Miami head coach Al Golden spoke with journalists in Pinehurst, North Carolina earlier this week about the wide-open Coastal Division race, the expectations laid upon himself and his team, and the changing nature of intercollegiate athletics. Check out some of what the Canes’ head coach had to say below. All quotes courtesy of ASAPSports.com.
Q. Last year in the coastal division, no one went through the division undefeated. In looking at the voting, even though Georgia Tech was voted first, Virginia Tech got first-place vote, so did you, Duke, Pitt. How do you see the coastal this year?
COACH GOLDEN: I think anybody can win it. I think it’s wide open. It will be great competition. We’re looking forward to getting the season started. Certainly there’s a lot of different teams that have an opportunity to win it. I think it’s important for our guys to stay focused on what we got to do.
Q. Cost of attendance has been a big topic here and nationally for the last few weeks. Where are you on that? A good idea that could be better or one more recruiting hurdle if School X can offer more than School Y? Does it smell like free agency to you?
COACH GOLDEN: Number one, I’ve always been in favor in some type of stipend. I think essentially monetizing that over the course of the year is basically equal to that. The most important thing, we got to make sure we don’t go down a slippery slope here. There’s great disparities in that. Once that chasm is there, it becomes a recruiting tool. That’s not the intent of it. That’s the next step, I think. We’re going to learn a lot about it in this coming year. With it goes responsibility. We’re doing a far-reaching job of trying to educate the kids on what to do with the extra money. That part of it’s important, too, that we don’t just hand them the money and don’t teach them how to manage it a little bit better. I think the next step is to see if we can’t create some parity in terms of what each team can give, otherwise it’s going to turn into a recruiting battle.
Q. Whether it’s you or not, whether you have a ghost tweeter, how do you use Twitter as a coach to connect with your current players and also to reach out to recruits?
COACH GOLDEN: I think from my standpoint, recruiting is ultra-personal. When it comes to recruiting, it’s me. I think it’s important that I connect with them, see how their families are doing, that type of thing. With our players, it’s probably 50/50. I text them probably a little bit more than that. But we probably text or use Teamworks, which is a source of email, more than direct messaging them. Obviously I get help from my Twitter feed. Probably somebody is saying something right now on it, but I’m up here talking. That cat’s out of the bag, I’m sure, by now (smiling).
Q. Is a great football legacy at Miami a two-edged sword? A constant reminder that the program isn’t where it was, how difficult it is to get back to that consistent success that the program had for so many years?
COACH GOLDEN: I don’t look at it as a two-edged sword. I’m grateful to be at the University of Miami. I wanted to come to the University of Miami to be a part of the tradition and legacy. It’s incumbent on us to get it back to where we want it to be. Not just get it back, but have a model that is sustainable and can endure. From that standpoint we’re trying to build the infrastructure, the resources, trying to do everything in a first-class manner, with integrity, build something that’s sustainable for a long period of time. So I don’t look at anything but a blessing.
Q. Brad was here yesterday talking. Looking at him as a leader, what he’s done in a short period of time, what can you say about him?
COACH GOLDEN: He was not a midyear player for us. A lot of people didn’t understand that. He didn’t come in January. He came at the end of May. It was a crash course for him. Obviously Coach Coley couldn’t be out there with him in the summer. A lot of it was learning on his own, watching videos, getting in the playbook, those types of things. Last year in those circumstances, he couldn’t give us all of his capabilities as a leader. Now he is bridging from being a leader to being a commander. From that standpoint, you know, he’s really comfortable in his own skin. He was a rookie last year. It was just a very difficult thing to ask him to be the leader of a team, especially considering some of the vets he was around. There’s no question about it, this year he’s the leader of the offense, if not the leader of the team. I think he’s got a lot of support, a lot of great guys around him that are supporting him. I think he’s really comfortable where he is right now from a leadership standpoint.
