MIAMI (AP) – Around Miami, nobody is happy these days.
Former players are bashing coach Al Golden and his staff on sports radio and through social media. Fans are talking about staying away from games — which are rarely well-attended anyway — in protest, and one person announced plans to fly a banner over Sun Life Stadium on the day of the Florida State game later this season to express his displeasure with the program.
On the field, Miami is a mediocre 3-3 heading into this weekend’s game against Cincinnati.
“I don’t listen to anything,” Golden said regarding the crescendo of criticism. “I never have.”
The Hurricanes will not win the national championship and probably have lost any realistic shot of getting into the Atlantic Coast Conference title game. They are 55-45 in their last 100 games — the worst such stretch since the 1970s when football was so irrelvant to the university that school officials were close to disbanding the program.
Golden was hired to restore Miami’s shine. That job is a long way from done, and even after an NCAA scandal fan patience is wearing thin.
“This is a rebuilding process,” Miami athletic director Blake James told The Associated Press. “It’s not flipping a switch.”
Larry Coker won Miami’s last national championship in 2001, but eventually was fired after losing 15 games in six years. Randy Shannon was hired to replace Coker, his tenure ending after four years of small crowds, small recruiting budgets and small win totals. That opened the door for Golden, who turned Temple from a doormat to a bowl team.
Then the NCAA mess hit in August 2011, and Golden’s job got considerably harder overnight. The scandal came to an end nearly a year ago, but the aftereffects — recruiting restrictions on official visits, scholarship reductions, probation — are still there.
Many recruits Miami targeted during the two-year saga decided to play elsewhere because of fears of what penalties the Hurricanes would face because of a rogue booster’s actions.
Still, many around the program just aren’t seeing enough improvement.
“The most upsetting part of this mess is the players,” former Miami lineman Joaquin Gonzalez, one of the more outspoken Golden critics, wrote on Twitter. “We actually have great talent but talent without proper direction is pure waste!!!”
The defensive scheme gets questioned after every loss. Offensive playcalling was the subject of scorn after a Week 1 loss to Louisville, though that has quieted down considerably given the emergence of true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. Special teams — which Golden coaches — have struggled this season as well.
For his part, Kaaya is blocking out the noise.
“It would be a bad thing if no one had anything to say,” Kaaya told AP. “For us, we just worry about what’s on our team, what’s happening in our facility. The only thing that matters is this family. I’m playing for those guys. I’m playing my heart out for those guys. That’s what matters.”
Other issues facing Miami are either excuses or valid points, depending on perspective.
The demolition of the Orange Bowl and move to Sun Life, some 16 miles north of campus, has never been well-received. The move to the ACC gave the school some more financial security, but wins have been much harder to come by since the conference switch.
Since the start of 2006, Miami is just 33-34 in ACC play.
“Coach Golden inherited a program that had gone down some, but he’s built it back,” said Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, a former Miami assistant during glory days of the 1980s and 1990s. “He’s done with mostly players from South Florida, which is what that program was built on. It’s hard to sustain the success that was there in the ’90s and ’80s. It was almost unheard of because they came from nowhere … and I can see them coming back.”
Miami would have been in the ACC title game in 2012 if not for self-imposed sanctions while waiting for the NCAA saga to end. The Hurricanes held back five scholarships as part of those penalties, then forfeited nine more over a three-year span. And the last time Miami was dealing with sanctions, it went 5-6 under Butch Davis, then began loading up for what became the championship season of 2001.
“I just go about my job every day,” Golden said. “I just go about working every day. My concern is the staff and my concern is the student-athletes that play for us. I put those people first and I don’t worry about anything else.”
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