By Tom Dougherty, CSNPhilly.com
As it is with every growing college football program, the head coach hears speculation about leaving for a bigger job.
At Temple, it’s no different, especially given the current circumstances.
Matt Rhule has the 7-0 Owls ranked for the first time since 1979 at No. 21. TU takes on No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday night in a nationally televised game in primetime.
On Monday, Sports Illustrated listed Rhule as a potential candidate for the job at Virginia Tech, which it claimed had an “80 percent chance of opening.” He was also listed for Maryland and Virginia.
The Maryland job is open and Virginia has a “97 percent chance of opening.” SI’s calculation of the percentage of a job opening is speculation itself.
“I don’t pay any attention to it,” Rhule said Tuesday. “I don’t pretend to know what life’s going to bring. I don’t make promises I can’t keep. I’m not one of those guys. But I love it here. I really love it here. My family loves it here. I couldn’t be prouder of being the head coach of Temple.”
Rhule alluded to his previous time at Temple before becoming the head coach in 2013. He served on Al Golden’s coaching staff from 2006 until Golden left for Miami in 2010. He also spent one year on Steve Addazio’s staff in 2011 before heading to the New York Giants to coach the offensive line in 2012. When Addazio left Temple for Boston College, Rhule got the job.
“It’s not like I just got here two years ago and was like, ‘I’m going to come here, try to win and get out,'” Rhule said.
It’s not like Rhule has heard from anyone else. Or at least he won’t admit it publicly.
“Nobody’s called me,” Rhule said. “I’m pretty focused on this. We have a pretty good team.”
On Sunday, Miami fired Golden after it lost, 58-0, to Clemson the previous day to fall to 4-3 on the season. Golden coached Miami to two bowl games and a 32-25 record in five years there, but never finished with more than nine wins in a season. To be fair, Golden entered a difficult situation at Miami.
When he was hired in 2011, Miami was in the middle of an NCAA scandal. As a result, the school restricted scholarships and kept the team from playing in bowl games. Still, Miami is a big job with hefty expectations. Two bowl games in five years — both losses — is going to put any coach on the hot seat.
“I talked with Al (on Monday). He was just fired up for us,” Rhule said. “Al is an outstanding coach. Sometimes, you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time or it’s just not a fit.
“I’m unbelievably grateful for the opportunities Al gave me. I think Temple should be unbelievably grateful for what Al did when he came here. Al put the structure in place.”
That structure has TU in a situation no one could have predicted two years ago when Rhule took over. Temple is in the conversation for a New Year’s Six Bowl game this year, and has ESPN’s College GameDay coming to Philadelphia Saturday. The Owls are one of three ranked American Athletic Conference teams, a first in the conference’s short three-year history.
Golden came to Temple with the team an afterthought in college football. It was a losing program, but Golden built a foundation. Temple made its first bowl game since 1979 when the Golden-coach Owls went 9-4 in 2009 and lost, 30-21, to UCLA in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl.
After Golden left in 2011 — Addazio’s first year — the Owls won their first bowl game since 1979. And now Rhule has the Owls bowl-eligible for the second straight season. They’re getting a bowl game this year.
Rhule made sure to credit Golden for where Temple football currently stands, and he’s confident Golden will land on his feet.
“Al will be a head coach again,” Rhule said. “Probably at a high level.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: See the story on CSNPhilly.com)