The Roundup would like to welcome Matt Rhule to the ranks of Texas football coaches. Make yourself to home. Mind the Baptists Matt, they can get cranky. So what does it all mean? Great question, here are some observations:
Wait, he ain't from here...
Yes, this is the lead on almost every story I've read on Rhule today. He's got no Texas ties. This is of course true, he's from Pennsylvania and only came west for a brief stint at UCLA. That's technically too far west for most Texans, but it's a start. Texas isn't an impenetrable mid-evil fortress, but it is a very proud place and Rhule will need to double his efforts to familiarize himself with the Texas landscape. Building relationships with high school coaches in the area is critical. We noticed he offered two players Baylor scholarships yesterday, neither was from the state. That'll need to change. That'll also take more time than it would other candidates because he hasn't recruited the state much and lacks the name or face recognition. Make no mistake, players matter in college football. More than anything else, you've got to have dudes. We're going to take a wait and see approach to Rhule's ability to bring in top flight Texas kids, but that'll be critical.
The suggestion has been to bring in some sort of Texas high school coach as an assistant to grease the skids if you will. That's a great suggestion. I think it's a great suggestion for anyone who wants to coach in this state, Tom Herman's done it, Charlie Strong did it, Kliff Kingsbury did it, Gary Patterson has done it and Chad Morris has done it. Rhule should as well. Might save him from eating the husk off the tamale by mistake.
Let's remember, it's Baylor...
I like to point out that this is Baylor, and while it's been Art Briles' Baylor for the past seven or eight years, it's still the Baylor that failed to finish better than fifth in the Big 12 prior to Briles arrival. It's also the Baylor that ran through coaches like it was changing socks since the Grant Teaff era. Add to that the current perception of the University which is just north of Sandusky era Penn State, but south of Bobby Petrino on a motorcycle. Baylor is in need of a huge PR reboot and their doing it all when the "hottest" coach in the country just signed on to the rival down the road. TCU and Baylor both filled a void left by the vacancy of A&M and an average to below average era in Austin. Maybe Rhule gives Baylor a shot in the arm, but remember Baylor is a historically tough place to win consistently, we're about to find out if the Briles' era changed Baylor's fortunes or was lightening in a bottle.
The Shadow of Art
Remember this, Art Briles' shadow still looms over the Baylor program. Briles had bravado shooting out of every orifice of his body. He took on the big boys in the state and won. For the first time in Baylor's football history the Bears were the merchants of cool - fancy uniforms, dynamic scheme, and a lean Texan at the helm. High school coaches loved Art. He was one of them. He could pull up a chair in any coach's office in the state and feel right at home. Did we mention he won? Make no mistake there are still a lot of people - big money people - at Baylor that want him back, warts and all. Rhule will need to win them over and that will take time and wins. Speaking of both:
The question of time...
It's been written, A LOT, that 2017 and even 2018 are considered a wash and Rhule will be given a pass as he rebuilds the program out of the ashes. We wouldn't assume that be the case. Patience is a virtue until you finish seventh in the conference, then it runs out pretty quick. So how much time do they give Rhule to turn this around? Who knows, but it's safe to say that if Baylor is as bad as they could be in 2017 and then again in 2018, it's doubtful he can rely on all this good will to endure. Add to that the fact the Rhule is probably bringing a new scheme to fold, perhaps one of the more conservative schemes in the offense happy Big 12, and the time frame suddenly looks more condensed.
Look no further than Austin for a comp. Strong was brought in to clean out the country club culture of Mack Brown. People cheered as he ran off the bad character guys that first off season. They felt ok about 6-6 and a bowl bid year one. They lost patience quick after a slow start in year two. Strong made immediate changes to his staff offensively but they didn't take. After a 5-7 year two, the natives were restless, so it was time for another scheme change and prominent boosters were out for blood. They didn't care about the obvious potential of the program, they cared about wins. Baylor can talk about patience, but the reality is that in big time Power Five coaching, time is always of the essence.