CORAL GABLES, Fla. In what head coach Al Golden called a survive and advance year, the Canes (7-5, 5-3) won a share of this years ACC Coastal Division after being pegged for fifth in the division during the preseason.
Miami wont be in the conference championship game in Charlotte on Saturday because the university imposed a second straight bowl ban in an attempt to try and lessen the severity of future NCAA penalties for compliance violations.
With eye on 2013, we take a closer look at the Hurricanes season.
What went right?
Junior quarterback Stephen Morris and freshman running back Duke Johnson -- who Tuesday was named ACC Offensive and Overall Rookie of the Year by the media -- gave next years opposing defenses a lot to be concerned about.
Morris completed 58.2 percent of his passes and threw for 3,345 yards with 21 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Johnson ran for 957 yards and averaged 6.9 yards per attempt.
They led an offense that averaged 441 yards and 31.4 points.
In addition to the other 99 things that keep me up at night, I think thats probably the one that hurts the most we have maybe the hottest quarterback in America right now over the past four games, Golden said. He is white hot and we would have had a chance to bring a hot quarterback into a championship game.
What went wrong?
The defense showed its youth -- allowing an obscene 486.8 yards and 30.5 points per game this season.
But inexperience didnt mean a lack of talent. Freshman defensive back Deon Bush, for one, showed glimpses of greatness through the growing pains before being sidelined the final three games after suffering a stinger.
While some observers wonder if close Golden friend Mark DOnofrio is the right man for the defensive coordinators job, the decision maker sees it differently.
Mark should be as mad as anybody because, imagine coming to the University of Miami and having to play a bunch of kids? Golden said. Imagine being saddled with that? Hes the one who should be mad. To come in here and hes got one corner (Brandon McGee) in the program? He should be mad. And he is mad, and hes gonna fight.
Everybody wants this change and that change. Marks not a quitter. None of us are. This staff will be together and were excited about moving the program forward.
Besides 14 redshirt freshmen, Golden expects to add about 15 recruits to next years squad -- a lot fewer than the 33 recruits who comprised the class of 2012.
Its a lot different this year, it feels different, he said. Its definitely more focused, more personalized, more selective. We dont need that many, and were trying to find the right ones. Were being patient.
Golden and his staff are also changing the programs culture.
Linebacker Eddie Johnson and receiver Rashawn Scott each were suspended a game. Defensive end Kelvin Cain temporarily left the team in frustration then returned.
Unlike in the days immediately following last season, when Golden had lists of names for cutting class, missing study hall or skipping breakfast, the coach said he has no names on any lists the past three days.
The Hurricanes have seemed more interested in hitting the weight room and building toward next season.
I sense excitement, I sense the kids understand, Golden said. The have a vision of what we need to do in the Coastal Division and what that ultimately will lead to.
The programs (and Goldens) future
Goldens name has surfaced as a potential replacement surrounding other job openings. Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas are big-time programs seeking new coaches.
Will Golden answer the phone if another athletic director or a deep-pockets booster rings?
I know my wife would cry if I said we were moving out of town, Golden said. If (my name is being mentioned elsewhere), I hope its because of how we are operating through a very tumultuous time and how were being steadfast with our plan and not flinching.
While recent history is full of coaches who have said one thing and done another, Golden has little reason to leave right now.
If he were to bolt, Golden would be on the clock the moment he stepped to a podium at another school. At Miami, that clock really hasnt started ticking yet because of an NCAA investigation into compliance violations pre-Golden and likely sanctions.
Golden also understands the Hurricanes program can weather the NCAA storm better than most other schools. Few universities have the combination of location and football tradition offered in Coral Gables.
The 'Canes expect to return 20 of 22 starters next year. Only running back Mike James and cornerback Brandon McGee are departing.
As long as the NCAA investigation cloud hangs over the program, Miamis future faces uncertainty. Once penalties are announced expected in the spring everyone will know the deal, good or bad.
Golden sounds genuinely excited about rebuilding the Hurricanes into an annual ACC powerhouse and national championship contender and he appears headed in that direction.