On Monday, Dec. 13, Al Golden stopped by Temple's football facility at Edberg-Olson Hall to say goodbye to his support staff. He was about to leave for Miami, where later in the day Golden would be introduced as the new head football coach of the Hurricanes.
Golden, who in five years at Temple transformed the program from an afterthought to relevance, had met with his players the previous night.
"When we first hired Al, I was thinking we could keep him for three years, and maybe five years," said Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw, who plucked Golden when the coach was 36 and serving as the defensive coordinator at Virginia. "Because of his skills, his age and his ambitions, never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be for more than five."
This year, the Owls finished 8-4 and gave the program a second straight winning season for the first time since 1978 and '79. Last fall, the team's 9-4 finish was Temple's first winning season since 1990, and the Owls enjoyed their first postseason appearance in 30 years.
Then, the players who made those things happen had to hear Golden say that he was leaving. Though rumors and Internet reports had been circulating about their coach taking another job, it was still disconcerting for some of the Owls.
"We were all sitting in the room talking casually," linebacker Quinten White said about the meeting with Golden. "Then, he walked in and everybody got silent. He said he was taking the Miami job, and that it was something he had to do for his family. It was something he couldn't turn down, and he told us how he appreciated us and how much fun he had being here for five years. He talked to us about not regressing, and moving forward. Some people were upset, some people were mad, some people were sad."
On Thursday, Temple announced that former Florida offensive coordinator and associate head coach Steve Addazio would take over the Owls football team. At his introductory news conference that day, the 51-year-old Addazio was impressive.
"Just listening to him talk, you get excited," said Temple safety Kevin Kroboth, who was one of 30 Owls present at the news conference. "I can't wait to play for him."
Golden, having interviewed for the jobs at UCLA and Notre Dame after recent seasons, was coveted this year by Minnesota, Colorado, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh and Miami. He would not name the institutions, but Bradshaw said there were some schools that broke decorum by not contacting him before reaching out to Golden.
Bradshaw said Golden was up front with him each time he was being courted.
"I always felt Al was open and honest with me when he pursued those opportunities," Bradshaw said. "He would talk to me and we would meet. For Al, the name of the school, and the financial opportunities were never critical in his decision making. He has both feet on the ground, and always made very good decisions about who he talked to, and he shared them with me. I always thought that when the right opportunity came for Al, his instincts would take over."
Bradshaw said that during Golden's successful tenure - he was the architect of one of the biggest turnarounds in Division I in recent years - he tried to act as a friend and adviser as well as be true to his role as Temple's athletic director.
"Al and I had some challenging, exhaustive, meaningful conversations over the years about his career," Bradshaw said. "It is my responsibility to always be fair and balanced as athletic director at Temple, but also someone who cared about Al's future. There is no question that there were some significant opportunities for Al in the past that I clearly felt were not in his best interests. I thought it was my responsibility to say that, as I would do with all my staff.
"I always said that when that great opportunity came along, he earned it and deserved it. He turned this football program around. He did a magnificent job of building it to last. That's his legacy."
Kroboth said that in the end, he and his teammates were able to come to terms with Golden's departure. His office was cleaned out by his director of football operations, Tom Deahn, who's moving to Miami along with defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, defensive backs coach Paul Williams, and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.
"At first, we were shocked and disappointed," Kroboth said. "And then, when you really think about it, we were so lucky to have him. He instilled so many great values in my life that I'm going to carry throughout the rest of my life. And the opportunity he had, he had to take it. I'm happy for him."
Bradshaw said that as he was going through the process of finding a new coach, he spoke with Golden about some of the 75 or so candidates who expressed interest in the job.
"I could give you a list of five or six people we didn't interview, it would surprise you," Bradshaw said. "When I ran by Al the names of some of the people who were interested, he said, 'Goodness gracious. Look at what me and you have done.' I said, 'No that was you.' "