Miami Hurricanes football coach Al Golden reflected on the first year and a half of his tenure at the U on Monday, lamenting the endless scandals and dust-ups that have garnered more notoriety for his team than its on-field exploits.
"It's been TMZ since I've been here," he said, making reference to the gossip website. " It's been tough on the coaches. It's been tough on me, personally. There's not one minute I go to bed that I don't think I'm fighting that with the team. I'm looking forward to the day where we're focused on our opponents and getting our players better and not talking about all that."
Before the Canes played their first game under Golden in 2011, the Nevin Shapiro scandal erupted. The ensuing NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits received by former Canes from the former booster has yet to be completed, and it continues to loom over the program.
Besides the Shapiro-related issues, Golden has had to dismiss players for multiple team rules violations and issue plenty of suspensions to other players for violating team rules. Last week, WR Rashawn Scott, LB Eddie Johnson, and special teamer Gabe Terry were left at home while the team traveled to play at Virginia.
Golden has tried to get his players to become more accountable, in part by establishing a council of team leaders with the authority to suspend their own teammates. "We need guys to hold each other accountable, not be afraid to enter the danger," Golden said. He did not mention whether any of last week's suspensions were imposed by the council.
"We need more of that right now," Golden said. "Because you have to break the cycle. You can't hand down (poor decision-making) as acceptable to the next generation of Miami Hurricanes. You just can't."
Senior CB Brandon McGee is one of the players on the council. He told the Palm Beach Post Monday, "It's going to be tough love," referring to how the players will deal with disciplinary issues. "We're not going to say, 'Oh, it's OK.'"
While the 5-5 Canes may appear to have little to play for this season, they still have an outside shot at reaching the ACC Championship Game, provided they beat Duke on the road next week.
But the honor council is clearly designed with longer-term benefits in mind. In the lore of UM, the great teams of the 80s, 90s, and 00s were great in part because players continually feared losing starting jobs to teammates who outworked them in practice and stayed focused in team meetings.
Golden wants to re-instill that attitude at Miami, and recognizes that he will get more buy-in from his players if he gives them some amount of ownership in the system. Installing a player council will not solve all of UM's football problems, but it can certainly go a long way.