WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Several prominent University of Miami Board of Trustee members this week expressed anger and disappointment about the state of the UM football program and Al Golden's job performance but understand and accept that the administration does not want to make a coaching change.
UM athletic director Blake James reiterated Tuesday that Golden will remain UM's coach. Some trustees still believe in Golden and contrary to reports, there has not been a trustee meeting called to discuss the football program.
Of four prominent, high-ranking trustees interviewed this week, three were highly critical of the coaching. None were authorized to speak on the record.
"I was a fan of Golden's at first but becoming less and less of one," one of them said. "The program is no better now than it was under Randy Shannon, and you wonder whether these [top] recruits will continue to come if he doesn't produce."
Conversely, the high-ranking trustee who supported Golden said: "He's a class act. He's a disciplinarian, the kind of guy we need to lead us. We are under a microscope and we can't have off-field problems. I want to win the right way."
That trustee who supports Golden said Golden needs to make staff changes but emphasized how difficult it was for Golden to recruit in past years because of the NCAA investigation.
Among Golden's critics, one trustee blamed him for the team's inability to play with much emotion in late-season games after big losses, saying it's the coach's job to inspire players and to explain to them what they're playing for.
That trustee said he and others believe staff changes should include not only replacing defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, but also defensive backs coach Paul Williams. He said he hopes the trustees can convince James to pressure Golden to make staff changes, though James likes to give his head coaches the autonomy to choose their assistants.
Among other criticisms raised by the trustees, all of whom are successful, respected members of the community: Why does the team often perform below its talent level? And why does the bar for success at UM seem to be set so low now, with simply winning the ACC's Coastal Division the stated goal?
Another trustee said several trustees are praying that Nebraska and former UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst takes Golden to Nebraska. Eichhorst did not hire Golden at UM but gave him a four-year contract extension, through 2019, that pays slightly more than $2 million per season.
Though UM president Donna Shalala --- who is retiring in a few months --- supports Golden, one trustee close to her believes that she would do something to improve the situation, perhaps by pushing Golden to change his staff, if she weren't retiring, but that she has lost some level of interest in fixing the situation in her final months.
Will the school's new president, who hasn't been hired, care about sports? One trustee noted Stuart Miller, chairman of UM's Board of Trustees, is a big sports fan and expects athletics will be important to the new president. Two of the other trustees agreed.
Two of the trustees said the decision to extend Golden through the 2019 season was clearly a mistake but understood UM’s reluctance to pay the buyout, which would pay Golden a large chunk of the more than $10 million he’s still owed.
### On his weekly WQAM segment with Joe Rose on Tuesday, Golden stood firmly behind D’Onofrio, adding he’s “excited about the progress” on defense and bristled when asked if it’s difficult to evaluate D’Onofrio given their friendship.
"Look, someone's got an agenda so someone wants to talk about the relationship," Golden said. “I've known Mark for a long time. Again, there's a relationship there, a trust in terms of the business side.
"If you look at our defense this year, I feel like we stabilized. We had a lot of guys that improved. We played a lot of young guys. When Denzel Perryman leaves we have guys behind him and we're recruiting in this class as well. I'm excited about the progress we made there. We went up in a number of categories. Total defense we went from 90 to 15th.
"We lost three guys before the seasons started, three guys that were potential starters --- (Rayshawn) Jenkins, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Alex Figueroa. And we redshirted Earl Moore, Ryan Mayes, Jelani Hamilton, Demetrius Jackson. hat was the first chance we had to redshirt some guys. I'm excited about the direction we're going. There's no question about it."
### Golden was asked if the problems are an issue of coaching, scheme or players not being engaged in the last two losses.
"Before you go down the list of things to blame it's the responsibly of the head coach to get the team ready," Golden said. "I take that responsibility. It didn't happen. It's one of those things we have to
learn from and build from and do whatever we have to do to make sure it doesn't happen again."
### Asked if there would be staff changes, Golden didn’t rule it out: "It's something that I think about all the time. I’ll evaluate everyone at the conclusion of the season.”
