- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The first of what could be several NCAA shoes dropped on Miami’s football program Tuesday. The first thing most people thought is “poor Al Golden.”

But after some quick math, what poor Al Golden probably thought was this: “Eight players in all, six starters, suspended for a total of 19 games. Five return after the opener. That’s it?”

Yes. For the moment, anyway.

So just to remind everyone how serious he was about rebuilding the Hurricanes _ even with one hand tied behind his back _ Miami’s first-year coach went ahead and suspended a ninth player on his own.

Senior receiver Aldarius Johnson was named as yet one more beneficiary by none other than jailed booster Nevin Shapiro himself, but didn’t make it onto the NCAA’s hit list. No matter. Golden sat him down indefinitely for what was termed a violation of team rules.

Then, always looking on the bright side, he said, “We clearly have identified what our travel team is now.”

The man is nothing if not confident, and for good reason.

At 42, Golden already has a resume to die for: he played tight end and later worked as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for Joe Paterno at Penn State; then was the youngest defensive coordinator in Division I-A for Al Groh at Virginia; then second-youngest head coach in D-I at Temple, a job he held from December 2005 until last winter.

In those five years, while turning around an Owls program that seemed hopeless, Golden’s name also turned up on the wish lists of UCLA, Cincinnati and Tennessee. And now? Instead of wishing he’d taken one of those jobs, Golden might be occupying the safest seat in college football.

After all, he was in Philadelphia while the monkey business with Shapiro was going down in Miami. He was hired without being told the higher-ups at Miami had already contacted the NCAA about the serial glad-handing, something they conveniently failed to mention.

He’s made clear they owed him that much, but refused to speculate what difference it would have made, saying what’s done is done.

When asked whether his contract contains an escape clause covering just such an eventuality, Golden has been similarly coy. “I’m not going to get into all that,” he said.

“Listen, my family and I are excited about being here, OK?,” he added. “This is a great place, and we’re going to get this fixed.”

Yet no one would blame Golden for feeling betrayed, nor would they if the NCAA wound up dropping several more shoes _ loss of scholarships, postseason and TV bans _ and Golden bailed after just one season to take another job.

That includes prospective employers. Nothing having to do with the scandal will stick to him. In the meantime, so long as the program doesn’t implode and lose all of its games, basically, he’s golden.

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