Temple Nation can take a deep breath. Its football coach isn't leaving just yet.
Al Golden, who just completed his second season on North Broad Street, has withdrawn from consideration for the UCLA vacancy. He was in Los Angeles last week for a second interview, this one with Chancellor Gene Block, who was the vice president and provost at Virginia while Golden was the Cavaliers' defensive coordinator from 2001 to '05.
"I am flattered to have been contacted [by UCLA]," Golden said in a statement from Temple. "UCLA is a world-class institution . . . However, we are on the brink of something truly special here. Our staff, student-athletes and I look forward to what Temple football will accomplish in the future. We have some unfinished business to take care of."
The Owls won four games last season, their first in the Mid-American Conference. The last time the program - which has gone from the Big East to independent status to a non-BCS affiliation in 4 years - won that many was 2002. The Owls were 1-11 in 2006, Golden's first season.
Sources in Los Angeles familiar with the situation said Golden, who apparently impressed both Block and athletic director Dan Guerrero, didn't withdraw to "save face" once it looked as if he would not get the job. Rather, they think he came to the realization that the job wasn't the right fit for an East Coast guy. But they contend he was a factor, not a token or "fall-back" candidate.
It would seem that UCLA, which talked unsuccessfully to Oregon coach Mike Belotti last week, will hire former Bruins quarterback Rick Neuheisel or UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, the interim coach since Karl Dorrell was fired early this month. The Bruins lost, 17-16, to Brigham Young in Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl.
Neuheisel went 66-30 in eight seasons at Colorado and Washington. He was fired by Washington in 2003 for participating in an NCAA basketball tournament betting pool, then sued the university and NCAA. A settlement in March 2005 awarded him around $4.5 million. He currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.
Golden's decision should be welcome news to the administration and the alumni, many of whom were upset he would even think about leaving so soon after his arrival. Welcome to the real world. Yo, it wasn't as if he talked to Marshall. When a place like UCLA calls and you coach Temple, you owe it to your career to listen. That's the way the business works.
Temple hasn't had to deal with that issue, in football or basketball, in a long time. If any recruit thinks the odds favor Golden still being here 4 years from now, good luck. Everyone knew that going in. If bigger-time programs weren't interested in him, it would mean Golden wasn't doing enough to get noticed.
At least Temple can tell recruits its coach was part of the process at UCLA. If the Owls keep getting better, it's only a matter of time. Until then . . .
"We knew when we hired Al Golden that he could achieve the kind of success that would draw attention from other schools," Temple AD Bill Bradshaw said in the same release. "There are great seasons ahead for Temple football, and we are happy coach Golden has chosen to remain with our program for some time to come."
See you next offseason. *