Greg Stoda: Coach Al Golden has done exemplary job guiding Miami Hurricanes through NCAA turmoil

Al Golden didn’t break character.

Nobody should have expected him to.

He has spent the better part of three college football seasons as the University of Miami coach being patient.

He has not overreacted in the face of a maddening wait.

And he was the same man Tuesday when the Hurricanes finally escaped limbo with a modest penalty assessed by the NCAA for violations stemming from a sordid booster scandal.

The university couldn’t have hoped for a better ambassador than Golden through the turmoil.

The briefest review is that Golden inherited the Nevin Shapiro mess at “The U,” and wasn’t informed about the situation during the hiring process. But he stuck around, lived with self-imposed sanctions (no bowl berths, no appearance in an ACC title game and a reduction in recruiting) and now has steered an unbeaten Hurricanes team to a No. 7 BCS ranking.

And in the wake of what can only be viewed as an off-field UM victory in the Shapiro ruling — no bowl ban, the loss of nine scholarships over the next three years and a three-year stint on probation — Golden did what best served the Canes by shutting down access.

There’d be no risking a player quote that could be misconstrued as antagonistic.

Nor was Golden about to gloat or celebrate, and neither was anyone under his control.

He was stoic, determined and silent save for this statement:

“I want to sincerely thank our student-athletes and their families who not only stood with the University of Miami during this unprecedented challenge, but subsequently volunteered for the mission … express heartfelt appreciation to our staff and families who did not subscribe to this challenge three years ago, yet courageously adopted it as their own … it is with gratitude and humility that I say thank you to our administration, U. family everywhere and the entire South Florida community for their unyielding support of our young men and program over the last 28 months.”

Golden has handled every frustration with class. He handled UM’s absolution, which is what it amounts to, in the same manner.

The Hurricanes almost certainly benefited from the NCAA botching its investigation in the Shapiro case by using illicit means to gather information. Golden, though, has preferred to look ahead, and it started at the very beginning of his UM tenure in December 2010.

It was during our one-on-one interview session before his first Media Day with the Hurricanes when Golden was asked if he would have taken the Miami job had he known about the Shapiro shadow when he should have known about it.

“You can’t go back,” he said. “That’s not how things work.”

Which sounded a lot like a “no.”

Golden, though, has done himself nothing but good by how he has proceeded. The team’s success this season further burnishes his reputation.

“We’ll fix this,” Golden promised in that one-on-one meeting. “We have a plan and a culture that is part of our DNA, and everyone in here knows what we’re about. If we didn’t have that, we’d be scrambling. And we’re not scrambling.”

That was mostly due to Golden’s steady stewardship through what Britton Banowsky, the NCAA Committee on Infractions chairman, called an investigation of “extraordinary” scope.

It has been a long road since Shapiro, now in prison for having orchestrated a $930 million Ponzi scheme, alleged back in 2011 that he lavished Miami football and basketball players with improper benefits from 2002 through 2010. University officials met with the Committee on Infractions in June, and expected a ruling before the start of this football season.

The lingering uncertainty hovered above the program until Tuesday.

At the very least, the Hurricanes no longer will have to deal with negative recruiting based on prospective players being told by rival coaches that they wouldn’t know what to expect in terms of penalties if they chose Miami.

The Canes were cited for the poisonous “lack of institutional control,” but surely caught something of a break from the NCAA’s own lack of same. But it’s Golden who stands as the face of the football program’s recovery, and his words to a group of reporters at his first Media Day gathering at UM before the 2011 season are worth review.

“Every player deserves a coach who believes in him,” Golden said. “That’s what these kids are getting.”

They still are.