Baylor names Rhule head football coach

Photo: Baylor Game Day by RitaHogan / Flickr

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WACO—Baylor University named Matt Rhule, who led the Temple University Owls to an American Athletic Conference championship, as head football coach.

Rhule Matt 250Matt RhuleRhule, 41, succeeds Art Briles, who was fired earlier this year in the wake of a sexual violence scandal at Baylor. Jim Grobe, former coach at Wake Forest University, served as acting head coach for the Baylor Bears this season. Grobe will step down after Baylor plays Boise State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz., Dec. 27.

“This is a great day for Baylor University and the beginning of a new chapter in our football program,” Interim President David Garland said. “Matt is the absolute right man at the right time to lead us forward, and I am confident that his values are our values and that his teams and student athletes will make us all proud, on and off the field.”

During Rhule’s time at Temple, the Owls recorded their first-ever consecutive 10-win seasons and first back-to-back years of bowl eligibility, as well as two American Athletic Conference East Division titles.

“We could not be more excited to welcome Matt, Julie and their children to the Baylor Family,” said Mack Rhoades, Baylor athletic director. “When we set out on our search for a new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach who shared our values, who had demonstrated success, who showed a true commitment to the overall student athlete and who we believed could lead Baylor to a national championship. We found all of that and more in Matt, and I know that he will be a perfect fit with the Baylor Family.”

Rhule Matt 350During Matt Rhule’s time at Temple University, the Owls recorded their first-ever consecutive 10-win seasons and first back-to-back years of bowl eligibility, as well as two American Athletic Conference East Division titles.Rhule served four years as head coach at Temple, compiling a 14-2 conference record the past two season and an overall 28-23 record.

In 2012, Rhule was an offensive line coach for the New York Giants, after six years on the coaching staff at Temple. Previously, he coached at Albright, Buffalo, UCLA and Western Carolina.

“I am truly honored and humbled to join the Baylor Family, and I can’t thank President Garland and Mack Rhoades enough for this incredible opportunity,” Rhule said. “Baylor is a tremendous institution with a history of football success, and I know the passion that so many have for the Bears will help bring the community together to reach even greater heights. I am excited to get started.”

Rhule earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition when he played as a linebacker at Penn State University. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Penn State and a master’s degree in educational psychology from SUNY-Buffalo.

He and his wife, Julie, have three children—Bryant, 12, Vivienne, 3, and Leona, 1.

Rhule assumes responsibility for the football program at a critical time.

Last year, Baylor’s board of regents hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to conduct an external investigation soon after Sam Ukwuachu, a former Baylor Bears football player, was convicted and received a 180-day jail sentence and 10 years’ probation for sexual assault. 

The assault, reported by a then-18-year-old soccer player, occurred in October 2013—about five months after Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor from Boise State, where he was dropped from the football team after an earlier act of violence involving a female student.

Two years ago, defensive end Tevin Elliot was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to the maximum of 20 years in prison. In February, ESPN televised an “Outside the Lines” report in which five women said Elliott sexually assaulted them between October 2009 and April 2012. The “Outside the Lines” report asserted Baylor officials failed to investigate adequately the allegations of sexual violence. 

In May, two weeks after they received a “comprehensive briefing” from Pepper Hamilton, the regents voted to remove Ken Starr as president, fire Briles and sanction Athletic Director Ian McCaw. Starr later stepped down as chancellor and as a law professor, and McCaw resigned as athletic director. Recently, Liberty University hired McCaw as athletic director.

The university’s governing board announced the Pepper Hamilton investigation revealed a fundamental failure by Baylor to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

According to the Findings of Fact document regents released, within the football program and athletics department leadership, the investigation pointed to “a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence.” Pepper Hamilton also cited concerns about “the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct.”  

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