Late Hits: Finding the right coach to replace Al Golden will be tough for Canes

Miami head coach Al Golden watches a play during the first half against Clemson on Saturday. There was booing and a "Fire Golden" chant from the sparse crowd even before the first quarter ended, and the stands were largely empty by the midpoint of the third quarter as Clemson defeated Miami 58-0.
Miami head coach Al Golden watches a play during the first half against Clemson on Saturday. There was booing and a "Fire Golden" chant from the sparse crowd even before the first quarter ended, and the stands were largely empty by the midpoint of the third quarter as Clemson defeated Miami 58-0. AP

Miami made the easy play on Sunday and fired coach Al Golden.

After a 58-0 home loss to Clemson, the worst in program history, Miami athletic director Blake James had no other choice.

Now comes the hard part for the Hurricanes: finding the right coach.

Just like there are “horses for courses” in racing, there are “coaches for colleges” and clearly Golden, with his Northeast roots and Penn State pedigree, was never the right fit for the glitz of Miami.

Undoubtedly, Golden spent Sunday kicking himself for not taking the job at his alma mater when could have had it in 2014.

Golden departs in the middle of his fifth season with a 32-25 overall record and 17-18 mark in ACC play. At some other schools, even within the ACC, that would have been plenty.

And Golden did some commendable work in the early years at Miami wading through an inherited NCAA scandal.

But at Miami, home of five national champions and the birthplace of “Swagger,” (note the capital “S”), you have to win and win big. You certainly can’t lose at home by 58 points.

Draft day was actually the first nail in Golden’s coaching coffin. The Canes had seven draft picks last May, a total that exceeded their six wins.

A double-digit loss at Cincinnati in September, a year after beating the Bearcats by three touchdowns, didn’t help his cause either.

The boosters that funded the weekly prop planes to fly by the games, at home and on the road, with the “Fire Golden” banners will rejoice. So will the scores of disgruntled fans on Twitter, who widely out-number the fans who actually show up for home games at cavernous Sun Life Stadium.

But the real work begins now for Miami because for all of its rich recruiting advantages, the job is better on paper than it is in reality.

At its core, Miami is a small private school with few fans, fewer students, small financial coffers and subpar facilities.

Convincing established coaches to take the job, and paying them at a competitive rate will be a problem. There’s a reason longtime assistants Larry Coker and Randy Shannon preceded Golden.

The running joke of pre-kickoff pictures at the remote NFL stadium with a few thousand fans in attendance would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t so pathetic. The ACC needs Miami to be good as much as Miami does, if not more.

Right now, the next coach is walking into a job with no fans, no money and a lousy stadium situation. Other than that, it’s a great gig.

In a perfect world, the first person James would call is Charlie Strong. There’s no shame in Strong tapping out after two years at Texas and brokering an escape route. It could still work out yet for Strong, at arguably the best job in college football, but his strength is recruiting and specifically recruiting in the state of Florida.

Strong, a former assistant at Florida and head coach at Louisville, would immediately restore some shine to “The U.”

A young, up-and-coming coach like Memphis’s Justin Fuente, who inherited the worst program in the country and has them in the top 25, should be second on the list. But “young” (Fuente is 39) and “up-and-comers” might require some patience, which will be scarce for the next Miami coach.

Actually, Miami’s best bet might just be Butch Davis. The former North Carolina coach built up the best roster in college football history at Miami in 2000 before jumping to the NFL and the Cleveland Browns.

With Davis’ recruits, Coker won 24 straight games, the 2001 national title and came within a bogus pass interference call in overtime of a repeat in 2002.

Davis, who will be 64 before this college football season ends, never came close to repeating the success he helped build at Miami with either the Browns or in four scandal-marred seasons at UNC. Davis was fired before the 2011 season after the first wave of the never-ending NCAA tsunami hit Chapel Hill.

But Miami’s not in a position to worry about the optics of hiring another ACC program’s retread. Besides, if there’s room in the ACC for Jim Boeheim, and Rick Pitino, there’s room for Davis.

As an added bonus for Davis, he wouldn’t need to hire John Blake this time to do his bidding. “The U” sells itself.

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Who’s trending

A weekly review of who’s trending:

The McCaffrey Brothers: Christian, a sophomore running back at Stanford, ran for 109 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in a 31-14 win over Washington.

Big brother Max, a senior receiver at Duke, caught six passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-43 quadruple overtime win over Virginia Tech.

N.C. State: Strange things usually happen to the Wolfpack at Wake Forest but not on Saturday, not with quarterback Jacoby Brissett returning to form and running back Matt Dayes rushing for a career-best 205 yards.

Appalachian State: Is being the best team in the Sun Belt better than being the best team in Division I-AA? That’s debatable. What’s not is the Mountaineers, since a 4-8 blip in 2013, have found their niche winning 12 of their past 13 games.

The Apps are 6-1 on the season and 3-0 in conference play after Thursday’s 31-13 home win over Georgia Southern.

Florida State: The only thing worse than an offensive line that can’t block is one that repeatedly gets penalized. The Seminoles’ line is a certified mess. Even with some tough luck on special teams in a wacky finish, that was the main reason for Saturday’s 22-16 loss at Georgia Tech.

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