It wasn’t the smoothest start to a press conference.
Matt Rhule sat at the podium to begin his first-ever Big 12 Media Days as the new head coach at Baylor. The man who is in charge of turning around a program that completely collapsed off the field started speaking and you could hear and feel his nerves and anxiousness through the Ford Center. He stumbled and got caught on his words a few times. But once Rhule recovered, it became clear, once again, that Baylor could not have made a better hire to navigate the football program beyond its dark, recent history.
“Because that which we don’t acknowledge, we’re doomed to repeat,” Rhule said. “So at the end of the day, I don’t know everything that happened, but I just know something happened that was wrong. I know that you first get in there, and you’re kind of like a first responder.”
Rhule is not shying away from what went on at Baylor, saying, “If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t learn from it, then what was the point of it? I want to move forward, but I want to move forward always acknowledging the past.”
Part of the reason he was able to come in and quickly land a very quality recruiting class this past winter was because he was able to impress recruits and their families with his forthrightness. There was no beating around the bush with Matt Rhule.
Rhue was hired on December 6th, 2016 and tasked with one of the most difficult jobs in America: make Baylor respected on, but even more so, off the football field.
While it wasn’t nearly as bad as what Jim Grobe faced last year at Big 12 media days, there are clearly media members still looking for blood. But regardless of what your opinions or beliefs are on what happened at Baylor, it’s hard to take any of that out on Matt Rhule.
The Baylor head coach also said what we all know, but don’t want to admit, adding, “and you know what, this issue of sexual assault and gender violence, this isn’t a Baylor issue and this isn’t a college football issue, it’s an every one — it’s a higher education issue. So if we can not just come here and hopefully not just respond to the issue, but hopefully be leaders.”
Rhule’s path to Baylor was not the typical one of a coach ending up at one of the biggest college jobs in Texas. What was missing? There were no Texas ties. But Baylor realized recruiting the hottest player from Houston or Dallas-Fort Worth was not really what this next coaching hire needed to be about.
Dennis Rhule, Matt’s father, was a minister and a high school coach in the northeast. Matt’s stops included Buffalo, UCLA, Temple, the New York Giants, and Temple again. But Rhule knew while he could bring the character and stability the program needed, he ultimately did need ties to the region. He went out and hired Joey McGuire, David Wetzel and Sean Bell, all with strong ties to the state’s high school football scene. But according to Rhule, it was about more than that.
“If I was coaching at Michigan next year, if I was coaching at the Berlin — whatever that old world league team was — I’d hire Joey McGuire and I’d hire David Wetzel and Sean Bell. They’re not just great because they’re not just great high school coaches, they’re great coaches,” Rhule said.
But the theme throughout Matt Rhule’s 20-minute press conference in front of hundreds of media members in Frisco, Texas was always about more than simply wins and losses in Waco, saying, “I believe in coaching. We’re educators. We’re teachers. We’re there to mold young people. If we want to mentor young people, we have to act like adults ourselves.”
As Rhule was wrapping up his press conference at Big 12 Media Days he said, “I came to Baylor because I knew this was the right place for me and I believed in it. I cherish being their coach just like they cherish their university.”
Based on how Rhule has already, in just a few short months, helped change Baylor’s image, it’s safe to say the University and its administrators, professors, coaches, players and fans feel the same way.
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