Four days of flirtation, endless speculation, unanswered questions and in the end, a long journey back to where things were a week ago.
Head coach Al Golden will return for a fourth year with the Miami Hurricanes, having taken himself out of the running for the Penn State opening. Silent on the matter since last Thursday, Golden responded Sunday afternoon in the form of a university-released statement.
Golden chose Coral Gables over Happy Valley, which should stand as a testament to the future of the Miami program. Past coaches departed for what were deemed bigger and better opportunities, and even if Golden mulled over a "dream job" opportunity and chance to go "home," the result was staying put—for now, at least.
Whether Miami or Penn State is the more-desirable job all depends on one's perspective. "Better" is always relative; circumstance and intangibles all play into the equation.
As it stands, the Hurricanes are closer to turning the corner than the Nittany Lions—finally out of the NCAA's crosshairs and ready to resume the rebuilding process. Bowl bans are a thing of the past, and Miami was hit with minimal scholarship reductions, leaving the program on the brink of signing the program's most well-rounded class in a decade.
In Happy Valley, "Blue & White" faithful continue riding the NCAA storm out.
Scholarship reductions have been slightly restored, but smaller numbers and missed postseasons will remain the case for two more years. There's also the Joe Paterno effect as the legacy of a legend—both good and bad—still permeates throughout Happy Valley, ready to hang over whoever paces that sideline the next several seasons.
While a Golden return to Penn State can never be counted out, fertile South Florida recruiting soil, an effort to make inroads with local high school coaches and the difference between time served and hovering sanctions, all give Miami the current edge—even for a one-time Nittany Lions team captain.
Full Speed Ahead: No Longer Just a 'Canes Mantra
Fair or unfair, Golden is going to pay a price locally for his recent Penn State-related courting, much of which is unrelated to this much-debated stay-or-go moment. The bulk of the frustration stems from a disappointing 35-29 record over Miami's five-year run prior to the former Temple coach's arrival.
While Golden can't be blamed for his predecessors' results, the clock is starting to tick regarding his turnaround timetable. Miami reached 7-0 in late October—days after the NCAA investigation wrapped—but the 'Canes dropped four of the next six, playing themselves out of a Coastal Division title and ACC Championship Game berth.
Golden spent the past three years as sympathetic figure to Miami fans, as well as college football enthusiasts nationwide, many of whom felt he was blindsided by the scandal. While many coaches would've cut and run, the Hurricanes leader dug in his heels and rolled up his sleeves.
Other programs inquired, but Golden tuned them out. This first-season setback, though no fault of his own, was a lesson in character and seeing a task through. There would be no shortcuts or bailing out. As recently as late December, Golden vowed that he was in it for the long haul, intent on getting Miami's mess solved.
"I made a commitment to get it done and we're going to fight our asses off until we get it done," Golden pledged hours after the bowl loss to Louisville, as reported by The Miami Herald.
While a contingent of Miami's fanbase wants to stay marred in the who, what, when, where and why of this weekend's events, Golden is moving forward with no desire to dwell.
The head coach plowed through his scheduled local-radio appearance Monday morning, while using an afternoon press conference to deflect questions, spout off statistics and deliver the news that no staff changes were being made anytime soon.
It's Officially "Win or Bust" over the Next Few Seasons
One of two scenarios is setting up for Golden, provided he remains at Miami long enough for either to play out: ultimate success, or colossal failure.
Golden's contract runs through the 2019 season—should he see it through—giving him ample time to turn things around, which is the ultimate cure-all.
While the natives are currently restless, the sentiment is status quo at "The U." Golden is hardly the first Miami coach to feel the wrath of a demanding fanbase, but the two-step blueprint has been laid for getting back in good graces with the Hurricane faithful:
Stockpile talent and get back to winning ways.
Folks wanted to run Jimmy Johnson out of town early on, writing him off as a mid-level Big Eight coach who couldn't beat the likes of Nebraska and Oklahoma. When Dennis Erickson arrived, he was chastised for running a one-back offense, as Miami had proven success with two backs.
Still, nothing tops the turbulent ride Butch Davis took over six seasons at the helm of the Hurricanes.
The worst came in September 1997 when Davis was publicly shamed on game day by the Miami fans at the Orange Bowl after a 1-2 start to his third season.
Fans ponied up money to fly a banner over the stadium which read, "From National Champs to National Chumps...Thanks, Butch!" They blamed the third-year coach working to fix the mess left by his predecessors, who turned a blind eye to improper conduct. (Sound familiar?)
Davis went on to rebuild the program in due time, stockpiling talent and turning Miami into a national championship-caliber program by the end of the 2000 season. The soon-to-be NFL head coach departed after a No. 2 finish, a convincing Sugar Bowl victory and 11-1 campaign, before lying his way out the door to Cleveland.
Despite all of that, many would still again welcome the 62-year-old, currently unemployed Davis—a desperate attempt to reclaim rare lighting-in-a-bottle success a second time around.
Golden's battle remains uphill, but there's solace in knowing forgiveness is just around the corner.
But after this past weekend, winning has to precede it.
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.
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