CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Plans are already being made for Miami to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its 2001 national championship over the coming year.
Memories of those great moments might be fading more each day around "The U."
Another disappointing season ended with a wasn't-that-close 33-17 loss to Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl on Friday, sending the Hurricanes to a 7-6 finish. A year where head coach Randy Shannon got fired after the regular season, most assistant coaches were either not retained or decided to leave, and several players are expected to consider transferring came to a crashing end.
And when it was over, interim coach Jeff Stoutland almost seemed to hang a "Recruits Wanted" sign on the locker room door.
"You might want to come to Miami now," Stoutland said. "Because you can see, 'I can come there and help your school. I don't have to sit around and wait a couple years.'"
Maybe that's true, but curing what ails Miami also likely won't be a quick fix.
Al Golden was hired from Temple to get Miami back on track, given a five-year contract with the full knowledge that the Hurricane fan base has no visions on waiting that long for a return to national prominence. He's been concentrating on recruiting since taking the job, leaving the matter of Sun Bowl prep up to Stoutland (who'll revert to offensive line coach) and the 2010 lineup of assistant coaches.
Of those, only Stoutland and linebackers coach Micheal Barrow are expected to return in 2011. Miami will have new coordinators on both sides of the ball, with Golden bringing Mark D'Onofrio from Temple with him to run the defense. The offensive coordinator job is likely to be filled in the coming days.
"We've been busy," Golden said Friday during the CBS telecast of the Sun Bowl. "We hit the road running here. First couple weeks, I didn't get a chance to coach on the field yet, but we've been evaluating everybody as a general manager, so to speak, fixing the operation and getting the recruiting going."
Golden made his cameo in the broadcast booth during the second quarter, and was mid-sentence when Jacory Harris — who has been plagued by turnovers in his two years as a starter — lobbed an ill-advised pass that became one of his three interceptions in the game. He's thrown 32 since the start of 2009, and no team has been picked off more in those two seasons than the Hurricanes.
"I think we have to bring an attitude, bring an energy and passion level back to where the expectation is for Miami," Golden was saying. "I think we've got to bring a toughness and discipline, and that includes a mental toughness."
It couldn't have been scripted any worse. As Golden said those last words, Harris dropped back to throw, trying to force a ball into quadruple coverage. Golden stopped mid-sentence.
"Whoa," Golden said on the air.
There was more than a few of those moments in the second half of the now-completed decade.
From the start of 2001 through the end of 2005, Miami lost seven games, matching Texas for the fewest in the country over the span. From 2006 through 2010, Miami went just 34-26 — the 53rd-best record in the nation out of 120 major college programs, a stretch marked by no conference championships, no Bowl Championship Series berths and the firings of two head coaches.
Given that, Golden's job will not be easy.
"The first thing he probably has to do is weed out the guys he doesn't feel will be beneficial to the program," departing cornerback Ryan Hill told reporters after the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. "We've got a lot of guys that have to do a lot of maturing in this program. We have a lot of guys that act like little boys, just not doing what they're supposed to do."
The coming days could be hectic for Miami, with more staff hirings expected and recruiting efforts continuing. Miami expected to have about 15 scholarships to offer to the incoming class; that number is likely to rise if some players, as expected, ask for their release to transfer elsewhere.
Indeed, those glory days of 2001 might seem far, far away during those looming championship anniversary celebrations planned for this spring and fall.
"I don't know why it had to end this way," Stoutland said.