- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2011

If new Maryland football coach Randy Edsall thinks he has problems, all he has to do is peer across the field Monday night at Miami’s Al Golden. Now there’s a guy in harm’s way.

Golden was coaching at Temple, where football hardly is a matter of life and death, when he accepted the job at Miami, where it definitely is.

As you surely know by now, the Hurricanes will slink onto the Byrd Stadium greensward without eight players who were suspended by the NCAA last week for accepting impermissible benefits from a sleazy former booster. Included among the absentees will be starting quarterback Jacory Harris and top linebacker Sean Spence.

And this could mean imposition of the so-called death penalty that forces a school to give up the sport for a specified period. It happened at SMU, where football was only a memory in 1987 and 1988.

Nobody knows when the NCAA will act or what it will decree, but in one sense Miami’s football future is hardly Golden. At least, the program figures to be hit with a loss of scholarships and banned temporarily from bowl games and TV appearances.

Golden, the coach, not the adjective, must be wondering why he ever left Philadelphia. In case you think he’s nuts, there’s a precedent. As his Temple team lost an EagleBank Bowl engagement to UCLA in December 2009, Golden roamed the RFK Stadium sideline in shirtsleeves in 15-degree weather - for reasons, one columnist wrote, “known only to himself and his maker.”

Nowadays even in sunny Miami, he must be feeling a similar chill. Two weeks ago, Golden sidestepped questions about whether there is a clause in his contract that allows him to bail if NCAA sanctions devastate his program.

Presumably, Golden didn’t sign on with his eyes closed. Miami football has operated under more than one cloud since Howard Schnellenberger arrived in 1979 and took the long dormant Hurricanes to a startling national championship four years later.

National championships followed in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001, but were they worth the cost?

Some players seemed to relish reputations as thugs, and NCAA officials kept a close, if not necessarily punitive, eye on things.

University president Donna Shalala, who was Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, was supposed to straighten out football matters after she arrived in 2001. Yet Shalala has been the subject of recent ridicule for accepting a donation from Nevin Shapiro, the disgraced former Hurricanes booster who is serving time for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme.

In suspending the eight Miami players for a total of 19 games and ordering them to repay $4,000 for the cost of such benefits as free meals, nightclub cover charges and, er, entertainment by female companions, the NCAA said it had discovered some of “the most serious violations” imaginable. No surprise there.

Fans in South Florida like to refer to the Hurricanes as “the U,” but maybe that stands for Unsavory.

Like all coaches, Al Golden will be wearing headphones and speaking into a mouthpiece throughout Monday night’s game. Do you suppose he might be job hunting?

c For more of the author’s columns, go to dickheller.wordpress.com

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