It may be hard for any college football fan under the age of 15 to believe, but once upon a time, the Miami Hurricanes were one of the most dominant programs in the country. Sunday's announcement that coach Al Golden was fired, effectively immediately, is the latest indication that the program that won the 2001 national title has fallen on hard times.
This comes on the heels of a 4-3 start that included a stunning 58-0 loss to Clemson on Saturday. Assistant Larry Scott has been tabbed as the program's interim head coach.
University of Miami athletic director Blake James addressed Golden's dismissal in a press release:
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. 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 took the reins at Miami in 2011 after he led Temple to an 8-4 record a mere four years after it finished 1-11. Golden did not bring that magic touch to Coral Gables, however, and boasted a mediocre 28-22 record entering the 2015 season, including a disappointing 0-2 mark in bowl games and 16-16 tally in ACC play.
"On behalf of my family I want to thank the University of Miami for a tremendous opportunity," Golden said in the school's press release. "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."
That the Hurricanes have fallen so far behind the likes of Florida State, Clemson and even Georgia Tech in their own conference likely had plenty to do with Golden’s firing.
This move was not completely unexpected. Erika Glass and Courtney Fiorini of the school's student newspaper, the Miami Hurricane, noted that fans were calling for Golden’s removal on social media with the hashtag “FireAlGolden” after the 2014 campaign.
What’s more, Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports wrote that a plane with a banner saying “Make Miami Great Again—Butch Davis 2016” flew over the stadium before the team’s September game against Florida Atlantic. It reminded many of the “Fire Al Golden Save the U” banner that flew over Sun Life Stadium before a 2014 contest against Cincinnati.
Despite Sunday's news, Golden isn’t that far removed from his 2013 Lombardi Award for Excellence in Coaching after he led the Hurricanes to a 9-4 season and their first nine-win campaign since 2009.
However, he did not build on that momentum and finished a dismal 6-7 overall and 3-5 in conference play in 2014. Golden’s Hurricanes capped the disappointing season with a loss in the Independence Bowl.
In the wake of Golden's exit, Jared Shanker of ESPN looked back on the head coach's tenure:
Miami’s next hire is a critical one, because it's been so long since it was a powerhouse that competed for national championships annually.
The new coach must deal with strong Florida State and Clemson programs within the team's own league and find a way to compete with the Alabamas, Ohio States and Oregons of the college football landscape on the field and on the recruiting trail. That is a tall order, but the future of the team once so endearingly known as “The U” is at stake.