Matt Rhule feels he’s accomplished what he came to Baylor to do.
Rhule was hired as the new coach of the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday after spending three seasons with the Bears. Rhule was the school’s first permanent head coach after Art Briles was fired and the university was publicly addressing the way it had failed to adequately handle claims of sexual assault.
Baylor was 1-11 in Rhule’s first season, made a bowl in 2018 and went 11-3 in 2019. He told ESPN Central Texas on Tuesday afternoon that he felt like he was called to Baylor for something more than just football. And that he had helped change the program.
“I came here with a purpose, I felt like I was called here for much more than just coming to coach football,” Rhule said. “I felt like it was here to, more important than anything else, get the football program back in line with the university.
“And I know we’ve done that. I felt like we did that, really, after the first year. I would have been at peace saying hey it’s time for me to move on after the first year. So there’s a different challenge ahead for me. And I wasn’t sure when it was supposed to be, I wasn’t sure when I would do it. I prayed on it, I thought about it, I talked to people about it. And in the end I would have loved to have been here and coached those kids again. But they’re in good hands and they’ll win and they’ll continue to do things right off the field. I just felt like my work was done and it was time to go try to turn around another program.”
The Panthers went 5-11 in 2019 as QB Cam Newton missed most of the season due to injuries. Just three teams had a worse record.
Rhule came to Baylor from Temple, where he was the coach for four seasons. Before taking over at Temple in 2013, Rhule was an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants. He was mentioned as a candidate for the Giants job but didn’t even meet with the team before he got a reported seven-year deal worth over $60 million from the Panthers.
“The things that were important to me are important to them,” Rhule said of the Panthers.
Baylor issued a statement Tuesday afternoon thanking Rhule for his contributions.
“We are grateful to Matt Rhule for all that he has done for Baylor football and for the university over the last three years,” athletic director Mack Rhoades said in a statement. “Together, he and his staff have moved the program forward both on and off the field. While our hope was that Matt would be our coach for many years to come, we knew there was a possibility the NFL would come calling.
“Matt’s time with Baylor marks one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history. Our football program’s success this year is evidence that we are headed in the right direction with 11 wins, an appearance in the Big 12 championship game and the Sugar Bowl.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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