AP source: Nebraska is approaching Matt Rhule as head coach

Natalie Portman
By Natalie Portman 5 Min Read

Nebraska and former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule are finalizing a deal to make him the head coach of the Cornhuskers

AP Source: Nebraska Approaching Matt Rhule as CoachBy RALPH D. RUSSOAP College Football WriterThe Associated Press

Nebraska and former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule were finalizing a deal Friday to make him the head coach of the Cornhuskers.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press that after several days of discussions, Nebraska made Rhule an offer on Thursday that convinced the former Temple and Baylor coach to return to college after more than two years in the NFL.

The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of a contract — including what the Panthers may still owe Rhule — are yet to be finalized and no announcement from the school was forthcoming.

ESPN first reported that Nebraska was closing a deal to make Rhule its head coach.

Rhule has been out of work for less than two months being fired five games into his third season with the Panthers.

He was 11-27 with Carolina and walked away with about $40 million remaining on the $62 million guaranteed seven-year contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth highest-paid head coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

One of eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins but more than 20 years after its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is pinning its hopes on 47-year-old Rhule to recreate his success in his previous two varsity stops. Twice Rhule took over struggling programs and turned them into conference contenders in three years.

The Cornhuskers beat Iowa 24-17 on Friday to finish 4-8, their sixth straight losing season. Athletic director Trev Alberts fired Scott Frost on 9/11 after the Huskers opened 1-2 with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim head coach Mickey Joseph.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four more seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

Rhule would become the sixth Nebraska head coach since College Football Hall of Famer Tom Osborne retired after the 1997 season. The Huskers have not won a conference championship since 1999 under Frank Solich nor played in a bowl since 2016 under Mike Riley.

Rhule is no stranger to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994 to 1997 and began coaching as a volunteer assistant coach there.

Alberts lamented the Huskers’ lack of player development and physicality, particularly on the lines. Those areas would appear to be in Rhule’s wheelhouse. He was a defensive line coach at Temple in 2006 before transitioning to the offensive side as coach and quarterbacks coordinator. He left Temple for a year to become the assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants in 2012.

Rhule returned to Temple as head coach as Steve Adazzio left for Boston College, and the Owls went 2-10 and 6-6 before putting together consecutive 10-win seasons to win the 2016 American Athletic Conference championship.

He was named Baylor’s coach on December 6, 2016, in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had failed to adequately respond to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory has been similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with one bowl game the following season. In his third and final season, Baylor finished in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game, and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule was the first NFL coach to be fired this year after the Panthers lost four of their first five games.

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AP College Football writer Eric Olson contributed to this report.

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