Interim coach Ed Foley ran Tuesday’s practice without his defensive staff.
Coach Matt Rhule left for Baylor University last week and took four members of the Owls’ defensive staff with him, and defensive coordinator Phil Snow was last in California with his father, “taking care of a personal issue,” Foley said. He said the staff will return to coach the Military Bowl on Dec. 27.
At some point during practice, someone informed Foley that University of Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will become the Owls’ new head coach.
Despite the news and uncertainty surrounding the program in the last week or so, Foley is taking everything in stride.
“I’m just happy to be here,” he said as he prepared to field questions from reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
Foley is no stranger to coaching changes. This is the third he has seen in his nine years at Temple. Foley was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator in 2010 when Al Golden left for the University of Miami after five seasons as the Owls’ head coach and was the director of football operations two years later when Steve Addazio left for Boston College.
Now, as the interim head coach, Foley’s job is to get the players past the shock of Rhule’s departure and focused on playing against Wake Forest University later in the month. Instead of worrying about who the next head coach will be, Foley wants players focused on their next activity, whether it’s a mandatory team breakfast at 7 a.m. or a study session.
Without his defensive staff, he’s been focusing on situational football like red zone scenarios and relying on graduate assistants to contribute to the Owls’ preparation.
He said that when Golden left, the coaches could have done a better job of getting players through their final exams and onto their next task. Foley said the transition is going more smoothly this time around because of vocal leaders on the team like redshirt-senior linebacker Avery Williams.
“I think the young guys are definitely in a different mindset than the older guys,” Foley said. “But to have the older guys in addition to just you know, some guy that’s been here for nine years, some old guy just telling me that ‘it’s going to be OK,’ to have their peers say it I think has a ton of power.”
Foley graduated from Cherry Hill East High School in New Jersey, about a 30-minute drive from Main Campus, in 1985. Before returning to the Greater Philadelphia area to coach at Temple in 2008, his coaching career took him all over the east coast. He spent a year as the offensive line coach at Williams College in Massachusetts in 1994. After a second stint at the University of Pennsylvania, he became the offensive coordinator at Jacksonville University in Florida in 1998.
Foley’s only head coaching experience was in the 2004 and 2005 seasons at Fordham University, where he spent four years as the offensive coordinator under Dave Clawson before getting promoted to the top role. Clawson is currently the coach at Wake Forest.
As the Fordham University program improved from a winless team in 1999 to a 10-win team in 2002, Foley and Clawson went from being able to win 3-on-3 basketball tournaments against players to losing in the first round.
“It’s gonna be great for me based on our relationship to play against a guy who’s a friend of mine, who’s a very, very good friend of mine, but to know also that he’s not going to mess around,” Foley said. “He’s going to go out there and try to win. That guy’s a winner and he’s going to to try to do everything in his power to win this football game and I am too.”
Under Rhule, the Owls improved from two-win team to winning back-to-back American Athletic Conference East Division titles and reaching back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history. Foley said that the next coach won’t have to do much to continue Temple’s recent success because the program can recruit better players out of high school. The group of seniors from the 2013 recruiting class was ranked No. 84, while the incoming recruits from the Class of 2017 are ranked No. 77.
He’d like to be a part of the next coaching staff if possible.
“This university is perfect for me,” Foley said.
“I would love to stay here,” he added. “I love this place. There’s a lot of other great jobs out there, but I’m not sure which one is great and which one isn’t, so there’s going to be a leap of faith for me going from here to somewhere else. I know that I’m some place that I love and I’d love to be able to stay here for as long as they’ll have me.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.