There would be no regret in the departure. None. Sometimes when a football coach leaves the University of Miami, there are hard emotions, hurt egos and fans feeling betrayed at the altar of sports love.
Interestingly, there would be none of that if Al Golden leaves for Penn State.
There would be respect, sure, for the manner in which Golden weathered the NCAA storm for three seasons. Appreciation? That, too. He has been a strong voice and good face when the university needed those.
But mixed among the positive emotions for Golden is another one you sense quietly bubbling up from Miami fans as they consider his possible departure: Relief. Can't you feel it?
Relief, for how the timing might be best for everyone. Relief, that they don't have to wonder if Golden can coach as well as he talks. Relief, too, that there are interesting options like Rob Chudzinski and Greg Schiano.
No one's pushing Golden out there door, of course. If he returns, great. But maybe this healthy undercurrent of no-regret might be another weight on a scale that tilts Penn State's way like the paycheck, facilities, fan base and a starkly different career opportunity.
Penn State can nearly double Golden's salary to the $3.6 million outgoing coach Bill O'Brien made. It can offer him a return to his roots, and allow him to be the figurative balm of a Joe Paterno player returning to help the old coach's university.
But as much about money and heartstrings this decision is about career paths for Golden. Who is he? What kind of coach does he care to become?
He can go to Penn State and become Paterno, Bobby Bowden or any coach from a previous era who stayed at a great school forever. Does that interest him?
He can win at Miami and become Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson or Butch Davis, coaches that constructed national champions before jumping to the NFL. Does that interest him more?
What he can't do, won't do, is stay at Miami forever. No one does. He's making a reported $2.1 million at Miami. That's nothing by today's standards. Even if this negotiation with Penn State is about getting more money for him and his assistants, it soon won't be enough.
Twenty-five years ago, as he went about replacing Jimmy, Sam Jankovich sat in Athletic Director Blake James' chair and summed up the Miami job like this:
"I want a young, ambitious coach who knows he can earn a big paycheck at the next job he gets," he said.
That hasn't changed. That's the precise profile of the coach who has succeeded the most at Miami. It's the exact one they need to win now, be it Golden or whomever replaces him.
What makes this a potentially perfect time for Golden to walk is there are options for Miami, good options, to succeed him. Want a proven college coach with NFL experience? There's Schiano, fired by the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Want an unproven offensive mind with NFL experience? There's Chudzinski, fired by the Cleveland Browns.
Want an unproven college coach with head-coaching experience? There's Mario Cristobal, currently an assistant at Alabama.
They all have connections to Miami. Then there's a coach who has won in an unlikely place, like Vanderbilt's James Franklin, who would fit the profile of Jimmy or Erickson when they arrived.
There's no comfortable way to do this if you're Golden, no guidebook for how to weigh one job against another. Maybe he just wants more money or better support from Miami. Or maybe Penn State is always the job he coveted.
All you know is he's spent three years fighting NCAA demons and steering a program in a first-class manner Miami fans should appreciate. The question is if it's best for everyone to separate now.
"Al and I are in regular communication," James texted the Sun-Sentinel on Saturday. "He is our football coach and I believe he will be our coach going forward."
That's all well and good. But there wouldn't be any regret if he's not.