Matt Rhule, who turned Temple from a two-win team to a conference football champion in four seasons, has parlayed that success into the new head coaching job at Baylor.
Rhule, whose hiring was announced by the Big 12 school on Tuesday, departed in the same sudden, swift way, his team scored in beating Navy, 34-10, in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.
The Owls scored on their first three possessions in the title game. In accepting the Baylor job, Rhule didn’t waste much time. In fact, his departure was so quick it never reached the rumor mill.
“It was quick — it was 24 hours, it was very, very quick,” Temple director of athletics Pat Kraft said Tuesday of the timetable during a news conference. “I got a phone call from Matt this morning to say he had made this decision.”
Rhule has already departed and will be replaced by assistant head coach Ed Foley on an interim basis. Foley, a product of Cherry Hill East who also coaches tight ends and special teams, will guide the Owls in the Military Bowl, Dec. 27 against Wake Forest in Annapolis, Md.
According to Kraft, it wasn’t clear which, if any, of Temple’s assistant coaches will follow Rhule to Waco, Texas.
“I am truly honored and humbled to join the Baylor family,” Rhule said in a statement released by the school.
As for a timetable to hire a new coach, Kraft said there is none. He understands that with the Feb. 1 date for high school players to sign letters of intent that time is of the essence, but he said the university would not rush anything.
The 41-year-old Rhule was 28-23 in his four seasons as head coach. All told, Rhule spent 10 seasons at Temple. He was an assistant from 2006-11 before spending the 2012 season as an assistant offensive line coach with the New York Giants.
After that one season, he was hired as Owls head coach. Temple went 2-10 in his first year and then 6-6 and was bowl eligible in his second season, but the Owls didn’t earn a bowl bid.
Last year, the Owls went 10-4, beat Penn State for the first time since 1941, and won the AAC East Division, losing to Houston, 24-13, in the title game. The Owls tied a single-season school record for wins.
This year the Owls are 10-3, winners of seven consecutive games and are ranked 23rd this week by the Associated Press.
Rhule struck at the most opportune time. While he had chances to leave last year, according to Kraft, this year Temple will graduate four-year starting quarterback Phillip Walker and many other key seniors. Plus, the schedule, which includes an opener at Notre Dame and crossover games against Navy and Houston, is more difficult next year.
Rhule signed two extensions last year, both through 2021. According to sources, Rhule was making more than $2 million annually at Temple after the second extension and will earn a sizable raise at Baylor.
A Temple source said that Rhule could have had the Oregon job, so he clearly had leverage.
Besides his success on the field, Rhule and his players have been known for their charitable efforts throughout the community. No doubt Baylor, a university in need of an image change, noticed.
Among the findings in a May investigation by the Pepper Hamilton law firm of Philadelphia was that football coaches and staff at Baylor interfered with investigations into sexual-assault complaints against players. That led to the eventual dismissal of coach Art Briles.
Jim Grobe guided the Bears this season. Baylor is 6-6 but will take a six-game losing streak into the Cactus Bowl against Boise State, ironically on the same date Temple is playing its bowl game.
Kraft praised Rhule on his way out but also said he looked forward to the challenge of finding his successor.
“I can’t say enough about Coach Rhule and can’t thank him enough,” Kraft said. “That being said, this is an exciting day. I am really excited for this challenge. This is a great university and a great opportunity for us to continue this momentum that we started.”
Rhule addressed the Owls Tuesday in what was described as an emotional scene.
“He was very emotional because change happens and with change emotion comes,” said all-AAC left tackle Dion Dawkins. “… I understand what he did was perfectly right and I am happy for him.”
The team later met with Foley.
“I wanted to let them know that there is somebody there to guide the ship,” Foley said.
Tyler Matakevich, Temple’s consensus all-American linebacker last season and now a Pittsburgh Steelers rookie, explained his feeling about Rhule in a text.
“I’m happy for him, he gave me an opportunity that no one else did,” Matakevich said. “He shaped me into the player and man I am today and for that I am so grateful. … It hurts to see him go but he has to take care of his family and what’s best for them! I love Coach Rhule and know he is going to be successful wherever he is!"