A day after the Miami Hurricanes’ worst football loss in history, the University of Miami fired coach Al Golden.
Miami athletic director Blake James announced Sunday evening in a written release that he had “relieved Head Football Coach Al Golden of his duties effective immediately” and that tight ends coach Larry Scott will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of 2015.
“Coach Golden has led our program through some very difficult times, 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,” James said. “However, we have a proud tradition of excellence at Miami, not just in football but in all sports, and we want to compete for ACC and national championships. I simply believe that now is the time to bring the Hurricane Family together and rally behind our young men.”
Golden, 46, was in the middle of his fifth season at UM and finished 32-25. The program has been going downhill for years, and Saturday afternoon’s 58-0 loss to now third-ranked Clemson on national TV — the largest margin of defeat in UM’s 90 years of football — was the final dagger for Golden.
The loss was so humiliating that James, who all along insisted he would wait until the end of the season to evaluate Golden and then make his decision, had to stop the bleeding immediately.
“My goal is always to do this at the end of the season for any one of our programs,” James said Sunday night during a media teleconference. “With that said, I felt that going through yesterday’s game, my analysis was at a point that the end result had been identified and we weren’t where I felt we needed to be as a program.”
A source familiar with the situation said that UM staff members “are all busting their butts to beat Duke” next Saturday in Durham, North Carolina. That person said that an announcement was made Sunday evening over the public address system, which was heard by a large contingent of students at the intramural fields on campus — and that “hundreds of people began to cheer.”
James said Golden always represented UM “in a first-class manner” and said he didn’t regret his decision to keep Golden on staff for the start of 2015. He declined to discuss what role, if any, new UM President Julio Frenk and/or the UM Board of Trustees had in the decision.
“I made the decision this afternoon and let Al know. Beyond that, I won’t have any further comment.”
He said he told the players of the news and wouldn’t expound on their reactions.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya was clearly upset.
“One of the few guys who ever believed in me and gave me a legit shot to play college football,” Kaaya posted on Twitter. “This hurts.”
James said that interim coach Scott, who is in his third season at UM and spent the previous eight seasons at USF, “will be our coach as long as the season is going.”
When asked whether Scott has the authority to make changes to the staff as he sees fit, James said, “I’m confident he’ll make whatever changes he needs to do to give our student-athletes the best experience possible and put our team in the best position to be successful in these games.”
James said “the only change” made on the staff was the dismissing of Golden. The future status of his close friend, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, is unknown.
Much of the fan base has openly loathed Golden and D’Onofrio for a long time. UM fans, former players and even a U.S. congressman got involved in the Hurricanes-bashing during and after Saturday afternoon’s game.
“A new low for @CanesFootball — an absolute embarrassment for what was once a great program,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who graduated from UM and Belen Jesuit, tweeted Saturday, The Associated Press reported. “Anyone at @univmiami care to try to save it?”
With their next game at 22nd-ranked Duke, the Canes are 4-3 and 1-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and don’t have much of a chance to even win the Coastal Division in the ACC, their foremost goal this season.
Golden’s four previous seasons at UM: 6-6, 7-5, 9-4 and 6-7.
Golden’s contract had run through 2019, but UM is a private school and it is not officially known how much UM will have to pay him for the remainder of this season and 2016 through ’19. In its annual report on NCAA coaching salaries, USA Today on Oct. 10 listed Golden’s salary as $2,539,315 — 42nd of 128 FBS coaches listed.
“On behalf of my family, I want to thank the University of Miami for a tremendous opportunity,” Golden said in a statement. “I believe in what we are doing and how we are doing it, and we have some outstanding young men in our football program. Though this moment is difficult, we wish the Canes the best of luck going forward.”
His players, many of whom seemed supportive and close with him, sent out some tweets after the news was revealed.
“Coach Golden saw in me something that I didn’t see for myself,” defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu tweeted. “Thank you for all you did for me coach.”
Freshman nose tackle Kendrick Norton tweeted a photo of Golden’s office door with a sign that said, “This meeting may only be interrupted by a player.”
Added Norton in the tweet: “Al Golden’s door … The kind of person and coach he was.”
The news also affected recruits. Class of 2016 Wellington receiver Ahmmon Richards decommitted with this tweet: “Due to the departure of Coach Golden I would like to open my recruiting and decommit from UM at this time… I would also like to thank the UM staff for all their love and support.”
Who’s next? That is yet to be determined, though former Hurricanes offensive lineman, UM assistant coach and Miamian Mario Cristobal, 45 — now in his third season as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Alabama — is a popular choice and would likely jump at the chance to coach his alma mater.
Another extremely popular choice: former UM coach Butch Davis, 63, now a TV analyst out of coaching but most recently at North Carolina, which endured its own NCAA scandal under his watch. Davis brought UM back from another down period in the mid-1990s to become a championship contender when he left after 2000 to coach the Cleveland Browns.
And another popular former Cane and former UM offensive coordinator: Rob Chudzinski, 47, now an associate head coach with the Indianapolis Colts.
Golden departs after enduring most of his tenure gracefully under the scrutiny of a painful NCAA investigation that he wasn’t warned about when he took the UM job before the 2011 season. He replaced former UM coach Randy Shannon, who was fired in November 2010 and finished his four seasons with a composite record of 28-22.
Golden lost both of his bowl games with the Canes and never defeated a team that ended the season ranked in the top 25.
Golden, a Penn State player and alum, came to UM from Temple, where he resurrected a program that for years was the doormat of the Big East.