Mack Rhoades explains why he hired Matt Rhule at Baylor

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday December 07, 2016

Back in September, Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades said he expected to look for a coach with an offensive background and Texas ties. So how did he end up hiring Matt Rhule from Temple?

Rhule has won 20 games in the past two years at Temple, but has (mostly) a defensive background and few Texas ties. Talks with various candidates didn’t pan out, and Rhoades had spoken with Rhule for the Missouri job a year ago. It became a fit Rhoades wanted, and one that will adjust. And Rhule picked Baylor despite strong interest from Oregon. 

"Like everybody else, they wonder about recruiting in Texas, they wonder about offensive style,” Rhoades said on ESPN Radio in Waco. “We talk about Texas and those ties and that's from here, they're going to have to put together a staff that's got some Texas ties. He'll put together a staff that will have some Texas ties and he's already got one staff member on his staff at Temple that's an alum of Texas Tech (offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas). He'll do that.

“He's a guy for me that wherever he's at, he's going to be able to recruit. He resonates and relates with people. The Texas high school coaches, we have the best high school coaches in the nation and I know that they respect integrity. They respect fairness. They respect anybody that coaches football really, really well and certainly somebody that's going to take care of their young men as they pass them on to the next level. Matt Rhule will do that as well or better than anybody.”

Coming out of the sexual assault scandal, Rhule could provide the opportunity for a hard reset on a program whose reputation couldn’t be much lower. The president, AD and coach are gone. The 2016 recruiting class fell apart and the 2017 class only has one player. The current team started 6-0 and finished 6-6. It’s going to take a while to rebuild, and Rhule reportedly has a 7-year contract.

“One of the things that I think about always in my mind is the other nine coaches in the league — and we've got great coaches in this league — but I always think about, if I hire somebody, what's their reaction going to be?  I think they're going to say, 'Wow, Baylor just hired a heck of a football coach,’” Rhoades said. “He's extremely smart. His players love him. And he's not easy on them. He's really tough on them. He's extremely demanding and there's this toughness.

“You play football against any one of his teams and you're going to get hit, it's going to be physical, he's always going to have a plan to win the game. They're exciting as well. They score points. I think he has a chance to be really, really special."

Rhule’s Temple team is No. 8 in scoring defense this season at 17.2 points per game. Kansas State led the Big 12 at 21.8 points per game this year, and eight of the league’s 10 teams allowed more than 27 points per game.

The Baylor job had been open since the summer. Rhoades estimated he vetted 20-25 names. Some other names came and went in negotiations, but he broke down how the process played out and why he landed on Rhule.

"You start to kind of go through it and weed through a variety of factors,” Rhoades said. “Then at the end of the day, you're getting on the phone and having probably two-hour conversations with people, and then after those conversations, you have probably one or two others because you feel you got to circle back and you need to ask something else, or you need to ask the same thing but differently. From that, you figure out, ‘Here's the people we really feel good about getting in front of and talking to in person.’

“And then from there you decide who's going to be the best leader for you program. That's the thing that struck me most. His time working under Tom Coughlin, everybody that's involved with the football program is completely aligned. They're completely on the same page. The accountability, all of those things. The other thing I love about him is his appetite to learn and get better."

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to