When Al Golden was plucked from college football obscurity as head coach of the Temple Owls to take over the Miami Hurricanes, a storied program that needed just a bit of fine tuning to be competitive again, it seemed like -- pardon the pun -- a Golden opportunity. Now, if an NCAA investigation proves former booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro's claims to be true, Golden might be left picking up the pieces of the biggest college football scandal in history.
Golden says neither he nor new athletic director Shawn Eichorst was informed of any allegations at the time of their hiring. Which makes you wonder what in hell the University of Miami administration, namely Donna Shalala, was thinking.
In an official statement, the school admitted it had been aware of Shapiro's allegations for nearly a year.
Since learning of the allegations, football coach Randy Shannon, basketball coach Frank Haith, and athletic director Kirby Hocutt have fled or been fired. Shannon was whacked after a loss to the University of South Florida Bulls. Haith took a job at Mizzou, and Hocutt is now the athletic director at Texas Tech. Only Haith was implicated in Shapiro's allegations, as chronicled by Yahoo! Sports. Yet in retrospect, it's tempting to wonder how much the threat of NCAA investigations might have played into these decisions. Especially Hocutt's.
Hocutt's last major act as AD was Golden's hiring. Golden now says he was never informed of any threat of a possible NCAA investigation.
"If they knew this was percolating, I believe they had a responsibility to tell me and to tell [athletic director] Shawn [Eichorst]," Golden now tells CBS Sports.
Though, as recently as yesterday, Golden said he still would have taken the job if he had known of the allegations. Those comments, however, were made before the full severity of Shapiro's claims were made public.
Update: ESPN has more of Golden's statements this morning. It still seems he's up for the challenge of coaching the team, despite feeling the school might have been irresponsible in not informing him of the allegations.
I feel like Temple prepared me for this opportunity. We had so many issues when we first got there and some of them were carry-overs from the previous regime, and we stood in there and fixed it, and we fixed it with the lowest APR in the country and we had players suspended for violations from thing that happened before I got there. We had 54 scholarship athletes my first year and we came through it. I think that has prepared me for this. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself and say you got blindsided, but at the end of the day, we have a chance to be a really good football team and we have a chance to be a great program moving forward.
What were UM higherups thinking? Shapiro was arrested in April 2010. Their initial response was to take his name off the student-athlete lounge and return about $130,000 Shapiro had donated. Then they learned Shapiro would inform the NCAA about the allegations in the fall of last year. The NCAA began investigating the matter five months ago, around March 2011. Yet by all outward appearances, the university continued with business as usual.
Eichorst was hired in April 2011. To think that the school didn't inform its incoming athletics director of an NCAA investigation is ridiculous.
New basketball coach Jim Larranaga was hired just days later that month. His program could be affected by sanctions as well. Larranaga has not yet made any public statement about the matter, but it's likely he was uninformed as well.
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It appears that until the publication of the Yahoo! Sports story, school officials thought they could easily beat the charges.
When InsideTheU.com broke news of the investigation, an inside source told the site: "I'm definitely confident UM will be okay. It will raise a lot of eyebrows, but at the end of the day, he's sitting behind bars and he owes $900 million."
Was this UM's arrogant attitude all along? Did no one think to internally investigate Shapiro's allegations? Did they really choose to remain willfully ignorant to the point of making major hires without informing any new personnel of the situation? Much of the football, basketball, and athletics department staff has turned over in the past year. But there's one key figure who was there throughout, and that's university president Donna Shalala. She has some explaining to do.