Whenever a big-time college football job opens up these days, you can bet Al Golden will be mentioned as a candidate.
With good reason.
As the coach of the Temple Owls, Golden has done what many had long thought to be impossible: Turn the Owls into winners.
Last season, Golden led the Owls to a remarkable 9-3 regular season record and a trip to the EagleBank Bowl. It was the program's first bowl appearance since 1979, and though the Owls fell, 30-21, to UCLA, there was no denying the enormity of Golden's achievement.
I mean, think about it, folks. The guy took Temple to a bowl game.
And here's the thing: Looking ahead to 2010, he's got a great shot at doing it again.
Simply put, Golden is one of the most well-regarded coaches in college football today. Which is why I was so keen on catching up with him for an interview this summer. Fortunately, Golden was nice enough to oblige, taking time off from his vacation to spend about 30 minutes talking about the season to come, how he's sold his program to recruits, how he finds such "diamonds in the rough" as tailback Bernard Pierce and more.
I'll be posting the full interview sometime in the next few days, but for now, I wanted to share a few tidbits from what turned out to be a very entertaining 30 minutes. Some good stuff here, folks.
On Nick Saban's warning that he'll ban agents from campus unless something is done to control their behavior: "Coach Saban is exactly right. When I was at Penn State, that's the way Coach Paterno was, too. He didn't want any agents around, period. ... I mean, what are we talking about here? Maybe 2 percent or 3 percent of all agents? Most attorneys and most agents are reputable people. Most of them are really good professionals. But you've got a couple of guys who do it the wrong way."
On where Temple has improved the most since his arrival in 2005: "We've got depth in a few critical areas now. And that's something we just haven't had in the previous seasons."
On how his team is dealing with high expectations heading into the season--something that Temple hasn't experienced much in the past: "We'll continue to focus on the process and let the outcomes take care of themselves. That's really where our focus is on a daily basis--execution, and adhering to our principles and core values. I don't think the players are getting caught up in it. As a coach, you're always concerned about whether players are reading stuff that's been written about them. But I don't see any signs of that right now."
On how star tailback Bernard Pierce is handling the pressure of being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate: "All signs are that he's handling it well. He's been humble. He's the type of guy who is always complimentary of the offensive line and his coaches and understands that it's not just about him. I think his teammates respect that."
On how he and his staff are able to find good players--players such as Pierce--that other schools miss: "Here's what happens. All over the country you have head coaches saying to their staffs, 'Tell me why you like [this player].' And the assistant says, 'He's got an offer from Pitt and Boston College and Maryland and West Virginia.' Then the head coach says, 'You haven't answered the question. What do you like about him? What do you like about him the context of what we're doing here?' There's a herd mentality out there. Coaches are recruiting kids and they don't even know why they're recruiting them."
On what makes the Mid-American Conference so entertaining: "I say this all the time--the MAC is NASCAR. We all drive the same cars. It's about who can change the wheels fastest. That's why every year you see different guys making runs in the MAC."
Again, be sure to check back later this week, folks, when I post the entire interview.
Photo: Al Golden took Temple to the EagleBank Bowl in 2009. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)