Al Golden Is Gone, but UM Probably on the Hook for Millions

Saturday's University of Miami loss to Clemson was costly. The 58-0 annihilation cost fans another season of false hope. It cost players their remaining shreds of dignity. And in the long run, it'll probably cost the University of Miami millions of dollars.

To loud cheers from pundits, die-hards, and ex-players, UM fired head coach Al Golden yesterday after his latest on-field disaster. But thanks to a long-term contract extension Golden signed in 2011, that'll be one pricey pink slip.

Just how much cash will this institution of higher learning burn on a failed football coach? There's no way to know — UM is a private school, so even the initial terms of Golden's contract have never been made public. And the school isn't going to start making them public now. 

"We haven't released that information, and I don't anticipate that we will be doing so," Tom Symonds, a spokesman for UM's athletic department, tells New Times

But it's not a stretch to estimate Golden's termination as a multimillion-dollar expense. In USA Today's latest ranking of college coach salaries, they pegged Golden as earning $2.5 million this year. His contract, meanwhile, runs all the way through the 2019 season; UM handed him the long-term deal amid rumors that his alma mater, Penn State, was trying to snatch him away — even though he'd done nada for the Canes to justify throwing more cash his way.

It's not difficult to find other examples of college coaches who've left smoldering programs for cushy retirements funded by the schools long after the coaches have left the sidelines. Take, for instance, Charlie Weiss, a spectacular flop at Notre Dame and Kansas, who's still cashing multimillion-dollar checks from both schools years after getting canned.   

That's not to say Golden didn't deserve the ax. There's a reason UM fans have been flying "Fire Al Golden" banners over Sun Life Stadium all season. Fans and pundits were ecstatic at the news.

It's just a mark of America's mixed-up college football culture that a school whose famed shark research program is in jeopardy over a legal battle for a few million dollars will more than likely cut seven-figure checks for years to a terrible coach.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink