Golden: A stellar coach caught in Miami's mess

Al Golden, the former Temple coach, said he planned to stick it out at Miami despite the claims by a booster.
Al Golden, the former Temple coach, said he planned to stick it out at Miami despite the claims by a booster. (Associated Press)
Posted: August 18, 2011

It's hard to blame Al Golden if he isn't thinking clearly. His claim that taking over the Temple football program "prepared me for" the avalanche of sludge that is about to engulf him at the University of Miami is somewhere between denial and outright madness.

Golden also told reporters Wednesday morning that he hadn't yet read the devastating Yahoo.com report, which was based on 11 months of cooperation with Nevin Shapiro - who is to college football boosters what Dr. Hannibal Lecter was to psychiatrists. Extending that analogy, the Miami football program is the census taker whose liver went well with some "fava beans and a nice chianti."

Shapiro, in prison for running a $930 million Ponzi scheme, detailed a decade-long trampling of the NCAA rulebook. He said he gave gifts and money to more than 70 Miami football players, did favors for coaches, and was well known to the university president, administrators, and coaches. At a time when the NCAA seems to be getting serious about enforcement, Miami football could be looking at the so-called "death penalty" - a one-year abolishment of the program - along with myriad other penalties.

On top of that, the NCAA's official investigation could last as long as Golden's tenure. The investigation of the Southern Cal program, which found wrongdoing and a lack of institutional oversight regarding payments made to running back Reggie Bush - a Heisman Trophy winner - lasted four years. So Golden could be forced to coach and recruit with suspensions and postseason bans and the loss of scholarships hanging over him.

That hardly compares to Temple's low Academic Progress Rate, which cost the program scholarships before Golden arrived. He quickly improved the APR before Temple was hit with other sanctions.

Temple had some water in the engine room when Golden got there. Miami has a huge new tear in its hull. It's going to the bottom.

It is a terrible situation, and Golden is an innocent victim. He would be well within his rights to ask the university to release him from his contract. Either the athletic director and other officials knew about Shapiro when Golden was hired in December or they are complete imbeciles. They are not complete imbeciles.

"If they knew this was percolating," Golden told reporters in Coral Gables, Fla., "then I believe they did have a responsibility to tell me."

But he also said he planned to stick it out and make a go of things at Miami. Whether that was meant mostly for the ears of his 24 incoming recruits, or whether he will change his mind when the full scope of this morass becomes clear, will become clearer with time.

The truly disturbing part of the Shapiro story is not that one man, who happens to bear a creepy resemblance to Lenny Dykstra, was able to run amok at one high-profile college football program. It is the peek that this story, hard on the heels of the Ohio State scandal that cost Jim Tressel his job, gives us into the way big-time college programs really operate.

"It's everywhere," Shapiro told Yahoo.com, referring to his own actions and worse. "Everywhere that it matters. Most people can't even understand it."

Shapiro was allowed on the sideline or in the press box for Miami games. A players' lounge was named after him. He was photographed with university president Donna Shalala and a number of coaches. Meanwhile, he allegedly was giving players cash and entertaining them at his mansion, in strip clubs, on a yacht, and in the VIP section of nightclubs.

The list of his alleged benefactors includes a dozen current Miami players, plus a bunch of current and former NFL players: Vince Wilfork, the late Sean Taylor, Devin Hester, dozens more.

Shapiro's story, which he corroborates with photos and phone records and receipts, points out both the need for and the futility of paying college athletes. NCAA rules make players much more vulnerable to a deep-pocketed sycophant such as Shapiro. But it's just as clear that a modest stipend isn't going to deter starry-eyed young jocks from partying like rock stars or taking $50,000 bundles of cash.

That's the larger issue. The more immediate one has a terrific guy, Golden, dealing with a terrible situation he did nothing to bring about. Miami is fortunate to have someone as honorable as Golden handling this impossible situation.

"You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself and say you got blindsided," Golden told reporters, "but at the end of the day we have a chance to be a really good football team and a chance to be a really great program."

The shame of it is that Golden did a stellar job at Temple and earned this career-making opportunity with a storied program. He just couldn't have known what a disgusting story the Miami program would turn out to be.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at http://go.philly.com/philabuster. Read his past columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

|
|
|
|
|