FRISCO, Texas — Baylor football just completed the most tumultuous year in program history. However, new head coach Matt Rhule just might be the man to help the program move forward.
From the moment he took the main podium to the second his media availability ended, Rhule had the entire throng of media enthralled this week at Big 12 Media Days.
From local to national media, everyone agreed: Rhule won the press conference.
This is my first time listening to Baylor coach Matt Rhule at length. Damn, he's impressive.
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) July 18, 2017
I've covered or watched Big 12 Media Days since 2002. Matt Rhule is putting together one of most impressive performances I've seen.
— Kevin Flaherty (@KFlaherty247) July 18, 2017
Matt Rhule immediately puts a likeable face on New Baylor. Not saying he absolutely will win on field, but he just won the press conference.
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) July 18, 2017
Baylor made a difficult decision hiring this head coach. The program obviously wanted to continue performing at a high level, but badly needed a facelift. Many expected Baylor to hire an up-and-coming coach from Texas. Instead, the Bears hired the architect of the reigning AAC champion.
Rhule did not shy away from talking about Baylor’s issues. He mentioned them during his opening statement, and he did not avoid the tough questions.
“When I arrived in Waco in December, I knew that there would be challenges,” Rhule said. “What I’ve learned in my time at Baylor and Waco is we’re not running from the past. We’re learning from it.”
Of course, there is plenty to learn from. The details are still coming out, but it is alleged that there were fundamental shortcomings with Baylor’s Title IX processes. Many of the incidents were tied directly to the football program.
The university fired football coach Art Briles and requested athletic director Ian McCaw’s resignation as part of the fallout in May 2016.
But since hiring Rhule in December, and Linda Livingstone as president in May, the program finally appears to be healing. The last few stragglers who supported the previous administration appear to be dissipating.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been extremely complimentary of the changes at Baylor.
“We could not have had any better cooperation and any better engagement from the president, the athletic director [Mack Rhoades], the head football coach and general counsel, and anybody else we’ve dealt with down there,” Bowlsby said. “They are working very hard to get it right.”
Rhule is taking an active leadership role in moving the university forward.
“What we don’t acknowledge, we’re doomed to repeat,” Rhule said. “If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t learn about it, then what was the point of it?”
It remains to be seen whether Rhule will win at Baylor. The scandal decimated the Bears’ 2016 recruiting class, and the league is getting tougher. Baylor fans are used to success, so a few seasons of adversity will be difficult.
However, Rhule’s primary job for the foreseeable future will be to serve as a face of the university as it continues to rebuild. If Big 12 Media Days were any indication, he is the perfect man for the job.