As Miami head coach Al Golden wrapped up his news conference on Monday, a media member remarked to the 44-year old coach that he looked relieved. "Relieved?" Golden said, pausing before hustling off to join his team. "Yeah, maybe a little bit."
Oh, it's more than a little bit. Perhaps he understated it because he's not yet used to working in Coral Gables without the asterisk that leads to the phrase "pending NCAA investigation." But the stories are still being revealed of that moment on Oct. 22 when Miami athletic director Blake James met with the team before practice to inform it that the 26-month investigation was over and the penalties -- probation, no postseason ban and nine lost scholarships over three years -- were relatively minor.
"When we won that sixth game [at North Carolina], we were thinking, 'Man is it going to happen again?'" defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo said after last week's win over Wake Forest. The junior has had to miss two bowl games and an ACC championship game berth because of Miami's self-imposed sanctions during the investigation. "When that finally went away, everybody was excited and stuff ... Just a long wait, long time coming. We were all excited. It was just something that just lingered over our program the whole time I've been here. So, we love it."
Now relief will start to give way to reality. The past is officially in the past, so the future can finally become the focus. We already know the Hurricanes have a well-respected coach, in addition to some promising talent on the field and recent recruiting success. (This summer, our Insider panel ranked them at No. 18 in the College Football Future Power Rankings, which assessed the likelihood of teams to have success over the next three seasons -- and that was before the sanctions were announced.)
How will the end of the investigation affect the program? Will the Hurricanes rise over the next few seasons? We called up some athletic administrators and coaches who have been in the U's shoes and asked them what we should expect.
Recruiting can switch from defense to offense
Miami's recruiting efforts have always been as much about digging moats as firing arrows, forced to defend its fertile football homeland against recruiters arriving from every corner of America. Those poachers have always looked to exploit any edge they can get on the U, including undermining the reputation of the Hurricanes' program.