KNOXVILLE – With Tennessee's search for a new head coach ongoing, Nooga.com is taking a closer look at some of the potential candidates. Click here for Nooga.com's complete list of potential candidates.
Al Golden, head coach, Miami
Overview: The former Penn State and New England Patriots tight end worked his way through the coaching ranks with stops as a defensive assistant at Boston College (1997-99) and Penn State (2000) before being hired as the defensive coordinator at Virginia in 2001.
He then got his first head-coaching job with Temple in 2006 and took over a program that had recently been kicked out of the Big East because of fan apathy and a lack of success. In just a few years, Golden led a remarkable comeback. The Owls went 1-11 in his first season, but improved the next two and then went a combined 17-8 in his final two seasons, including a trip to the EagleBank Bowl in 2009 – the school’s first bowl appearance since 1990.
Golden was hired as the head coach at the University of Miami before the 2011 season and has guided the Hurricanes to a 13-11 record in two years, including a tie for first place in the ACC’s Coastal Division this season.
The Hurricanes have withdrawn themselves from postseason consideration the last two seasons in the midst of an ongoing investigation of alleged improper ties to booster Nevin Shapiro.
Though the alleged illegal actions of Shapiro occurred when a former staff was at Miami, Yahoo! Sports reported in July of 2012 that Golden used Sean Allen, a former “right-hand man” of Shapiro’s to “circumvent NCAA rules.” Golden denied any illegal activity and is not believed to be a target of the NCAA violations.
Tennessee might not want another coach who dresses differently after former coach Derek Dooley’s orange pants, but Golden is known for being one of the few coaches who still wears a dress shirt and tie on the sideline for games.
Recruiting: Golden did an admirable job of recruiting at Temple despite limited resources and taking over a struggling program. His classes were regularly among the best rated in the MAC.
It’s been an up-and-down battle at Miami with recruiting for Golden. In the midst of the NCAA probe, Golden brought in the 36th best class (per Rivals.com) in 2011 and had the ninth best class in 2012. His current class, which has only 10 commitments, is ranked 56th.
Overall, he’s an energetic recruiter who has strong ties to Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas and is building connections in Florida as well.
Why he’d come: Golden was reportedly interested in the Tennessee opening when former coach Lane Kiffin left for Southern California. The lingering NCAA issues at Miami might lead him to consider other options. His salary hasn’t been released to the public, but he’s believed to make around $2 million, meaning he would probably get a raise. Miami’s fan support is somewhat tepid and its stadium and facilities don't measure up to Tennessee’s.
Why he wouldn’t: Despite the NCAA problems, he had Miami in contention in the ACC this year, and when it finally is in the clear, he’ll have an opportunity to use the fertile recruiting ground around him to rebuild the program the way he envisions. He’s regularly said that he’s committed to getting Miami through its issues and has gone as far to call it his “dream job.”
Chalk talk: Golden utilizes a balanced pro-style offense that he adapts to fit his personnel. “Think players first, then plays,” is a motto for him. Miami finished 38th nationally in total offense this season.
Though Golden is traditionally thought of as a top defensive mind, the Hurricanes struggled immensely on that side of the ball this season. Miami finished its season ranked 117th (8 spots behind Tennessee) in total defense, giving up an average of 486 yards per game. He uses a base 4-3 defense, but mixes in multiple other looks.
Golden’s current staff has a heavy dose of NFL experience on it, but none of his current assistants have significant SEC experience other than offensive line coach Art Kehoe, who has spent nearly 30 years as an assistant at Miami, but also had a stint as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Ole Miss. His extensive background at Miami makes him an unlikely candidate to leave, though.
Running backs coach Terry Richardson is one name to watch should Golden come to UT. Richardson, a former NFL running back, has been nominated for the Broyles Award (top assistant in the nation) and has deep recruiting ties in Florida.
What they've said:
• “I’m confident he’ll be with us next year,” – Miami AD Blake James, speaking of Golden, told the Sun Sentinel on Nov. 28
• "To be perfectly honest with you, the only time I hear it is when [reporters] say it. I know [my wife] would cry if I said we were moving out of town,” – Golden told the Sun Sentinel in late November
Grading the potential hire: Golden’s overall record (40-45) is a stumbling block for some. But that has to be examined in its context. It understandably took him four years until he had his first winning season at Temple, and the fact that he did that at all is impressive. Winning a lot of games at Miami at the moment is also a tall order with all that’s happened there recently. He’s not the most proven potential candidate out there, though he has shown the ability to turn a program around. His lack of ties to the SEC is a concern as well. It wouldn’t be fair to say there are legitimate NCAA concerns about him right now, but the Yahoo! Sports report from this summer would be something Tennessee would want to have clarification of before moving forward. Golden would be an upgrade over Dooley and has potential, but he’s probably not somebody a lot of fans would be thrilled about and overall not the best option for UT right now. We’d grade that hire a “C.”
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.