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Matt Rhule

Dec 10, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach Matt Rhule talks to the crowd during halftime of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers in the first half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rhule is a program builder. That’s why he now resides in Lincoln, Nebraska.

When the Cornhuskers announced Rhule as the program’s head coach on Nov. 28, 2022, they made it a spectacle. Rather than introduce a new head coach on the third floor of Memorial Stadium — where they’ve held most other such press conferences, including for the man Rhule replaced, the man who had the room bursting at the seams — Nebraska brought out Rhule inside the much larger indoor practice facility. There was a de facto Unity Walk before the event, and a giant illuminated sign down in front of the stage.

Not a big deal just to make a big deal, but an important point for the program — one NU hoped was an inflection point. At the time Rhule took over, Nebraska had endured 6 consecutive losing seasons.

“Let’s be honest, we’re at a critical juncture in our history as a football program,” Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts said that day.

And Rhule was tabbed as the right man to lead. Because he’d done this sort of thing before.

The 2023 season will mark Rhule’s 11th season as a head coach and his 26th season as a full-time coach. He joined the program after an unsuccessful 3-year stint in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. Prior to the NFL, Rhule was a National Coach of the Year recipient and a proven developer in the college game.

Rhule orchestrated quick rebuilds at both Baylor (2017-19) and Temple (2013-16). Temple won only 2 games in Rhule’s first season. In Year 2, the program earned its first win over an SEC team since 1938 and its first win over a ranked opponent in 16 seasons. In Year 3, the Owls set a school record for victories (10) and played in the conference championship game. After leading Temple to another 10-win campaign and an American conference title the next season, Rhule took over a Baylor program in the doldrums.

The Bears won only 1 game in Rhule’s first season. Then, again in year 3, Baylor won a then-school-record 11 games and played in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Bears also booked a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Rhule was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year and the Sporting News National Coach of the Year for his work that season.

Beyond the wins and losses, Rhule’s rebuild at Baylor drew national acclaim for the cultural turnaround that took place around the football success. At the time Rhule landed in Waco, Texas, the Baylor football program was recovering from a sexual assault scandal under former coach Art Briles that had rocked the sport. Baylor was a toxic program that few would even dare touch.

Rhule brought back respectability.

“We are what we tolerate,” Rhule has said.

Rhule has coached every position except receivers and defensive backs in his football career, a path that began as the linebackers coach at Albright College in Pennsylvania in 1998. He coached on the defensive line at Buffalo from 1999-2000, then became an assistant defensive line coach at UCLA in 2001.

In 2002, he moved to Western Carolina, where he’d spend the next 4 seasons coaching linebackers and special teams, coordinating the run game, and serving as assistant head coach.

He moved to Temple in 2006 and began as the defensive line coach. A year later, he switched sides of the ball and coordinated Temple’s recruiting efforts. In his first stint as an assistant for the Owls, Rhule held 4 different titles.



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