Baylor has found its next head coach. Temple head coach Matt Rhule was named the Bears’ new head coach for 2017 after leading the Owls to an American Athletic Conference title, the program’s first conference title since 1967, and the school’s first-ever back-to-back 10-win seasons. According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Rhule has received a seven-year deal from Baylor.
“We could not be more excited to welcome Matt, Julie and their children to the Baylor Family,” Baylor athletic director Mark Rhoades announced in the school’s official release. “When we set out on our search for a new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach who shared our values, who had demonstrated success, who showed a true commitment to the overall student-athlete and who we believed could lead Baylor to a national championship. We found all of that and more in Matt and I know that he will be a perfect fit with the Baylor Family.”
According to ESPN’s Matt Fortuna, Ed Foley will be named Temple’s interim head coach. He previously was the assistant head coach, as well as special teams and tight ends coach for the Owls.
Rhule has been the head man at Temple since 2013, where he spent five years from 2006-11 on the defensive coaching staff. He spent a season with the New York Giants before being named the Owls’ head coach in 2013. He doesn’t have much Texas-specific experience, being a Pennsylvania native, former Penn State linebacker, and assistant mostly on the East Coast.
Rhule has compiled a 28-23 record over three seasons at Temple.
Here’s just a taste of how successful Temple has been under Rhule, from our 2016 season preview.
In three years on the job in Philadelphia, he has engineered almost linear improvement, both on the field and in recruiting. In Steve Addazio's last year at Temple before taking the Boston College job, the Owls went 4-7 and ranked 99th in S&P+. The 2013 recruiting class, which featured a lot of Addazio's work, ranked seventh in the AAC.
After a first-year reset in 2013, Rhule improved the Owls to 66th in S&P+ and 6-6 in 2014, then 49th and 10-4 in 2015. In recruiting, Temple ranked fourth in the AAC in 2014, then rose to second second, behind only Houston, this past February. Each year, the Owls get deeper, more athletic, and more successful.
Rhule served under former Temple coach Al Golden from 2006-10, who led the Owls to eight and nine-win seasons in 2009 and 2010. ESPN tells the story of when Golden got hired in 2006, Rhule decided to drop in on Golden, a fellow Penn State football alumnus, after he was named the head coach in 2006.
Rhule drove to North Philly. He walked straight upstairs to the head coach’s office, catching Golden’s secretary, Nadia Harvin, off-guard. He asked for a few minutes with the new guy in charge.
Rhule summarized the exchange:
Rhule: I’d like you to hire me, I know you’re gonna be successful.
Golden: Well, that’s awesome, I appreciate it. Great to meet you.
Rhule: Yeah, good to see you again and best of luck.
“Two months later, after the end of recruiting, I got a phone call on a Saturday morning, no interview,” Rhule said. “[Golden] said: ‘Hey, I had a guy back out. You wanna come and coach at Temple?’ ‘Yup. Be there Wednesday.’
Baylor fired Art Briles before the 2016 season amid a university sexual assault scandal. Former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe took over as interim, and the team finished the regular season with a 6-6 record. BU had reportedly considered Cal’s Sonny Dykes, Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson, and Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm (now at Purdue), among other candidates.
Rhule will have a tough go-around recruiting wise in Waco, given that Baylor’s 2017 class has just a single verbal commit, and we’re less than two months away from National Signing Day. Recruiting classes for incoming head coaches are typically transitional anyway, but this is obviously a big disadvantage for Rhule coming in.