Comparing Al Golden to Former Miami Hurricane Head Coaches. Will He Last?

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2011

Comparing Al Golden to Former Miami Hurricane Head Coaches. Will He Last?

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    Miami Hurricane fans are very excited for the debut of head football coach Al Golden. 

    Maybe it's because he turned around Temple's program without the resources that "Power Six" conferences--like the ACC--provide for their coaches. Imagine what he'll do with some talent on the field?

    Or perhaps you like Golden because he played in the NFL. Granted he spent just one season with the New England Patriots, but still, experiencing football at the highest level certainly helps his credibility.

    Or honestly, fans are possibly just relieved to have a fresh-dressed, white guy back in charge. Although there's obviously no correlation between race and coaching ability, I assume that some of us still find Randy Shannon to be a touchy subject. If you don't want to speak about him, hear about him or even think about him, I'm sure you're grateful to have Golden, who bears no physical or philosophical resemblance to Shannon. 

    However, I believe that most die-hard Hurricanes wanted a change because, well . . . that's all they've ever known! In the three decades that 'Canes football has been relevant, it has never retained a head coach for more than six seasons. Meet the series of "temps" who have preceded Golden's tenure.

Howard Schnellenberger (1979-1983)

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    Schnellenberger deserves a ton of credit. He is responsible for the continuation of the program, the national championships, the logo, the swagger, EVERYTHING!!!

    Already with 20 seasons of coaching experience (14 in the NFL), he inherited a mess in 1979. Chock full of controversy and fiscal problems, Miami football was on the verge of extinction. Despite this adversity, Schnellenberger came in with a " five year plan" and executed it to perfection.

    It started with recruiting. He revolutionized the practice by focusing on an uber-talented tri-county area surrounding the Coral Gables campus (the "State of Miami") and keeping all the Miami natives close to home. Schnelly was offensive-minded, however, and unwilling to settle for a South Floridian play-caller if there were better ones available elsewhere. Miami's two principal quarterbacks during the early 1980s--Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar--came from up north.

    The hard work began to show in his second season when the Hurricanes won a bowl game and finished the year ranked in the Top 25. They would fair similarly the next season, and of course win the program's first national title in 1983 by defeating the favored Nebraska Cornhuskers by a single point.

    Schnellenberger left Miami in '84 to return to professional football (all that pipe smoke must have went to his head because the old dope went to the USFL for reasons that I can't understand). Still, he did wonders for during his brief tenure.

Jimmy Johnson (1984-1988)

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    Jimmy Johnson wasn't much different from Schnellenberger. He also became head coach at Miami after nearly two decades for other teams, and improved upon the work of his predecessor just as Schnellenberger outdid Lou Saban.

    The Hurricanes were atop the college football world when Johnson took over. Still basking in the glow of their first championship, Miami fans were naturally upset when the 1984 team went just 8-5. But Johnson stayed confident, instilled the same mindset in his players and led the program into "The Decade of Dominance."

    Miami went an outstanding 44-4 over the following four seasons, appearing in two national title games (winning one). 

    He stuck with Schnellenberger's local recruitment strategy, bringing in such South Florida natives as future Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, and an eventual Hurricanes head coach (I'll save the surprise).

    Jimmy Johnson again followed Schnellenberger's example by ending his run after five years to pursue opportunities in professional football. Of course, NFL fans know that he had great success with Irvin on the Dallas Cowboys.

    Even today as a senior citizen, Jimmy still reeks of swag. Have you seen him shamelessly promoting ExtenZe? Not just anybody can be the poster child for a male enhancement product! 

Dennis Erickson (1989-1994)

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    "The Decade of Dominance" encompassed Dennis Erickson's Miami career, too. The trends carried over:

    • Approximately 20 years of coaching prior to hiring.
    • Unprecedented success with The U.
    • Left to accept higher pay in professional football.

    His 63 wins and .875 winning percentage are still program records. So is the 58-game winning streak at the Orange Bowl which ended early in his final season. So are his two championships.

    Under Erickson's reign, no other university produced more NFL draftees than Miami. Notable Hurricane players included Craig Erickson, Russell Maryland, Leon Searcy, Gino Torretta, Darryl Williams, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Warren Sapp.

    *Unfortunately, all the winning from the Erickson Era comes with an asterisk. After he left, the NCAA came down hard on the athletic department for giving players improper benefits and fraudulent federal grant money dating back to 1989. Boy, did they get punished! A ban from postseason play and significant scholarship reductions for starters! Needless to say, his wasn't an easy act to follow . . . 

Butch Davis (1995-2000)

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    The dynasty died for a brief time under Davis.

