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UM athletic director addresses Golden, his own expectations for football team; Dolphins, Marlins, Heat notes; Radio chatter

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

One thing that was made clear this week: Unlike Las Vegas odds-makers and some national college football reporters, the UM administration does not consider this a rebuilding year, a year when another mediocre season can be written off or excused.

With questions swirling about Al Golden’s job security beyond this season, make no mistake: The expectations from the top of UM's athletic department are much higher than they are nationally.

In fact, athletic director Blake James said he believes UM has enough talent to compete for the ACC's Coastal Division title this season.

“Al understands expectations of the program,” James said in a conversation this week inside the lobby in the Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, where the ACC was holding its annual media event.

“Our conversation [this offseason] was [that] I expect us to be a winning program," James said. "He understands those expectations and I’m confident he will get us in position to win Coastal championships, win ACC championships and ultimately win national championships.

“Let’s start with winning the Coastal. That’s something we need to do. If you win the ACC, I’ve always said, you've got a great chance of winning the national championship in any sport…. Let’s go out and win the Coastal because I would feel very good about where we are nationally.”

I asked James what he tells donors and fans who ask what Golden must do to remain the coach beyond this year.

Here was James’ answer: “Al wants to win. I want to win. Our donors, our fans, our friends want to win. Anyone who has an affinity to the University of Miami wants to see us win.

“Al knows he needs to win. Our guys know we need to win. I know we need to win. I’m confident they are taking the steps they need to take to go out and take care of business this year.”

James’ vision for the program includes this: “I believe as we continue to get young men coming into our program that are elite players, we are going to see that return where’s it not rebuilding, it’s reloading. We are going to see that year after year. There is just so much talent not only in South Florida but in the state of Florida.

“The University of Miami has such a strong national brand, that we will continue to get players like Brad Kaaya out of California and throughout the country, like we’ve done historically. I do think, and people don’t always like to hear this, that there was that void when we were under the NCAA cloud. We’ve moved beyond that.

“When I look at all the names I’m signing [National Letters of Intents] for, I know our program is going in the right direction because we’re in conversations with all the elite players.”

Why does James expect more this season than what oddsmakers predict (UM’s over/under for wins in Vegas is 5.5 or 6)?

“I like the guys that we have coming back,” James said. “You have a great leader and quarterback in Brad Kaaya. I think we are going to see our defense continue to get better. I just think we’re going to be a better team overall. I don’t get caught up in what the media thinks or what Vegas thinks.

“The [UM players and coaches] are doing the things in the offseason that they need to do to put themselves in position to win. We didn’t execute at the level we thought we should have or could have in a lot of games last year. With that, you end up at a 6-7. If you execute to the level I think we can, we can have a lot of success.”

So is it reasonable to expect a 9- or 10-win season?

“I don’t get into looking at numbers but what I do expect to see is us executing at a higher level and performing at a higher level and going out and winning games,” James said.

“At the end of the year, we’ll look at the whole picture. You go into the season not looking to win 9 or 10 games. You go into the season looking to win every game. I hope and expect that for all of our coaches. I don’t want any one of our coaches or student athletes saying we are going to lose these four or three or two games or whatever. Let’s go win every game.”

Golden's contract runs through Feb. 1, 2020.

Incidentally, James, who has done great work upgrading facilities, said lights were installed on the practice field this week (costing about $500,000). He wants an indoor practice facility but UM needs a big donation (“a naming-type gift”) to finance it.

“Without that, it can’t become a reality,” he said. “….My goal is to go through the needs we have and scratch as many as you can off the list.”

CHATTER

### Regarding UM’s non-conference scheduling, “Al and I have talked about that,” James said. “We need to play a big game [every year]. This year, it’s Nebraska.” It’s Notre Dame in 2016 and 2017 and LSU in Arlington, Tx., in 2018 and Michigan State in 2020 and 2021.

“Big game every year and then we need to have a competitive one,” James said. “Cincinnati [which hosts UM Oct. 1] is going to be a very strong team in the American Athletic Conference this year. You could [supplement] that with Bethune Cookman. I believe in helping those programs out. I’d like us to continue to play FIU and Florida Atlantic.”

Also booked for future games: Arkansas State, Toledo and Rutgers.

### James addressed the possibility of a joint stadium with MLS in this space last Friday. Please see the July 17 post if you missed that.

### Training camp doesn’t start for a week, but the Dolphins lost one player to retirement: undrafted rookie offensive tackle Mickey Baucus, a four-year starter at Arizona whose body wasn’t responding to the workload. He had back and knee issues in college.

Evan Mathis remains a possibility but it's likely Miami also will explore signing a young offensive lineman.

### Tough start for the Marlins’ top two draft picks: Power hitting first baseman Josh Naylor is out with mononucleosis after a 10 for 30 start in the Gulf Coast League.

Pitcher Brett Lilek, the Marlins’ second-rounder out of Arizona State, has allowed 11 runs in his first 11 minor-league innings, for Single A Batavia....

And from a player development standpoint, this is worrisome: All seven Marlins minor league affiliates entered the week in last place (as local sportscasters Andy Slater and Will Manso noted). By my tabulations, they were a combined 80 games under .500 to start the week.

### Jose Fernandez's 2.30 ERA is the third-lowest after 40 career starts in baseball's live-ball era, dating to 1920, according to Elias. The only ones better: Vida Blue (1.99) and Howie Pollet (2.14).

### Add the Royals and Blue Jays to the list of teams that have reportedly inquired about Mat Latos, who said he would prefer to stay here longterm but knows there's a good chance he will be traded.

### The Marlins' nightmarish season continued today with news that Henderson Alvarez is experiencing more shoulder pain and will see doctors to see if surgery is necessary. Alvarez, who was terrific last season (12-7, 2.65 ERA), is 0-4 with a 6.45 ERA this season and amid today's setback, you wonder if the Marlins will get a single win from him all year.

### Center Gabe Olaseni, the Big 10's Sixth Man of the Year at Iowa last year, declined a non-guaranteed training camp offer with the Heat to sign with a team in Germany. Olaseni had some good moments for Miami in Summer League... Seems way premature considering the limited body of work, but ESPN predicted today that Hassan Whiteside will command a contract averaging $18.8 million during free agency next summer. He will make just under $1 million this season.

### For the second time in a week, a general manager at a South Florida sports radio station has been ousted by new ownership. Last week, it was The Ticket's Maureen Lesourd.

Today, CBS Radio --- which recently closed on its acquisition of Beasley Broadcasting's local stations --- dumped longtime WQAM general manager Joe Bell, a gregarious fellow who was well-liked by employees. Bell was the person who made every major personnel hire at that station (as well as FM stations WKIS and WPOW) for the past decade.

WQAM's Joe Rose has beaten The Ticket's morning show in three of the past five ratings books, but The Ticket (which has the benefit of having two signals to WQAM's one) has been winning in every other daypart.

(A bit more, for those really interested in the radio business:) Besides dropping Bell, CBS Radio also dismissed the chief executives at its stations in Hartford, Orlando, Las Vegas and Riverside, Cal. Steve Carver --- who previously guided CBS stations in Tampa, West Palm Beach, Cleveland, and Las Vegas --- will take over Bell's duties in Miami and also oversee the Orlando stations.

### ESPN Radio remains very interested in having Dan Le Batard replace departing Colin Cowherd (who's expected to move to Fox) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. But no final decision has been made and discussions are ongoing.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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