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Miami takes a definitive look at Al Golden's first three years at The U

Al Golden's tenure as Miami's head coach started under a black cloud, figuratively. So it's only fitting that "Raising Canes: An Unprecedented Journey" - The U's blow-by-blow account of Golden's first three seasons coached simultaneously through the darkest period of NCAA-related uncertainty in the program's history - starts with a black cloud.

The now-infamous Nevin Shapiro story hit before Golden coached his first game at Miami. Golden says he remembers vividly being asked in August 2011 whether he thought there would even be a Hurricanes football team in 2012. The benefit of hindsight allows us to smirk at that question today, but at the time that fear was as legitimate as raincloud on a summer afternoon. 

According to Golden, the turning point, or rather the turning point before the turning point, was receiving commitments from key 2012 South Florida recruits Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard. Johnson and Howard signing with Miami signaled to other Miami-area prospects that it was okay for them to sign with the Hurricanes, and a sign to Miami's coaches that the program was not going to crater. 

The first high point comes in October of last fall, when athletics director Blake James informed the team that, after two years of empty Decembers, they would indeed be eligible for the ACC Championship and a postseason bowl game. Miami finished the season 9-4 with an appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl, the program's first since 2010. 

The second high point was just last week, when Miami signed its first sanction-free class in the Golden era. By now, Miami is ready to move on from Hurricane Shapiro, and no one in green and orange is more excited about that than Golden and his staff. 

"We're entering a phase where we can go thrive and we can go recruit," Golden said, "and I can't tell you how refreshing it's been to go out and talk about what a great place the University of Miami is."