MIAMI GARDENS — Finally, the only thing Miami coach Al Golden has to worry about is football.
The Hurricanes already got a big win this week, in that closure came Tuesday when the NCAA released its long-awaited verdict about the case involving a former Miami booster and a slew of impermissible benefits. It was a scandal that hovered menacingly over the program for each and every of the 30 games Golden has coached since taking the Miami job.
Not any more. When Golden runs onto the field today, the only haze he’ll be dealing with is the artificial one caused by the plumes of white smoke that accompany the Hurricanes as they emerge for home games.
No longer burdened by the probe, No. 7 Miami (6-0, 2-0 ACC) hosts Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) with nothing to worry about except the team on the other sideline.
“I think it’s been very difficult for our coaches and for the athletic program,” Miami President Donna Shalala said this week.
All the more reason for today to have a festive feel for the Hurricanes, perhaps the biggest surprise team in the very-early national championship picture. It’s employee day for the university, meaning virtually all the seats inside cavernous Sun Life Stadium have been sold.
Wake Forest knows that this game is going to be emotional for the Hurricanes, too.
“That’s a distraction that’s not a part of the equation anymore,” Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe said. “I think with players, I know our coaches and coaches throughout the country worry about keeping players focused on just playing football. ... I think with what they’ve had to deal with, with the NCAA, I think it would certainly be a relief to coaches and players alike that that’s behind them now and they can really spend more time focusing on football.”