Al Golden’s Miami Conundrum

When being a good guy hurts

Al Golden can’t win for winning. Today’s Inquirer has an article citing the terror of University of Miami football fans that the former Temple football coach will ask to have his five-year contract truncated.

Why would Al Golden do such a thing? Well, because he walked into a total shitstorm at Miami, whose higher-ups inexplicably claim they were completely unaware that the NCAA was investigating the school’s intimate relationship with a felonious booster named Nevin Shapiro, who, while he was racking up a $900 million Ponzi scheme (for which he’s now in jail), dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars on Miami football players and recruits, including such swag as jewelry, an abortion, and bounties for hurting opposing players. Go, ’Canes!

And Al Golden might want a shorter contract because … well, because those sorts of shenanigans are profoundly distasteful to him.

When I interviewed Golden for a 2008 profile, I found him downright Reagan-esque in his sincerity and straightforwardness and conviction. He turned Temple’s dormant football team from laughingstock to winner in less than half a decade, emphasizing all the right things: honor, integrity, teamwork, leadership. All, not coincidentally, are traits he personally exemplifies. He’s so Eagle Scout that you sort of want to laugh at him, except that he’s actually in on the joke. He knows he’s rare and square, and he doesn’t care.

Which is why the revelations about Shapiro’s illicit entanglement with the team for eight long years must have stung like Icy Hot on pad-chafed skin. Or, as expressed by Golden’s agent, Brett Senior—his agent, by the way, since Golden played at Penn State back in 1991, not some hot new agent hired once Temple started winning—it was “unsettling to say the least” that Golden wasn’t told about the NCAA investigation before he was hired. “I have to question the professionalism of that,” Senior added.

But see, here’s the thing. Senior also took pains to assure the ’Cane faithful that Al Golden isn’t going anywhere else, not even with the perfectly understandable excuse that Miami hired him under blatantly false pretenses. “He’s got a five-year contract,” Senior said. “He’s there to honor the contract. He’s the real thing.” And Miami trustee Paul DiMare, who was instrumental in bringing Golden on, was right on board: “Knowing the history of most coaches,” he allowed, “I’d worry. Knowing the history of this person and his character, I don’t worry about it.”

What that really means is that Miami made a damned smart hire. Al Golden won’t walk away from this mess that isn’t of his making because he’s Al Golden. You’ve got to wonder at the bitter irony of that.