Matt Rhule to Nebraska: Why Cornhuskers are reportedly offering head coach job to former Panthers coach

By | November 25, 2022

Nebraska reportedly is close to finalizing a deal with its preferred coach of the future: former Baylor, Temple and Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule.

ESPN’s Chris Low on Friday reported the Cornhuskers “hope to finalize a deal in the coming days.” ESPN’s Pete Thamel corroborated Low’s report, adding that a deal is not expected to be announced until sometime after Nebraska’s season-ending game vs. Iowa on Friday.

Contract details have not yet been reported.

Rhule likely has been a top target for Nebraska since he was fired earlier this season by the Panthers. That followed a 1-4 start and a combined 10-23 record in the 2020 and ’21 NFL seasons. His jump to the pros may not have been a successful experiment, but Rhule has proven to be an effective college coach, turning around two programs before his jump to the pros.

MORE: Why did the Panthers fire Matt Rhule?

With that, The Sporting News looks at Nebraska’s decision to hire Rhule, as well as his coaching history at both the college and NFL levels:

Why is Nebraska hiring Matt Rhule?

The simplest reason Nebraska is targeting Rhule is his record of success at the college level. The 47-year-old has a history of leading programs on the decline — Temple and Baylor — back to relevancy on the national stages.

Nebraska finds itself in similar circumstances as Temple and Baylor were prior to Rhule taking those programs over. Nebraska has failed to produce a winning record since 2016, a 9-4 campaign under former coach Mike Riley. That fall is particularly painful considering the program’s status as a former premier college football program.

The Cornhuskers also haven’t won a bowl game since the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl, though it’s worth noting the team made it with a 5-7 regular-season record. The team attempted a resurgence under former national title-winning quarterback Scott Frost, who never won more than five games in a season. He was dismissed from the program following a 1-2 start to the 2022 season.

MORE: Breaking down all 22 of Scott Frost’s one-score losses at Nebraska

In announcing the firing of former coach Scott Frost, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts said for now the program would put title aspirations aside simply to get back to fundamental, winning football:

“We’ll stop talking about championships or stop talking about things we used to do,” Alberts said in a statement. “We’ll just get really process-oriented, detail-oriented and ultimately, when you start doing those fundamental championship habit-type things, those types of wins follow. But we need to start focusing on those small fundamental things that ultimately lead to those types of things.”

MORE: Why did Nebraska fire Scott Frost?

Matt Rhule coaching record

Rhule produced a 47-43 combined record at Temple and Baylor. Though that record isn’t gaudy, it featured impressive turnarounds for both programs.

Indeed, Rhule improved his record in each of his seasons leading the Owls and Bears, producing two double-digit win seasons at Temple and another with Baylor. He also led his schools to three conference championship game berths, going 1-1 in the AAC and 0-1 in the Big 12 title game.

Below is Rhule’s record for every season from 2013 through 2019, including bowl record:

Year Team Record Bowl
2013 Temple 2-10 N/A
2014 Temple 6-6 N/A
2015 Temple 10-4 Boca Raton Bowl (loss)
2016 Temple 10-3 Military Bowl (win)
2017 Baylor 1-11 N/A
2018 Baylor 7-6 Texas Bowl (win)
2019 Baylor 11-3 Sugar Bowl (loss)

Matt Rhule coaching history

Rhule began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Penn State in 1998, a year after leaving the program for which he played from 1994 through 1997. He later served in various defensive assistant positions at Albright, Buffalo, UCLA and Western Carolina through the 2002 season. He served as the associate head coach for the Catamounts from 2003 through 2005.

He then left for Temple in 2006, coaching there through the 2011 season as a defensive line coach, tight ends coach, quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator. After a one-year stint as assistant offensive line coach for the Giants in 2012, he returned to Temple in 2013 as head coach. 

Rhule took over an Owls program in 2013 that was coming off a 4-7 record and making a jump to the American Athletic Conference. The Owls went 2-10 that season, but improved to 6-6 in 2014. The next year, Rhule coached Temple to a 10-4 record and had the team in contention for its first conference championship since 1967.

The next season, Rhule coached Temple to a 10-3 record and 34-10 win over Navy in the AAC championship game.

Rhule leveraged that success into a jump to Baylor, which had been embroiled in a sexual assault scandal that saw the dismissal of Art Briles, one of the program’s most successful coaches. Following a disastrous 1-11 start to his tenure in 2017, Rhule led the program to a 6-6 season the following year.

Rhule’s most successful season in college came in 2019, when he led the Bears to an 11-1 regular-season record and a berth in the Big 12 championship game. Baylor lost 30-23 to Oklahoma, which ultimately made the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed; the Bears ended the season with a 26-14 loss to No. 5 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

MORE: Baylor’s Matt Rhule is Sporting News’ 2019 Coach of the Year

Following his final year in Waco, Rhule left to coach the Panthers from 2020 through part of the 2022 season. He never replicated his success in Carolina, going a combined 11-27 in three-plus seasons.

Now, Rhule will look to turn around yet another college program — a stage where he has achieved his first and greatest success.