At first glance, when Miami fired Al Golden on Sunday, it seemed like an unfair ending to a tenure that was severely disabled by NCAA sanctions that cropped up a few months after his hiring—Nevin Shapiro’s infamous conviction for running a $930 million Ponzi scheme—and had nothing to do with him.
As far as win–loss records are concerned, it was certainly a justifiable act for a proud program in a super-fertile recruiting area wanting to return to its former glory. Golden’s best season was a 9–4 effort in 2013 that was soon forgotten when he led the Canes to a 6–7 mark last year and a 4–3 start this season.
In addition, the Canes were coming off a 58–0 home loss to Clemson—their worst defeat in the program’s storied history. Miami—with five national titles, but none since 2001—went just 12–14 over Golden’s final 26 games, and 11 of those losses were by double digits.
Worse still, Golden went just 1–3 versus Virginia—a program that’s had just two winning seasons over the last nine years—and 0–5 against rival Florida State.
Yet, at the same time, he was handicapped by the Shapiro investigation and resulting sanctions. Initially, Miami self-imposed a two-year bowl restriction (2011–12) in the hopes that the NCAA would see it and decide it was enough.
After a very public two-plus-years’ investigation—that rival teams used against the Hurricanes in recruiting—Miami was docked an additional nine scholarships over a three-year period beginning in 2014.
Ultimately, though, Miami is still a destination for big-time recruits, yet the recruiting classes Golden brought in didn’t quite match the overall 32–25 record that his teams achieved.
After arriving in December 2010, Golden assembled the 36th-ranked class in the country, according to Rivals.com. He followed that up with the 9th best in 2012, the 20th in 2013, the 12th in 2014, and the 26th best this past season.
Those aren’t exactly bad.
For comparison purposes, Miami’s classes ranked better than Oregon’s in three of his five years and topped Missouri all five years, yet the Ducks (52–10) and Tigers (40–21) far out-paced Miami’s win–loss record during the same period.
Furthermore, Miami had six players drafted by the NFL last spring—including five in the first three rounds—yet all they had to show for it was a 6–7 mark.
Ultimately, the Hurricanes were justified in their decision. Golden attracted talent to the program, despite the limitations imposed on him. He just wasn’t able to win enough games with it.