In less than three years, Matt Rhule has taken Temple from one of the worst college football programs in America to one of the best.
In 2013, in his first season at Temple, the Owls went 2-10. In 2014, they went 6-6.
But this year? This year, they’re 8-1, with the only loss coming against Notre Dame – currently No. 4 in the playoff rankings – by just four points.
What has allowed Rhule to turn things around at Temple and lead the No. 22 Owls to a national ranking?
“I would say it’s our players,” Rhule said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Most of the kids that are out there running around for us and making all those plays for us right now, they were freshmen and sophomores that first year. We lost to Fordham on a Hail Mary. We lost to Rutgers on the last play of the game. And instead of quitting and pointing fingers and blaming, they just kept growing. They just kept coming together. They just kept working. And it’s really cool for me as the coach to see them now enjoying some success because they’re the tough ones who hung in there.”
Temple has had several big-name coaches in recent years, including Al Golden, Steve Addazio, and now Rhule, who has noticed a not-so-subtle change in recruiting since taking over just a few seasons ago.
“We get a lot of respect,” Rhule said. “We’ve been bowl-eligible five of the last seven years. They’ve seen Muhammad Wilkerson come out of here as a first-round draft pick, (and they’ve seen other players like) Bernard Pierce (get drafted). The kids that we’re recruiting right now, they’ve seen Temple win football games, they’ve seen (us) send players to the pros, they see us graduating our players. We’re in a great recruiting area. So it’s pretty easy to go find good players that have an interest in coming to Temple and coming to Philadelphia.”
Those recruits, however, are probably just hoping Rhule sticks around. After all, Golden left Temple for Miami and Addazio bolted for Boston College.
How does Rhule handle all the questions about taking a more high-profile gig?
“Well, it’s better than being 2-10 and people asking if you’re going to get fired,” Rhule said, laughing. “I think it’s like anything else. It’s just reality. It’s an opportunity for me to tell them how much I love this job here and why I believe Temple is such a great job, but it also gives a lot of respect to our players and all of our coaches and our administration because they’ve allowed this to happen. They’ve allowed us to be successful. When those things happen, those questions start to come up.”
Temple will go for 9-1 this Saturday at USF (5-4) before hosting No. 21 Memphis (8-1) on Nov. 21. Kickoff against USF is slated for 7 p.m. ET.