Though his alma mater came calling, Al Golden has decided to stay at Miami.
Golden, who recently completed his third season as Hurricanes coach, was widely reported to be one of the candidates atop Penn State’s wish list after Bill O’Brien left the Nittany Lions to take the job as the coach of the Houston Texans.
But after two days of silence and a reported interview with Penn State, Golden—through Miami—released a statement saying he was not a candidate for any other jobs.
“There has been much speculation concerning my future at the University of Miami. While I am flattered that our progress at The U during an extremely difficult period of time is recognized, I am also appreciative of just what we have here at UM and I am not a candidate for another position,” the statement read. “We are eager to welcome our student athletes back to campus next week and visit with prospective student-athletes and their families beginning January 15.”
Golden’s statement came a day after Miami athletic director Blake James told the Sun Sentinel that he’d been in regular communication with his coach throughout the past few days and that he expected Golden would stay at Miami.
“Al and I are in regular communication and I believe he will be our coach going forward,” James wrote in a text message to the Sentinel on Saturday.
Sunday, Miami’s players and recruits expressed relief Golden would be staying in Coral Gables.
The Hurricanes currently have one of the nation’s highest-ranked recruiting classes ahead of next month’s National Signing Day and keeping those players in the fold will be one of Golden’s top priorities in the coming weeks. One player, defensive tackle Travonte Valentine of Hialeah Champagnat Catholic, decommitted from Miami over the weekend citing the uncertainty of Golden’s status.
Others meanwhile, said they were planning on heading to Miami regardless and were just relieved Golden would be there as well.
“I’d been committed to UM. I love Coach Golden and I’m really happy to hear he’s staying,” said St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Nick Linder, the younger brother of Hurricanes offensive lineman Brandon Linder. “I’m 100 percent, solid-as-a-rock committed but him staying was just the cherry on top. He’s just a winner, a great coach when it comes to the dynamics of football…he tells you how it is and he’s looking out for your best interest, that’s what Brandon tells me.”
Deerfield Beach running back Brandon Powell, the Sun Sentinel Class 8A-7A-6A Player of the Year, meanwhile took to social media to share his thoughts.
“Thank you! Coach Golden staying,” he wrote on Twitter. “2 more days till I’m on campus!!”
O’Brien’s departure earlier this week sent Penn State administrators scurrying for a replacement and one of their top targets became Golden, a former Penn State tight end and later Nittany Lions assistant coach who has demonstrated a knack for rebuilding programs and successfully handling NCAA uncertainty.
For the better part of his three years at Miami, Golden dealt with a protracted NCAA investigation and a self-imposed two-year postseason ban in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
Despite that situation, which Golden often referred to as “toxic,” the 44-year-old New Jersey native was able to secure several highly-rated recruiting classes. The Hurricanes win totals improved every year of his tenure, culminated by Miami recently completing its first nine-win season since 2009.
Midway through the season while Miami was in the midst of a 7-0 start, the NCAA announced it would no longer keep Miami out of the postseason, paving the way for the Hurricanes to make their first bowl appearance since 2010 in last week’s Russell Athletic Bowl.
The Hurricanes lost that game to Louisville, bringing Golden’s three-year record at Miami to 22-15.
Now Golden, who is scheduled to hold his end-of-the-year press conference on Monday, focuses on the Hurricanes future, something that makes the families of his current players happy.
“It’ll take a while to get my fingernails back, but we’re proud of Coach Golden and what he’s going to finish,” said Rich Williams, the father of Miami quarterback Ryan Williams. “He’s committed to [Miami] and we’re proud of that. We’re going to see what I consider a finished product next year, a group of guys that are his nucleus. We’re happy, we’re relieved and we’re ready to turn the page. We’re looking forward to 2014.”
email@example.com; Follow on Twitter @ChristyChirinos.