Matt Rhule addresses staffer dismissals: 'I know we're under scrutiny'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday March 16, 2017


Matt Rhule knew taking over Baylor meant increased pressure and scrutiny to do things right, and he knows what it looks like having dismissed two new staffers already.

In early February, assistant strength coach Brandon Washington was arrested for solicitation and dismissed. Earlier this week, associate director of operations DeMarkco Butler was dismissed over inappropriate texts to a teenager.

Rhule addressed the situations in his opening statement Thursday on the eve of spring practice, saying the school’s swift action is a sign that they’re changing in wake of the sexual assault scandal under Art Briles.

Those aren’t situations we want to be involved in, but at least we know our processes and protocol is we will take action when need be,” Rhule said. “Personally, I’m disappointed that these wonderful coaches and staff doing things the right way, this is reflecting poorly on the men that work for us. At the end of the day, we know there is a standard we’re setting. If you don’t meet it, action will be taken.

“I recognize the scrutiny our program is under when I came here. That scrutiny doesn’t guide our decisions. We’ll hold our student-athletes to the highest standards of conduct, and we recognize people are going to make mistakes, things will happen, but we’ll always do what’s right. That was my commitment when I came here.”

The first question to Rhule after his opening statement was about his vetting process of those staff members and if he feels comfortable with that.

Washington followed Rhule to Baylor from Temple, while Butler was an outside hire. Rhule didn’t address specifics, but noted the two incidents were personal matters and not something that comes up on a resume or a reference check.

“I feel good about the way we’ve looked at those things,” he said. “Whether it’s a guy I’ve worked with for three or four years or a guy you bring in, what I do know is this: I don’t know what anyone does in their personal life. I don’t know if we know what the people we work with really do in their personal lives. I know what people do professionally. When I call and get references, you hear what they do professionally.

“When something comes up personally, if it’s not of our standards, we take corrective action. I know we have worked really hard to find out who people are before they come here. It’s the same thing as the last place I worked at. No matter what job, I don’t really know what everyone does or who they are, so I feel responsible for everyone’s professional conduct, and I feel people are responsible for their personal conduct. If I find something that’s not right, I take action and move it on to the authorities.”

In late February, defensive back Travon Blanchard was suspended from all team activities following a domestic violence accusation. Rhule said he’ll remain suspended until the investigation is complete.

The cleanup of the program is going to be a process, and Rhule was given a 7-year contract for the job, illustrating as much. The start to his tenure has been rocky off the field.

“While I don’t want situations like this to happen to make sure our processes are correct, I’ll tell you the processes at Baylor are correct,” Rhule said. “Things are being done across the university with accountability, integrity. I don’t want to find that out anymore, but I can say the university is doing things right when they come up.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 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 chris@coachingsearch.com.