### UM has been outscored, 181-69, in the second half of its last 10 losses but when asked by Rose if there are enough halftime adjustments being made, Golden said: “Yeah, I think our guys do a great job. Just before halftime we're saying 'OK, here's what we have to get done.' The first thing we do when we go in is meet as an offensive and defensive staff separately, make the adjustments and present it to the team.
"On Saturday the offense came out the first drive (of the second half) and scored, making a couple of adjustments. The ensuing kickoff we didn't cover. They're starting in plus territory and that's just one little
tiny example. We hadn't been as good in the second half the last three games, there's no question about it, but overall we haven't played as good the last two games. The Florida State game, that was a second
half team and we needed to play better than that to win the game.”
### Of the 6-6 record, Golden said: "I'm disappointed with it. There's a silver lining in terms of guys improving and getting better and laying it on the line. But overall disappointed with the results.
"It's hard to explain. It's something we're very disappointed in. ...Clearly we didn't perform or execute the last two weeks like we did the previous six. That's really disappointing. We have to sit down with the leadership, guys in different classes and more than anything make sure it gets fixed."
### UM offensive coordinator James Coley declined overtures from Kentucky for the same position, according to two close associates.... Though UM must give up nine scholarships over a three-year period as part of NCAA sanctions (this is year two), Golden said UM will take a full class this year.
### Former UM coach Howard Schnellenberger, who has watched a couple of UM practices and speaks with Golden occasionally, believes in Golden and likes how he runs practice but told me: “If you’re not winning, you can’t skin the cat the same way.… He needs to recalibrate and find a different way. You have to come up with something that would be new and different and positive.”
### Brian Hartline's knee injury isn't serious --- it's just a bruise --- and he hopes to play Sunday. Hartline was limited to nine snaps Monday; after his injury, most of his snaps went to Brandon Gibson (51), not Rishard Matthews (7).
### Even beyond Ryan Tannehill's streak of five straight games with a 70 percent or higher completion percentage --- tied with Brett Favre’s streak (in 2007) for the NFL's third-longest in the past 10 years --- what was most encouraging was his fourth-quarter drive, considering he entered 31st in the league in fourth quarter passer rating, compared with the 11th-highest passer rating overall.
“The team’s confidence in him is better,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Tuesday.
### Dan Marino, who has been watching tape with Tannehill, has been careful not to step on coach’s toes. “There was a time he said, ‘Hey what time are you meeting? Can I come in?’ And that was about all it took,” Lazor said. “He’s been a great professional. He’s at practice most days.”
### On a night the Dolphins’ run defense was bludgeoned, Randy Starks graded out the worst of any defender (Earl Mitchell was next-lowest), according to Pro Football Focus, and his status for 2015 is in serious question: He has a $6 million cap hit if he’s kept, $1 million if he’s not… Good move to bring back Don Jones, who graded out the highest of any Dolphins special teams player Monday, along with Dion Jordan.
### Former Dolphins star Jason Taylor, on NBC's Pro Football Talk tonight: “I think the best unit on this team has been the defensive line. It’s the deepest and most talented unit…They’re the bell cow for that team, but the last two weeks have been alarming. When you put things like this on film, the next team is going to come in and see how well you’ve figured it out...But I think they will get it figured out this week and beat Baltimore."
### Please see the last post for 20 Dolphins notes from Tuesday afternoon.
### Free agent pitcher Jake Peavy has been contacted by the Marlins, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, who interviewed Peavy this week.
Peavy, 33, had a strange 2014: He was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts for the Red Sox, lost his rotation spot, was traded to the Giants, went 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts, pitched well in the NLCS but had an awful start (lasting 1 2/3 innings) in Game 6 of the World Series.
### Encouraging to see former Carol City High star DeAndre Burnett score a game-high 19 tonight to help push 15th-ranked UM past No. 24 Illinois, 70-61, as Miami moved to 8-0. Burnett averaged 37 points as a high school senior.