Why Matt Rhule is unlikely to return to college football — at least not yet

Through RJ Jung
FOX Sports College Football Writer

Matt Rhule isn’t returning to coaching — not in 2022. And, if we’re going to place bets, not in 2023 either.

In fact, I’m not sure Rhule should even return to the coaching ranks. He gets paid $40 million to go home. He gets $834,000 a month for the next 48 months for not working.

When the Carolina Panthers informed him he was relieved of his duties, Rhule probably considered getting full Ed Orgeron, who, when LSU paid him $17.5 million not to work, replied, “By how much am I supposed to go and which door do you want me to come out bro?’”

If it were you and you were offered that kind of moolah Not If you bang your head in Tom Brady’s department tomorrow, you probably wouldn’t show up for work either.

Will Matt Rhule return to college?

Will Matt Rhule return to college?

In his Week 7 mailbag, RJ Young answers fan questions, including whether Matt Rhule could return to college after his release from the Carolina Panthers.

Sure, buyouts are part of football life. It’s the price of being able to fire someone, and for the last month, administrators have been handing out eight-figure checks like stimulus packages to the likes of Rhule — Paul Chryst in Wisconsin, Karl Dorrell in Colorado, Scott Frost in Nebraska.

Nebraska certainly has the funding and fan base to support a rebuild. The state rallies around the Huskers and the stadium continues to sell out even when the Huskers are bad.

They’re nearing 400 consecutive sellouts at Lincoln in a sport that only plays six or seven home games a year. Trev Alberts knows better than most that Rhule could help the Huskers.

In Wisconsin, however, if the Badgers finish anywhere remotely respectable, it feels like Jim Leonhard will remove his interim tag at the end of the season. He’s one of the sport’s top defensive line coaches and a legend in Madison.

Georgia Tech and Colorado would do well to get in touch with Rhule, but they’re hard sells for a man who’s accomplished as much as he has.

Tech competes for players in the same regional pool as the SEC and ACC, and as much as college football fans claim that winning recruitment at home is the formula for winning football, players come from all over the place. And Rhule would need to do that to win in a state where the defending champions are just down the street in Athens.

But the real problem with these programs is someone else getting fired from a Power 5 program. And if you’re convinced of Rhule becoming manager in 2023, why wouldn’t he want to wait and see what else ensues?

Is Baker Mayfield to blame for Matt Rhule’s sacking?

Is Baker Mayfield to blame for Matt Rhule's sacking?

The Carolina Panthers fired Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start. Baker Mayfield is now playing for his sixth manager in five seasons.

Coaches aren’t the types who settle for sitting on a hefty buyout while mowing lawns and completing honey-do lists. Gus Malzahn, for example, took $21 million from Auburn’s money and went straight to work in Central Florida.

It happens.

But Rhule? With $40 million in your pocket? Come on now.

And yet there are still people who believe that despite all the extra work that comes with college play, he could be persuaded to rebuild their broken programs.

Recruitment is an everyday affair, even if the NCAA calendar doesn’t say so. They either recruit players to come or recruit to stay, and the best head coaches spend more time on the phone — talking or texting — than with the trainer ball.

But you still think Rhule wants to coach your team. I get it. Losing is terrible. We hate losing more than we hate winning.

That feeling that the right guy will show up, clean the house, and put your program back on the path to seriousness, maybe even a championship, that’s what this game is all about.

For university presidents, the stakes are even higher. The right head football coach can lead to an increase in enrollment, a higher average ACT among freshmen, an increase in alumni donations, and ultimately, an increase in college tuition.

For a university president, the head soccer coach might as well be the chief marketing officer. So I’m not the least bit upset that admins with bad football programs are drawing a clean line outside Rhule’s door in Carolina.

He has certainly proven himself to be a consummate program builder.

The man took a job at Temple and turned that program into a winner — 10-3 in 2016 while Rhule was in charge — with a quarterback best known for shedding light on an alternative football league that won’t even have football in 2022 played. If you don’t know who this quarterback is, talk to me.

By the time Rhule arrived in Baylor, both the university and the football program were in shambles. After one of the worst sexual assault scandals in great sporting history, Baylor was forced to clean the house and Rhule was the man who accepted the task of returning Baylor’s winning pedigree.

And I’ll be dipped in chili and rolled in breadcrumbs if he didn’t go 1-11 in 2017, 7-6 in 2018, and 11-3 in 2019. And you have to think, if he can do that at Baylor, why couldn’t he do that at Nebraska or even Georgia Tech?

The truth is he might. And since trainers are the type to keep climbing a greasy pole, they’ll likely get back on at some level.

But at $40 million, I’m willing to bet it’ll be some time before he does.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The number one college football show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to The RJ Young Show on YouTube.

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