Before addressing media at Georgia Tech’s introductory press conference in Atlanta on Friday evening, Geoff Collins spent his morning breaking the news of his departure to his assistants and players.
After posting a 15-10 record in two seasons at Temple, Collins returned to his home state to coach the Yellow Jackets.
Collins coached at Temple for two years, while his predecessor Matt Rhule was on staff as an assistant from 2006-11 before holding the top job from 2013-16. The team’s understanding this year was better because of Collins’ “quick turnaround,” interim coach Ed Foley said.
“Half the team already experienced it. …So those guys can turn around and say to those guys, ‘It’s OK,” said Foley, who will coach the Independence Bowl against Duke University on Dec. 27. “No one was real happy, but the maturity of the way that it went down was better than it was two years ago, for sure it was.”
“I don’t feel like it caught anybody off guard, but we wish him nothing but the best and we are just waiting to see what the future brings,” redshirt-sophomore defensive end Quincy Roche told the Temple News on Saturday.
Redshirt-junior running back Jager Gardner tweeted that so far during his college career, he has had two head coaches and five position coaches.
“Never commit to a school because of a coach,” he wrote. “Always Commit to a school…because [of the] Education, Culture of the team and the development as a person.”
Other players tweeted similar sentiments. Graduate student defensive end Zack Mesday, who received a scholarship last month from Temple and a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, emphasized the program as a whole over who is coaching it.
Temple has matchups scheduled against Georgia Tech in 2019 and 2025. Freshman wide receiver Sean Ryan tweeted that next year’s game between the two schools on Sept. 28 at Lincoln Financial Field will be “personal.”
Players are confident in Foley heading into the bowl game, junior linebacker Sam Franklin said. Foley has helped the Owls’ success on special teams this season, he added. Temple is 11th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in special teams efficiency, and the Owls have blocked an FBS-leading 23 kicks since 2014.
No matter who is coaching the game, the Independence Bowl remains a high-stakes contest, Franklin said.
“It’s a big-time game for our conference,” he said. “It’s a big-time game for a lot of guys going to the draft to just show that they can compete on that level. …We’re going to go handle business with or without a head coach because we were looking for the bowl game regardless.”
But Temple will have the challenge of adjusting to a new coach next season, while teams like Cincinnati, Central Florida and South Florida, which all qualified for bowl games, are keeping theirs, Franklin said.
“We’re going to have to work harder, and we’re going to have to put a lot more things together a lot faster,” Franklin said.
Sam Neumann contributed reporting.