CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt sat down to interview Al Golden a week ago in New York, emerging from that chat blown away.
Golden convinced Hocutt that he could win at Miami.
He now gets a chance to prove that to everyone else.
Golden was hired as the Hurricanes' coach Sunday. He replaces Randy Shannon, fired Nov. 27 after Miami completed a 7-5 regular season and fell to 28-22 in his four seasons at his alma mater. Miami gave Golden — who pulled off a huge turnaround at Temple — a five-year contract, and if certain incentives are met, the deal could be worth an average of around $2 million annually.
"He will be great here," Hocutt said.
Golden was scheduled to meet his new team Monday afternoon, with a news conference to follow. He could be on the road recruiting as early as Tuesday.
Hocutt had a list of about 10 names he worked off during the process, and Golden eventually became the favorite. The deal got completed around 4 p.m. Sunday, ending a two-week whirlwind that had rumor mills pumping out names in just about every direction.
"I couldn't be more excited to have him come and lead this proud football program," Hocutt said. "There's nobody with more energy, excitement, enthusiasm in this country than Coach Golden. What he's done at Temple University is short of miraculous. He's taken a football program that was at the bottom point of the college football world, has built them to a respectable program, and is going to do great things here at the University of Miami."
Golden was a candidate for several other high-level jobs in recent years, including UCLA and Tennessee. He was also believed to be a candidate for the current opening at Pitt, and the speculation for years has been that he would like to succeed Joe Paterno at his alma mater, Penn State.
Hocutt said he expects Golden to be in Miami "long-term."
"Al Golden is very loyal and he wants to be at the University of Miami," Hocutt said. "He wants to build this program back to the pinnacle of college football."
At Temple, Golden was lauded as he departed.
"Al Golden did not just win games at Temple University, but he built a football program, and he did it the right way," Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said. "He engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Division I history, and ... the turnaround was not only seen on the gridiron, but also in the classroom, with unprecedented academic success."
Golden's work at Temple was nothing short of remarkable.
He proudly announced in recent weeks that Temple's departing senior class became the school's first in nearly 30 years to leave the Owls with a winning record. The Owls went 9-4 last season, losing in what was known as the EagleBank Bowl, then went 8-4 this year — only to be snubbed for a postseason bid.
Temple went 3-31 in the three seasons before Golden arrived; the Owls were 1-11 in his first season there, then won 26 games over the past four years.
The 41-year-old Golden played at Penn State under Paterno, spent a brief time in the NFL with the New England Patriots, then began his coaching career. He knows the Atlantic Coast Conference, having spent time as an assistant at both Virginia and Boston College, and was once the youngest defensive coordinator in major college football.
Golden takes over in much the same manner in which Shannon did four years ago — with the Hurricanes seeking a return to national relevance.
Miami hasn't played in the Bowl Championship Series since the 2003 season, and has lost 16 of its last 21 games going back to 2005 against ranked opponents. The Hurricanes thought moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference seven years ago would enhance their chances to remain among the nation's elite; they have yet to even win the league title.
And it was that phrase — "national relevance" — that Hocutt referenced when he announced Shannon's firing on Nov. 28, one day after Miami completed the regular season.
Getting to that point will be Golden's primary charge.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland will serve as the interim coach for Miami's bowl game against Notre Dame on Dec. 31, but by then, Golden will likely be well into his plans for 2011. The Hurricanes have about 15 scholarships to issue this recruiting season, and some of the high schoolers who committed to Miami under Shannon have since said they're open to looking at other schools.
Plus, though the schedule won't be finalized for several more weeks, Golden is likely to face a daunting four-game stretch to open his Miami career. Preliminary drafts of the 2011 schedule show that Miami could open with road matchups against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, followed by home games with Ohio State and Kansas State.
"He has learned, he has grown, he's developed," Hocutt said. "He's ready for that next step."