    Over his first three seasons, Miami was at a great disadvantage in the recruiting game. The sanctions hurt their reputation and their depth (above-average players--2- and 3-star recruits--were going elsewhere due to the scholarship reduction). Elite recruits (think Edgerrin James, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Reggie Wayne) were still flooding in, but after that there was a significant drop off.

    On-field performance regressed, off-field shenanigans continued, and the program hit a low point in 1997. The Hurricanes finished with a 5-6 record, their worst since Schnellenberger's debut! A 47-0 shellacking at the hands of the rival Florida State Seminoles was especially tough to bear.

    However, Davis persisted. The 'Canes got good again in 1998 and great once more in 2000. Too bad that darn BCS system screwed them out of a return to the title game. Eleven years later and it still doesn't align the best teams!

    Aside from those in parentheses above, Butch Davis also attracted active NFLers like Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Jonathan Vilma to Miami.

    Davis became the Cleveland Browns' head coach in 2001 without winning a championship at The U. 

Larry Coker (2001-2006)

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    Larry Coker couldn't have picked a better team with which to break into head coaching.

    The 2001 Hurricanes were absolutely stacked. With a roster of talented upperclassmen brought in under Davis, they rolled to an undefeated season and their fifth--and latest--national championship. The 'Canes beat five ranked teams and never fell below No. 2 in the polls. They outscored their opponents 512-117, an average margin of victory of nearly 33 points per game!

    Miami continued setting records in the spring. In the 2002 NFL Draft . . .

    • 10 Hurricanes were selected in the first Round!!!
    • Included in that 10 were all four members of the starting secondary. 
    • 17 Miami players were taken overall.

    Coker received the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award for being the nation's top coach, but I'm sure even he had his doubts about repeating as champs, right? Remember, the solid majority of their starters were NFL-bound. Nonetheless, Coker had plenty of Davis recruits remaining.

    Miami entered the next season as the top-ranked team and kept winning through December. Sadly, the infamous pass interference call in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State was just enough to kill their 34-game winning streak, and deprive them of another national title (*Note: Miami failed to even the score in a "revenge" game last September in Columbus. They have another shot at redemption this season).

    This devastating defeat marked the beginning of the program's decline.

    2003: 11-2, win vs. Florida State in the Orange Bowl, No. 5 in final rankings.

    2004: 9-3, win vs. Florida in the Peach Bowl, No. 11 in final rankings.

    2005: 9-3, loss vs. LSU in the Peach Bowl, No. 17 in final rankings.

    2006: 7-6, win vs. Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl (Wait, what?), totally unranked from mid-September onward.

    It ended ugly for Coker. Clearly, Davis' boys were responsible for Miami's success early in his tenure; his own recruits, meanwhile, seemed to under-perform. So many preseason award candidates never lived up to their hype.

    He lasted just two years into a five-year extension signed prior to 2005. He became frustrated with the team's struggles and fired four assistants in desperation. Most imporantly, UM President Donna Shalala wasn't getting along with Coker, and what Shalala says goes!

    A lot of new faces were on the sidelines for his most miserable year as a result of the 2005 firings. However, there was one veteran face that the school felt comfortable with . . .    

Randy Shannon (2007-2010)

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    Big, bad, black Floridian kids were easy to recruit for Shannon, who himself fit the stereotype back in the mid-1980s when he signed on to play linebacker at "The U." They've always been essential to Miami's dominance, and Shannon was a man who could sympathize with them.

    All that pro-talent, however, led to naught. A winning record, sure, but Shannon was winless in bowl games and unable to deliver a conference title.

    The problem was their offensive ineptitude. Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers were the story of 2010.

    The recent scandal makes it all so much worse. While Shannon didn't personally offer any benefits to players, he also failed to report the activity to the NCAA. That speaks volumes about his character, his passivity. It's also embarrassing that the team struggled despite having an advantage. 

    Ultimately, of course, his legacy should be determined by the Hurricanes' success, and he had very little of it.

    Let's just say that in South Florida, 28-22 doesn't get you free drinks. It only earns Shannon the honor of worst Miami head coach of the last 30 years.

Al Golden (2011-Present)

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    Now it's Golden's turn.

    Like Schnellenberger, Johnson and Davis, he is positioned to have a mediocre debut season, not because of sub-par talent or reduced scholarships, but due to the eight suspensions handed down from the NCAA.

    As a University of Miami student, I've seen the differences between Shannon and Golden up close. Golden is friendlier, more communicative, yet a better disciplinarian. His football knowledge is well-rounded, while Shannon knew nothing about orchestrating drives. He'll rack up a lot of victories if the "State of Miami" remains loyal to its local university. 

    I'm not usually inclined to make predictions, but it's hard for me to hide my excitement: the Hurricanes' newest head coach is an improvement over the last few and will lead the program into another "Golden Era!"

    Another bold prophecy: Golden will shatter the six-seasons-or-less precedent.