The talk surrounding University of Miami football coach Al Golden and his reported interest in the vacant coaching job at Penn State, his alma mater, intensified into a firestorm Friday.
Golden’s name came up as a possible replacement for former Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien even before O’Brien officially left this week to become the new coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
A Miami football staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Miami Herald in a text that Golden told him Friday evening that any reports about Golden leaving Miami for Penn State were “not true.”
But John Clark of NBC10 in Philadelphia posted on Twitter that a Penn State search committee will travel Saturday “to meet with Al Golden” and that the committee had intended to come Friday but the trip was “postponed because of snow.”
Neither Miami athletic director Blake James nor Golden’s agent, Brett Senior, returned phone messages left by the Miami Herald.
ESPN reporter Joe Schad posted a tweet citing a Penn State source saying that Golden “agreed to speak about the opening as early as [Friday] because ‘It would be coming home.’ ”
Rivals.com, including rivals affiliate CaneSport.com, was the only media outlet as of Friday night reporting that “Golden has been offered the head coaching job and likely will take it barring a last minute change.”
UM’s coaching staff is set to meet with Golden on campus Monday, a meeting that was scheduled after UM lost 36-9 to Louisville last Saturday in the Russell Athletic Bowl, someone close to an assistant coach told the Miami Herald.
That person said Golden had not been in contact with the assistant since the bowl game. Most, if not all, of UM’s assistants are on vacation this week during a recruiting dead period.
Golden has his regularly scheduled postseason news conference with the media Monday afternoon.
Other reported candidates for the Penn State job were Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and Greg Schiano by multiple outlets, and Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak by ESPN.
The Tennessean reported later Friday that Munchak was expected to be retained by the Titans.
Golden, who has a 22-15 record with the Hurricanes (including 9-4 in 2013) in three seasons, graduated from Penn State with a degree in pre-law in 1991. He was a three-year letter winner as a tight end, was a senior captain and received the 1991 Ridge Riley Award for the “player who displays excellence in scholarship, sportsmanship, friendship and leadership.”
Shortly after Golden came to UM, he learned that the Hurricanes were being investigated by the NCAA for transgressions that occurred before he arrived. He took the Canes through that saga until the NCAA finally delivered its sanctions in late October — a total of nine scholarship losses the next three seasons.
Golden is known as a good recruiter and currently has one of the nation’s top-rated recruiting classes, set for signing day next month.
Should Golden leave, Miami candidates would likely include former Hurricanes tight end and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, fired Sunday by the Cleveland Browns after only one season; former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal, an ex-UM player and assistant; former UM assistant line coach and recent USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron; and former UM defensive coordinator Schiano, who was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.
Franklin, who has turned around the Vanderbilt program and Saturday will lead it to its third consecutive bowl, is 23-15 there and would be another option if Golden leaves.
Although Miami is a private school and does not disclose terms of its coaches’ contracts, it is believed Golden makes $2.1 million annually. He is under contract with Miami through January 2020.
O’Brien reportedly was paid close to $3.3 million by Penn State in 2013.
Miami Herald sportswriters Manny Navarro and Michelle Kaufman contributed to this report.