The 2015 coaching carousel went from leisurely merry-go-round to hell-fueled Tilt-A-Whirl this weekend, as Miami finally fired Al Golden. His dismissal brings the number of mid-season Power Five coaching vacancies to five: USCs East and West, Maryland, Illinois, and The U. With George O'Leary's departure from UCF and North Texas parting ways with Dan McCarney, there are 7 FBS programs already looking for their next head coach.
But while Hurricanes fans may only be looking to bury Caesar, I come to praise him.
Al Golden was never going to succeed at Miami. Ever. But his purported failure is more a reflection on the University of Miami and its fanbase than on the coach. The expectations of Miami fans are crystal clear: "[B]ottom line, you have to win and win big to keep your job at a place like the University of Miami." For many years, those expectations were easily justified. After all, Larry Coker had the best team in the history of college football in only his first year on the job.
But hardly any programs sustain that kind of success over a long period of time. The five winningest programs in FBS history are Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas, Nebraska, and Ohio State, in that order. Combined, the five of them have a winning percentage of .720. On a modern 12-game schedule, that works out to between 8 and 9 wins a year. In his four full seasons at Miami, Al Golden averaged 7 wins a year--despite taking over the reins of a program mired in sanctions as severe as any the NCAA had handed down since SMU.
Success is fleeting in college football, but Miami fans act like it is their birthright. Perhaps that's to be expected: Any graduate of the University of Miami in the past ten years has only lived in a world where Miami has won a national championship. The Hurricanes came of age in the big-business era of college football. The smoke and swagger were perfect fits in the 80s as ESPN brought all-day, everyday coverage of college sports to a nationwide audience. And for the last 25 years, Miami fans have gotten an over-sized return on investment.
But Miami is still a relative infant on the college football scene. Historically speaking, their national title-contending seasons are far more the exception than the norm. Virginia has more all-time wins than the Canes. So do Tulsa, Rutgers, and Boston College. Before Howard Schnellenberger, Miami had been to ten bowl games in fifty years. The Hurricanes had finished the season ranked all of three times.
Golden leaves Miami seven games over .500 and having reached bowl eligibility in every season (even if the Canes self-sanctioned themselves out of bowl competition). Miami is 4-3 this year. Yes, they just got their heads handed to them by Clemson. But Clemson has a very legitimate claim to being the best team in college football this year. At 4-3, Miami blog State of the U described their team as "the dead and rotting carcass of the once proud Hurricanes Football Program."
You want to see a dead and rotting carcass of a program? Try one bowl win in ten years. Try zero wins against your only FBS in-state rival in more than a decade. Was Virginia ever at the heights that Miami enjoyed in the 1980s or early 2000s? No. But let's not pretend Miami is at the depths Virginia has endured, either.