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Should Al Golden Leave Miami?

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Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.

It’s hard to believe Al Golden was hired on December 12, 2010. I’m sure in his mind it has felt far longer than that.

As soon as he signed a five-year contract at Coral Gables, Golden and his team were under a microscope. Being a big-time coach of a college football program is tough enough, but with all of the extenuating circumstances surrounding the team, working conditions are far from ideal. Despite sticking it out for 30 months and a 13-11 record in two seasons, many still believe that his long-term future lies elsewhere.

Golden has (Penn State and Wisconsin come to mind), and will continue to have, plenty of offers at other head coaching positions. There are clear benefits and drawbacks for staying at Miami.

The Case For Golden Leaving

A lot of the logic suggesting Golden would be wise to leave involves the potential destination. The Penn State links (his alma mater) never made sense, as the Nittany Lions were in far worse shape in terms of facing the wrath of the NCAA. Turns out they lucked out with Bill O’Brien (whether he should stay is a question for another day), but a move from Miami to State College would be a lateral one at best for Golden. A return home might make sense down the road, but not at this point of his career.

If a big-time school came calling, say one from the SEC, or even Penn State prior to the Sandusky scandal, it would be tempting for Golden to jump. Nothing legally prevents coaches from jumping from one school to the next — we see it all the time. In this instance, no one outside of hardcore Hurricanes fans would blame Golden for doing so.

There are some things about Miami that are less appealing than other schools.

Miami plays its home games 25 miles away at Sun Life Stadium. The lack of an on-campus stadium creates a disconnect between the student body and the team. It’s a lot more difficult to motivate kids to drive across town on a Saturday than to stumble across campus after a bender to attend games in the HDTV era. This makes home games less intimating for the opposition, which could have a tangible effect on wins and losses.

The Case For Golden Staying

The Hurricanes still have excellent roots in the fertile grounds of Florida recruiting and Golden has done well in that area, while adding some of his resources from the Northeast and Midwest. He has the ability to recruit players with enough ability to compete in the ACC and nationally. His time at Temple also suggests he can elevate the performance of his players and deliver wins.

When Miami is clicking, it is one of the premier programs in college football. That is the biggest thing Golden must remember before considering another job. The ACC is littered with inconsistent programs just waiting for one to rise and establish themselves as the team to beat. There is no reason why Miami can’t be that program.

Because Golden has stayed through the two-and-a-half year storm, leaving now would send a horrible message to the kids he brought in. He has put in a tremendous amount of effort into resurrecting the program and if he left now it could be perceived as a waste of all of his efforts. There are few truly elite jobs out there.

The Winner: Staying

I hesitate to say this because college football is as unpredictable as any sport, but it appears that the darkest days are behind the Hurricanes. Any future penalties against the school shouldn’t be program-altering. Golden has pledged his allegiance countless times despite the difficult circumstances in which he has forced to operate under, and there is little reason to disbelieve him.

"This," Golden said during the recent ACC meetings, "is as bad as it can be. Good days are coming and when the clouds do clear, we're going to come out stronger and better for it."

The Hurricanes have misfired so often during the last 20 years on hiring coaches that it would be a shame if a rare gem gets away. Golden is vital to the future of Miami football, whether or not he sticks around to see his plan through.