Golden giving fans many looks at Miami
Like most football coaches, Miami's Al Golden craves secrecy. Nuances of the playbook, details of certain formations, which players are being used in what situation, he'd obviously prefer very little of that be revealed publicly.
Hard to believe, given how visible the Hurricanes have been this spring.
Trying to energize and potentially grow Miami's fan base, Golden has opened the gates to much of his first spring practice season with the Hurricanes, inviting faculty and students to some workouts and the general public to three scrimmages in 15 days - the second of which takes place Saturday morning.
''Once we get into August, we'll batten down the hatches and close the sub-latch and really just see where we end up going as a team,'' Golden said. ''What I'm interested in is that our team keeps our playbook and our nomenclature and all of our business in-house and that we learn how to respect each other. Just going out here and practicing with our fans, that's something different right now.''
To Golden, having wandering eyes around for parts of spring ball may bring great reward without great risk.
The Hurricanes aren't exactly putting state secrets on display in these open sessions - in short, those showing up for them aren't seeing a dress rehearsal for the 2011 opener against Maryland quite yet - and players enjoy having the monotony of practices broken up by the chance to entertain some of their fans.
''I think it's a great experience,'' linebacker Sean Spence said. ''It's always good to take the show on the road.''
That's another element of Golden's vision for the spring.
He's taken to calling Miami ''South Florida's team,'' so he's bringing the Hurricanes across the three-county region known as South Florida. About 3,500 people showed for a scrimmage at a high school in Palm Beach County, an hour or so north of Miami's campus last weekend. This week's stop is a stadium in Miami-Dade County, and that's followed by the April 16 spring game in Broward County.
Those three counties saw about 120 high school seniors accept major-college scholarships this past signing day. And Golden has made it clear: He intends to get back to Miami's roots and ensure many the region's best high school players going forward wind up playing for the Hurricanes.
''We've got to get used to doing everything right when no one's looking,'' quarterback Stephen Morris said. ''So even if there's thousands of people out here or 50 people out here or no one out here, I'm going out there the same way and I expect everyone on this team to go out there the same way. That's how University of Miami football players will carry themselves.''
Golden also asked students and faculty to come to a practice on campus about two weeks ago. When that was interrupted by rain, Golden invited them all back for Miami's next workout, something that wasn't in the original plans.
Miami football is a product, and Golden is turning into its chief salesman.
''We need our fans,'' quarterback Jacory Harris said.
This all doesn't stop with spring practices. A week ago, after that scrimmage in Palm Beach County, about half the team got together late on a Saturday night to take part in a walk to raise money for, and awareness of, cancer research. The following day, the other half the team went to an event geared toward helping Miami's hungry.
''We're role models in this community,'' Harris said.
By the time spring ball ends, there's a chance that more than 20,000 people might have shown up to see the Hurricanes play the Hurricanes. While that number doesn't come remotely close to what some teams lure for their spring game, it represents much higher-than-usual exposure for Miami's offseason workouts.
Miami is also inviting area high school coaches to their practices, even the closed ones, to give them a feel of what Golden and his staff will aim to do with the Hurricanes. Those coaches are understandably urged to keep what they see secret, and Golden has indicated that if that trust is broken the invitation will be rescinded.
All those initiatives represent progress, Golden said.
''We had to get back and get out in the community and make sure we're out there from an outreach standpoint - and most particularly, from a community and recruiting standpoint,'' Golden said. ''It doesn't bother me. There'll be obviously time to reel it in in August, but right now I want to make sure we're out and about.''