Three days from hell.
That’s what it has been like for the University of Miami football program.
Day One, Saturday: The Hurricanes are demolished 58-0 by the Clemson Tigers — the worst loss in UM history — and lose their star quarterback to a concussion.
Day Two, Sunday: Hurricanes coach Al Golden gets fired seven games into the season, then says goodbye to his players in a tearful meeting.
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Day Three, Monday: Star cornerback Artie Burns’ mother, 44-year-old Dana Smith, is admitted to the hospital after a heart attack and dies early Tuesday, survived by Burns, 20, and his 15- and 12-year-old brothers.
A downright miserable way to end one week and begin another.
“It’s a sad situation,” safety Dallas Crawford said Tuesday, the first day of UM practice for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at No. 22 Duke (6-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) in Durham, North Carolina. “It feels like we haven’t gotten good news in a while.
“This right here will define us as a team. At the end of everything it will make us better young men.”
The Hurricanes (4-3, 1-2) and newly appointed interim coach Larry Scott met the media for the first time in this new era Tuesday, a solemn day except for, perhaps, when the players “got back on the grass,” Scott said, “and let it loose.”
“As I was telling the guys, it’s like getting back out on the playground. It’s like recess. You get back to doing the things you’ve been doing since you were 4 years old, 7 years old. … I think a lot of that helps the healing. … You started to see the energy and passion level pick up, a couple of little shoves, a couple of things that were good, in the spirit.
“It made you walk away and kind of smile and say, ‘You know what? We have a chance to push through this thing.’ ”
The players were clearly sad about Burns, tied for third in the nation with five interceptions, and weren’t sure if he would make the trip to Duke. He and his brothers are now with their grandparents.
Miami has set up a GoFundMe web page for those who want to donate to help support Burns and his brothers. As of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than $35,000 had been raised.
“Losing a mom is unimaginable,’’ safety Deon Bush said. “We’ve got to rally for him. We can’t be negative.
“Artie is a brother to me. His mom was like a mom to us. We’re here to support him.
Bush was one of at least 15 players who visited Burns’ mother Monday night as she clung to life.
“It has been difficult,’’ said defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. “Certainly all of them are hurt. They need our support. It’s been a lot to deal with, but they are resilient.’’
Golden learned of his firing Sunday evening. After athletic director Blake James informed Golden and then the team of his dismissal, Golden addressed his players and coaches, initially breaking down with emotion. Tears flowed in all directions.
“He’s human. He’s got a family,’’ said cornerback Tracy Howard. “It definitely touched us playing for him for four years. Nobody wants to hear news like that. I wish he could have finished the season out with us.’’
Said Crawford: “He was heartbroken. It was sad. But he gave us his best and he told us to go win it out for him. Everybody in the building loved coach Golden. Each of us got up individually and told him how much we appreciated everything he’s done for us.”
Backup quarterback Malik Rosier, who will likely play Saturday in place of Kaaya, said the moment was tough. “He was our leader,’’ Rosier said. “When people had a problem, we could talk to him. He knew my family. He knew Herb Waters’ daughter’s name. She’d run up to him and give him a hug. So, Coach Golden was really active in our lives.
“And to see somebody like that not around campus … it’s just awkward. It’s like you’re missing something in your life.’’
D’Onofrio, until this season maligned even more than Golden by fans who want to see an old-school, simpler, more aggressive defense, played with Golden at Penn State and has been close friends with him for years.
“I just know what kind of guy he is and what he did here,’’ D’Onofrio said. “I know that he worked tirelessly to have a successful team and did everything he could. I’m proud of him.’’
Was anger or disappointment D’Onofrio’s first emotion after hearing about Golden’s dismissal?
“Just disappointment,’’ D’Onofrio said. “My heart goes out to Al and his family, first and foremost, and the coaches and their families, and obviously our players.
“That’s the bottom line. We have to be here for our players.’’