Coach Matt Rhule told reporters on Saturday afternoon that he had “fulfilled a promise” he made to Temple fans and administration shortly after he was hired in December 2012 that he would bring a championship to North Broad. Temple defeated Navy 34-10 in Annapolis, Maryland to win its first conference title since 1967.
On Tuesday afternoon, Athletic Director Pat Kraft walked to a podium in the room adjacent to the Liacouras Center lobby to address the media. Rhule was leaving.
Rhule accepted an offer for the head coaching position at Baylor University. Evan Cooper, the director of player personnel, is also headed to Waco, Texas, according to a Scout.com report. Kraft said he doesn’t know if other members of the coaching staff will leave.
After Saturday’s game, Rhule thanked the administration and Board of Trustees for what they’ve done for him and his family. Rhule has been at Temple since 2006, except for a one-year stint in the NFL with the New York Giants in 2012.
Rhule interviewed with the University of Missouri last year before signing an extension in December 2015 that would have run through the 2021 season. Mack Rhoades was the athletic director at Missouri before accepting the same position at Baylor in July.
The Bears play in the Big 12 Conference, which considered expanding earlier in the year. Temple was among the schools considered, but ultimately the conference didn’t expand. Kraft didn’t think Temple’s being excluded from the Power 5 conference had to do with Rhule’s decision.
The news broke earlier in the day and was a 24-hour turn of events, Kraft said. He received a phone call from Rhule on Tuesday morning. Kraft said he wished Rhule luck and thanked him for the program’s turnaround in his four seasons. He declined to discuss what happened in the team meeting this morning.
Rhule’s first season as head coach ended with a 2-10 record. The Owls won six games in 2014 to achieve bowl eligibility but didn’t receive an invitation to a postseason game. In Temple’s last two seasons, the team has won 20 games, a program record for a two-year span. The team has earned back-to-back 10-win seasons and will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time.
“This is a great job,” Kraft said. “This is a different job than what it was before, and we have proven that we can win here. We have proven that this is a program that can compete at the highest level.”
— Cole Boozer (@BOOZclues_) December 6, 2016
When Temple plays in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Ed Foley will be the interim coach instead of Rhule. Foley is currently the special teams coach. He has held several jobs at Temple since 2008, including director of football operations. Foley was on staff under former coaches Al Golden and Steve Addazio. Temple has had three coaches in 11 years, and none has stayed for more than five. Both Golden and Addazio left Temple for Power 5 schools.
Kraft said he will be deliberate in his search for a new head coach. Candidates from both within and outside the program will be considered. Kraft said his phone battery died because of all of the texts and emails he received from coaches, agents and friends nationwide. Kraft said he’s looking for “a good man” who will place an importance on academics and can recruit in the area.
“We’re going to make sure it’s a good fit, make sure the individual knows that Temple’s a unique and special place where we’re a fabric of an institution,” Kraft said. “It’s not the football program and everybody else. So you’ve got to get the right person. And so that’s going to be the biggest piece for us moving forward.”
Kraft added that the head coaching search will not affect planning for a proposed $126 million, 35,000-seat on-campus stadium. The current lease with the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field ends after the 2017 season, but an amendment to the agreement signed last year gave Temple options to play there in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Temple exercised its option for the 2018 season last week.
Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.