Per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, former Temple head coach Matt Rhule will be the next head coach at Baylor. Rhule has spent the last few days celebrating his first conference championship at Temple after defeating a then-ranked Navy squad 34-10.
Temple was Rhule’s first head coaching job and he did an incredible job building the program up to a championship standard in just three seasons. The Owls will play in the Military Bowl against Wake Forest this month under an interim coach that has yet to be named.
Rhule’s hire ends a bizarre coaching search for Baylor that saw the Bears go through many different candidates before signing Rhule. The former Temple coach will be stepping into a fundamentally impaired program in Waco as the Bears are expected to only have around 50 players on scholarship next season. Baylor was not able to retain many players from their 2016 recruiting class following Art Briles’ dismissal and the university currently only has one player committed to sign a scholarship offer from the Bears in the 2017 recruiting class. More current players are anticipated to transfer from the program following the Bears’ bowl game against Boise State on December 27th.
Not only will Rhule need to perform one of the most extensive roster rebuilds in modern college football history, he’ll also need to rebuild a broken locker room culture that saw multiple documented accounts of sexual assault and violence under Briles’ watch. Former head coach Jim Grobe was not warmly embraced by the Baylor community and was rumored to have frequently clashed with Briles’ staff who currently remain at Baylor.
The Baylor football program operates under a black crowd following the national shame of the Briles era. Coaches and parents will be highly skeptical of the program and its future even following a coaching change. Baylor’s fan base is incredibly divided, as a portion of Baylor’s community is still loyal to Art Briles. Needless to say, Rhule will face a tough task to fill Baylor’s 24 available scholarships before National Signing Day on February 1st, 2017.
Considering how Baylor’s coaching search played out, I think Rhule is the best hire the Bears could have made. Rhule is unarguably one of the most underrated coaches in the college game and he has proven that he can build a program from the ground up. Rhule placed seven athletes in the NFL last season, including three draft picks.
While this hire may have come out of left field, I think Baylor fans will be quite happy with Rhule over time if he’s able to hire a strong staff that can recruit the state of Texas.