No one would blame him.
Al Golden navigated three years of impatience and NCAA delays. He said all the right things and absorbed two postseason bans and recruited well despite self-imposed restrictions.
If USC or Texas (if open) call and he answers, who would really rip him for that? Not saying he's leaving, but after he inherited an untenable situation and has Miami at 6-0, he might be getting those phone calls.
In a case where everyone involved needs to take a shower to scrub off the stank of burner phones and strip clubs, where college sports is worse off for knowing it, Golden is one of the only winners through this process.
The NCAA, for its punchline-worthy investigation that took about two years too long, certainly didn't win. Stripping nine scholarships from a school that let a booster do whatever he pleases for years doesn't instill fear in the membership.
Miami didn't really win. The Canes won titles before Nevin Shapiro came around. The Larry Coker and Randy Shannon eras didn't exactly thrive when Shapiro was bankrolling players. Was all the headache really worth it despite the favorable NCAA ruling?
It was worth it for Golden, who has become a sympathetic figure in all this, and with good reason. His players win, too. The 6-0 Canes can play with a clear conscious. They don't have to hear the clichéd words ‘NCAA cloud' again.
So Golden can enjoy his victory one of two ways –take Miami to a new place or parlay his success into one of the two biggest jobs in America.
If he stays, losing three scholarships a year for three years is manageable for Golden, whose Hurricanes rank fifth nationally in the 2014 recruiting class according to 247Sports.com. Golden even had recruiting allegations follow him but seems to have emerged unscathed.
No longer would Golden fulfill the dual role of coach/negotiator, navigating an exhaustive investigative process while keeping players motivated. In addition to the two-year bowl ban, Miami self-imposed the reduction of official paid visits by 20 percent, fall evaluations from 42 to 36 and contact days by 20 percent in 2012-13, according to the NCAA.
Miami's proactive stance pushed the Canes to the finish line. NCAA infractions chair Britton Banowsky said Tuesday Miami's cooperation was “commendable” and its self-imposed bans “unprecedented.”
Golden played a role in that process alongside administration and attorney Mike Glazier. Between high-powered lawyers and beefed-up school compliance departments, it's clear schools can mitigate NCAA damage better than ever.
Golden used the Miami case to pump the player resiliency theme.
“I want to sincerely thank our student-athletes and their families who, not only stood with the University of Miami during this unprecedented challenge, but subsequently volunteered for the mission,” Golden said in a school-issued statement Tuesday. “They shouldered the burden, exhibited class and exemplified perseverance for Hurricanes everywhere. “
Golden was the right hire with the right demeanor to handle a tenuous time in Miami's scope.
Now that the instability is over, should Miami brace for more of it if Golden leaves? If Bill O'Brien goes to the NFL, Penn State could be the third traditional power to call Golden, who himself has garnered NFL interest.
Perhaps rebuilding the U is his most attractive option. Unless he's given all he can.