CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) — When the news broke that the University of Miami had fired Al Golden this past Sunday, many fans and Hurricanes football alumni weren’t shy about expressing their glee.
But few considered how Miami’s current players would feel about it.
In what has been a tumultuous 72 hours for the Hurricanes – capped by the saddening news of the passing of junior defensive back Artie Burns’ mother, players officially spoke to the media for the first time Tuesday morning after practice and two things remained constant: their appreciation towards Golden and their support of interim head coach Larry Scott.
After suffering the worst loss in the school’s 90-year football history – a 58-0 drubbing at the hands of Clemson – Miami athletic director Blake James was forced to re-evaluate his plan of evaluating the Hurricanes’ coaching situation at the end of the season and chose to relieve Golden of his duties.
In his five years of leading the team Golden compiled a 32-25 record, failed to capture a victory in a bowl game in two tries and never won an ACC title. In the fans’ eyes, Golden’s era had run its course – things weren’t going to get any better under his watch.
For the players, though, Golden was a friend, a mentor – just an all-around “good guy” that they respected.
Senior Dallas Crawford talked about how things went in the meeting when they learned about Golden’s fate.
“[Coach Golden] was heartbroken…it was sad,” Crawford said. “He gave us his best and he told us to go win [the rest of our games]. He brought us in as a team and he spoke to us…it was an emotional meeting. Each of us got up individually and told him how much we appreciated everything he’s done for us.”
“Everybody loved him. Everybody in the building loved coach Golden,” Crawford said.
Senior cornerback Tracy Howard said that the team wants to win the ACC Coastal division for Golden.
“We didn’t want to hear that news – about him being let go,” Howard said. “It was definitely a heartfelt meeting we had with him. A lot of guys truly looked up to Coach Golden as a father figure. And no matter what anybody else thought about him, he was our leader.”
“Coach Golden set a goal for us – to win the Coastal and that’s still in front of us. We’re going to go out and try to win the Coastal for him. He started it and it’s only right that we finish it for him…and that’s out of respect,” Howard added.
Despite his shortcomings on the field, Golden – for all intents and purposes – helped lift the Hurricanes’ program from a dark place. As an ominous cloud of NCAA investigations loomed over the program in 2011 and 2012 – Golden’s first two years on the job – he handled the murky situation as good as anyone could have.
Despite his 13-11 record in that span, Golden and the school’s administration did a lot off the field to help clean up the program’s image on the whole.
James spoke to that in a part of the statement he released Sunday.
“Coach Golden has led our program through some very difficult times,” the Hurricanes AD said. “And he has done so with class, integrity and a true desire to see our students succeed on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”
Sophomore quarterback Malik Rosier, who played some of the first half and the entire second half in place of a concussed Brad Kaaya this past Saturday against Clemson, said he was emotional during the meeting with Golden on Sunday.
“I know I cried,” said Rosier, who completed 7-of-22 passes for 42 yards and was picked off twice against the Tigers. “We all love coach Golden. I’m here because of coach Golden – he recruited me. He came to my house the day I got my offer and met with my family, so I knew his heart was in it.”
“But we have to move forward,” added Rosier, who took all of the first-team reps during practice Tuesday.
That’s the big thing now.
With Golden gone, this team is going to move forward with Larry Scott as its head football coach.
And that’s something that the players seem to be happy about.
“They got the right person in charge,” Crawford, a captain, said when asked about the decision to name the former tight ends coach the interim head coach.
“We’re behind Coach Scott 100 percent. We love Coach Scott. We’ve always respected him and we’d do anything for him. He keeps it real. He’s 100. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. He’ll praise you when you need to be praised and he’ll tell you about yourself when you need to pick it up. He’s the right guy in charge.”
Scott, a Sebring native and a University of South Florida alumnus, originally joined the Hurricanes’ staff in 2013 as the tight ends coach. Before heading to Coral Gables, Scott spent eight seasons at USF, starting out as the director of high school relations, then graduate assistant, before coaching the Bulls’ tight ends, offensive line and running backs in different years.
“We have a lot of respect for Coach Scott,” said senior safety Deon Bush. “He’s a great person…very compassionate, yet very hard. He’s a great coach and I think he has what it takes to get us ready to go against Duke.”
Fans and pundits alike have already started to speculate and pontificate as to who the Hurricanes could or should hire as their next head coach. Various names have been thrown around already, but for the next five games – Scott is the head coach.
Though Miami is not among the nation’s elite, it still controls its own destiny in terms of winning the ACC Coastal division. Five straight victories would put the Canes in the ACC title game – likely to face either Florida State or Clemson again – and would put them in at least a mid-level bowl game.
Howard thinks Coach Scott should get the green light to be Miami’s new head coach permanently.
“We love Coach Scott. I’ve [loved] him since day one. He’s a great coach with a lot of passion. I think Coach Scott is a great man for the job,” Howard said. “To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if he just takes it over period. I’m going to ride with Coach Scott and I can’t wait to play for him.”
NCAA rules permit an institution to run a fundraiser for student-athletes in catastrophic circumstances. The University of Miami has begun this process for Artie and his family by setting up a GoFundMe page to provide support for funeral, medical, and related expenses. Click on the link to visit the page.
Listen to the Miami Hurricanes take on the Duke Blue Devils this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, your official radio home for the Canes!