Q. What do you think your quarterback’s ceiling is as a college quarterback and beyond?
COACH GOLDEN: I’ll answer it basically the same way in that if you look at a piece of pie, there’s eight slices, right? He really didn’t give us the leadership component slice, and from a conditioning and physical standpoint, there’s no way he could get to where he was a year ago. There’s two slices of the eight that weren’t there, that I think are present now. There’s other ones certainly. But I think to be a great quarterback, to really be judged on what your ceiling is, you need those components. He’s very comfortable right now as a leader, getting up in front of the team. There’s a lot of different ways. He’s not a screamer.
There’s a lot of different ways he connects with guys individually. He’s very respectful. His work ethic is elite. He backs it up every day. He studies the game like nobody else. I think his body is the biggest difference right now. This time last year he was probably 230 pounds. He’s probably 209 pounds. His lean body mass is where we want it now. He’s quicker, faster. His arm is stronger. He’s operating a lot faster, his decisions are better. What we saw of Brad last year was a flurr. It was a tough stretch. Most of the interceptions came in the first six or seven days. Then his touchdown/interception ratio improved dramatically. We certainly threw him to the wolves. That was a tough deal to put him through. We’re grateful and glad he’s going to be our quarterback.
Q. You talked a little bit about being a part of the legacy. This is your fifth-year in the program, how much pressure do you feel to get it going now?
COACH GOLDEN: I don’t feel pressure. I wake up and I’m in a great organization. I love our staff. Our team has been a pleasure to be with. We’ve got leaders right now, in addition to Brad certainly. Stan Dobard comes to mind. Raphael Kirby, you got exposed to him yesterday. Blessed to have him. Tracy Howard, Dallas Crawford, two guys that have been with us, team-oriented guys. Numerous others. There’s a lot of guys right now that are focused. We’re all faced with challenges every day in the community, whether it’s high school, college, you name it. Right now we have a group of guys that are staying focused.
We’re eliminating distractions. If we can continue to do that, we’re going to keep getting better every day. I’m very fortunate in the last 18 months from an infrastructure standpoint, a lot has changed at the University of Miami. Things that were not there are in place now. That gives me fuel from that standpoint. Our facilities, our fields, our training table, what’s going on at the stadium, none of that was in place 18 months ago. Trust me when I tell you that feels good to finally have those things in place.
Q. A year ago you had tremendous experienced skilled players and an unproven quarterback. Now those skill players are in the NFL. You have a proven quarterback. Would you contrast the two situations? What’s your comfort level with this year’s situation?
COACH GOLDEN: You’ve just woken up some guys in Coral Gables with that statement because I think we have a lot of guys on our team that have something to prove, that want to prove to you, whether it’s Gus, Joe Yearby, Mark Walton or Trayone Gray at running back, certainly Stan Dobard and Chris Herndon, David Njoku, those guys at tight end, have something to prove. Stacy Coley, Herb Waters, Rashawn Scott coming off an injury a year ago. I appreciate that, I do. They’re excited. We have a lot of guys there that play a lot of football. Now we have a quarterback that’s played a lot of football, as well.
Q. You’ve mined the recruiting territory in North Carolina pretty well. At the same time you’ve had to not only fight the battle of rebuilding a national powerhouse, but you’ve had a slightly fractured fan and alumni base. To have to put out fires on that front and still compete in a competitive conference with the expectations that come where you are, you’ve had success at every stop, but is it a little tougher when you have so many things going on so many fronts?
COACH GOLDEN: I don’t worry about those other fronts. There’s nothing I can do about it. Again, when we got here, obviously we were blindsided. An investigation that lasted two and a half years. We’re still on probation. We’re still not at 85 scholarships. It is what it is. There’s nothing we can do about it. From that standpoint, I just look at the positives. None of the stuff that we’re in right now was in place not even two years ago. We have a $20 million football facility. We just sent $7 million on our practice fields.
A couple summers ago we didn’t have any fields. We’re installing lights right now. We have a $4 million training table. We’re doing a $120 million medical facility adjacent to our football field, which is going to have sports performance, MRIs, outpatient surgery, a great addition for our student-athletes. Obviously with the generosity of the Dolphins, we’re going to have a $400 million palace to play in. From that standpoint, I don’t worry about the rest of that stuff. At the end of the day, you know, as a leader you got to sit up there and take it and you got to lead and you got to build strategic and tactical systems and move the program forward. That’s what we’re doing.