro. A disappointing 6-6 season played out. Miami self-imposed a bowl ban even though it was bowl eligible.
The university hopes the suspensions already served and the bowl ban will mitigate against the severity of future sanctions but nobody knows. All Golden can do is recruit his tail off and move forward.
He has a young team that will likely have more true freshmen than senior starters in significant roles. No college experts predict the Canes can win the ACC, expected to be led this season by Florida State.
Golden, though, concedes nothing and wants no excuses from his players. NCAA shadow? No excuse. Young team? Doesn't want to hear it.
“If we want trap doors and we want excuses, we can do that,” he said. “We can hide behind that. Or we can rise above that and rise to our standard. That's the challenge. And that's the only standard anybody will be measured by here. We've encountered some resistance in the beginning in the way of external adversity. But I have no doubt we will be back on top very soon. No doubt.”
I proposed to Golden that, between the youth of his roster and the possibility of reduced scholarships in the near future, Miami football seemed to be in a transitional stage. He didn't want to hear it.
“I'm not into setting goals for transitional seasons,” he said. “Why can't we compete now? Why not? Batten down the hatches as a team, forget about the external, block it all out. Get back to a work ethic, a consistency.”
I think an improvement over 6-6 is possible. I see Miami as a likely underdog in at least five games including three on the road at Kansas State, at Georgia Tech and against Notre Dame at Soldier Field.
But Miami will be home against its two best opponents, FSU and Virginia Tech.
Golden looks beyond this season to better days, to a time not far off when his improbable surname will reflect Miami's return to its former stature.
He peers out his campus coach's office and sees a $16 million project under way to build a new training room, locker room and academic support center.
He, himself, is foreman of an even greater project: Building Hurricanes football back up to where it once was.
“This is where I want to be,” he said.
The proof is that the mess that blindsided him last year didn't make Al Golden cave, quit or run. It made him dig in for a fight.
Distributed by MCT Information Services