The bio on the Temple Football website for (soon-to-be-former) head coach Matt Rhule seemed to know bigger and better things were imminent. This segment, five paragraphs down, could have been summed up in three words: Please don’t go.
On June 25, 2015, Rhule was rewarded with a four-year contract extension that will keep him on the Temple sidelines through the 2021 season. Temple’s Director of Athletics Dr. Patrick Kraft announced, “Matt Rhule is one of the best young coaches in college football and we are excited that he will be at the helm of Temple Football through at least 2021. Matt has the program heading in the right direction, especially as we enter a very promising season on the gridiron, and we are confident that he is the right person to take the program to even greater heights.”
Rhule is gone.
He rewarded Temple with a 10-win season in 2015, then another 10-win season this year, that included the American Athletic Conference title. When Temple was pegged for the Military Bowl in Annapolis, it was a matter of time before a bigger school snatched Rhule up.
On Tuesday, Baylor made it official, (as did Temple) pulling Rhule away from the Owls to try to fix a Big XII program in total disarray. Still, a mess or not, Baylor is an enormous step up from Temple. Most jobs are.
Rhule replaced Steve Addazio in 2013 after Addazio, himself, left for a better job. The former Florida Gators offensive coordinator was head coach of Temple for just two seasons, leaving after a 2012 campaign that ended in a 4-7 record. In his two years, Addazio was 13-11 with a bowl victory. He left the program in shambles when he left for Boston College, as Rhule’s first year was a horrible 2-10. Addazio took BC to bowl games in his first two seasons, then turned out a 3-9 campaign in 2015 and a 6-6 slate this year. His departure was the best thing that could have happened to Temple.
The same cannot be said for his predecessor. Al Golden was a hot coaching name when he took the Temple job in 2006. At the time, many pegged him as a potential replacement for Joe Paterno at Penn State and, despite a 1-11 record in his first season, Golden’s Owls won nine games in his fourth season and eight games the year after that. Like with Rhule, Golden’s offensive coordinator on those Temple teams, it was a matter of time before bigger jobs came calling. The fact Golden stayed as long as he did at Temple should forever be seen as a victory for the school.
Golden accepted the Miami Hurricanes head coaching job following the 2010 season. He never won more than nine games with Miami — a mark that would give him a lifetime contract at Temple — and a 6-7 record in 2014 put him on the hot seat. He was fired seven games into the 2015 season and is currently an assistant with the Detroit Lions.
Golden started the run of Temple coaches who left Philly by choice. Before Golden, Bobby Wallace was inexplicably given eight years in charge of the Owls, winning a total of three games in his final three seasons en route to a 19-71 record. Not all of that was his fault, of course. Temple is a difficult place to recruit, the facilities are nowhere near what other area schools can boast — the new stadium fight is evidence of that — and a lack of a dedicated conference affiliation hurt matters more. Plus, Wallace came from Division II North Alabama, with no ties to the area.
Wallace couldn’t do what Golden did, or Rhule did. But somehow he was better than his predecessor, Ron Dickerson.
Dickerson coached Temple for five seasons, winning just eight games in 55 tries. That’s not a mistake, even if his entire tenure was.
Let’s stop for a second to do the math: Under Wallace and Dickerson — the 13 years before Golden took over — Temple was 27-118. That’s an average of two wins per season for more than a dozen straight years. No wonder people who have any semblance of success want to get the heck out of that place.
The four years prior to Dickerson wasn’t as bad, though bad, as Jerry Berndt recorded a 11-33 record in four seasons before he was canned.
It wasn’t always bad at Temple. Bruce Arians was the head coach from 1983-1988 and while his record was never stellar — he had just two winning seasons at Temple, one of which was vacated — Arians was, and is, a good football coach. After he was fired by Temple in 1988, he went to the Kansas City Chiefs to serve as their running backs coach, then worked at various NFL stints until he got a chance to be an NFL head coach. He is a two-time NFL coach of the year.
Temple’s football history dates back to the 1930s. Henry Miller, the school’s first coach, was 20-5-3 in three seasons. He was replaced by Pop Warner — maybe someone football fans have heard of — who coached temple for six years, and took them to the Sugar Bowl after the 1934 season.
Warner made way for a year of Fred Swan who was replaced by Ray Morrison in 1940. Morrison made way for Al Kawal in 1949 who was coach until 1954 when
Temple ceased playing football Josh Cody lost every game he coached, before making way to Peter P. Stevens and George Makris in the late 50s and 60s. Makris had a few winning seasons in the MAC, including a 7-2 record in 1967. (ED NOTE: A previous version of this story did not account for those years. We apologize to the alumni who went to all those many games we did not see on the resource we initially used.)
In 1971, Wayne Hardin took over and coached Temple for 12 years until Arians replaced him in 1983.
There was never quite a golden era of Temple football — not even the Golden era – but what Rhule did the last two seasons was unprecedented. For the first time in school history, his replacement will have some big shoes to fill.