Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas said he first began hearing rumors about Al Golden possibly heading to Penn State when he played in the Under Armour All-American game earlier this week.
"I called Coach and asked him what was going on," said Thomas, widely considered UM's top defensive recruit.
"Coach Franklin, Barrow and Golden told me to just concentrate on the things I could handle and things would work out."
Thomas admits he was a little nervous, and although he considered himself "a 100 percent commitment to Miami," a potential coaching change would throw a curveball into the future plans for the entire recruiting class.
Thomas said when he found out Sunday afternoon Golden was staying he was happy and relieved.
"I know we have special class coming in and I didn't know what would happen if Coach Golden left," Thomas said. "I'm glad he isn't going anywhere. I know the rise back to the top is going to happen and it's going to be special. I want to be a part of it."
> Thomas said he was disappointed to see U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine de-commit from the program during the time of uncertainty. But he's hoping Valentine will now rejoin the class.
Hurricanes head football coach Al Golden released a statement Sunday, reaffirming his commitment to the University of Miami:
"There has been much speculation concerning my future at the University of Miami. While I am flattered that our progress at The U during an extremely difficult period of time is recognized, I am also appreciative of just what we have here at UM and I am not a candidate for another position. We are eager to welcome our student athletes back to campus next week and visit with prospective student-athletes and their families beginning January 15."
That's the one word that gets thrown around more than any other in college football.
Yet, as we've come to realize, it means absolutely nothing.
Al Golden used the word right after the Hurricanes got embarrassed by Louisville a little more than a week ago in the Russell Athletic Bowl. And he meant it.
"I made a commitment to get it done and we're going to fight our asses off until we get it done," Golden said of returning the Hurricanes to dominance.
Now, less than 10 days later, we're sitting here wondering if he's leaving for his alma mater Penn State. So are his bosses, assistant coaches, players and recruits.
"We don't know anything yet," President Donna Shalala told the Miami Herald in an email.
Golden? Not a peep, which says his commitment and his loyalty is really only to himself and his family.
We all know this of course. We're not naive. We all have priorities. If you were in Al's shoes and your alma mater came calling, offering more money, offering a heroes welcome, you would have to listen at least.
And maybe that's all this is. Maybe Golden won't be leaving anywhere.
After all, Penn State is reportedly interviewing Mike Munchak and James Franklin today. Maybe Al isn't sure he'd be better off back where he met his wife Kelly. Maybe being the next Joe Paterno isn't his thing. Maybe he wants to jump from Miami to the NFL and aspires to be the next Bill Belichick.
Only Al and his people know.
What does Al want us to know? Nothing. His silence speaks for itself. It reminds us people in college football can use the word commitment one day and change their minds the next. All anyone is really going to do is what's best for themselves from one decision to the next. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's real life.
In the end, if Al stays at Miami, it's going to be hard for some to believe just how committed he really is to this program. And the truth is that's really what was maybe Golden's most likable quality wasn't it? The fact he was, in his words, "going to fight [his] ass off until we get it done."
That commitment to standing by Miami's side through the NCAA mess. We loved that. The idea he was going to dig his feet into the ground, recruit his butt off and take Miami back to the top. Many Canes fans -- after a 7-0 start and rise to a No. 7 ranking -- were completely buying in.
Not so much anymore of course. They want his best bud, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, out of here. Get rid of him or you can go with him Al, many say.
If Al leaves, which many outside the program seem to think he will, the next guy will be expected to pick up right where he left off. Since the Canes went 9-4 this year, the next guy has to secure that Top 10 recruiting class, and then win the Coastal Division. No excuses. To not accomplish that would mean failure.
The good news for Hurricanes fans is that if Al leaves there are hungry, interested coaches out there who could accomplish that.
Mario Cristobal would be the first person I would call. Yeah, Cristobal left for a better paying Alabama job after Al gave him one when FIU dumped him.
But can you imagine anyone "fighting his ass off" for Miami -- his alma mater -- harder than Cristobal? He still hasn't tasted that NFL money, still hasn't really proven himself. He would work to get to that point.
And that's really what this Miami job has always been about. It doesn't pay enough to be a place where someone settles in for the long haul. It never has been. In it's most successful days it's always been the springboard to then next big, better paying job.
Some are saying Rob Chudzinski, Greg Schiano and Butch Davis would be great options. Tommy Tuberville might be too. But I'd call Mario first.
The only commitment you would need from Cristobal is what this program has really always been about and needed. That's a commitment to winning and winning big.