It appears Baylor doesn’t have to worry about embarking on another coaching search after all.
In one of the more surprising developments of the 2017-18 coaching carousel, a report surfaced Wednesday that Baylor head coach Matt Rhule interviewed for the same job with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts earlier this week. A little over 24 hours later, another report has surfaced that Rhule has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job.
Whether that’s because he wasn’t in line to fill the opening or simply wanted to return to Waco hasn’t been determined.
Hired in December of 2016 by the Bears, Rhule was the permanent replacement for Art Briles, who was fired in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that rocked the university. In his first season in Waco, he led the Bears to a 1-11 record as the program continued dealing with the fallout of the scandal in the form of a depleted roster.
Perhaps the college version of the coaching carousel hasn’t yet quit spinning this cycle?
In a development that seemingly came out of nowhere, Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com is reporting that Baylor head coach Matt Rhule interviewed for the same job with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts earlier this week. Rhule has one year’s worth of experience in the NFL, and that was as the offensive line coach of the New York Giants in 2012.
Rhule had been mentioned last month as a potential darkhorse (very dark) candidate for the Giants opening as well, based solely on that threadbare connection.
Our sister site ProFootballTalk.com writes that “[t]he Colts, seeking a replacement for Chuck Pagano, also reportedly have interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.”
Rhule took over for Art Briles, who was fired in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that rocked the university. In his first season in Waco, he led the Bears to a 1-11 record as the program continued dealing with the fallout of the scandal in the form of a depleted roster.
It’s likely that Rhule would’ve preferred word of the reported interview not seeing the light of day as rival coaches on the recruiting trail will very likely use it against him, pointing out to prospects that Rhule eyeing another job came two weeks or so after he signed a handful of players during the first early signing period.
Former Baylor quarterback Zach Smith has found his new football home. On Monday, Tulsa announced it has officially added Smith to the football program as one of six December signees who are now attending classes at Tulsa starting this week.
Smith will have to sit out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he will eventually help pad the quarterback depth for the program once he becomes available. A year off from playing also gives Smith time to adjust to his new program, learn the playbook, and establish a new relationship with his new teammates. Smith made the decision to transfer out of Baylor in December after the season ended in Waco.
Smith started 10 games for Baylor, including four in 2016 in place of an injured Seth Russell. Smith started six additional games for Baylor this past season. He left Baylor with 2,997 passing yards and 21 touchdowns for the Bears.
In the end, never mind.
Sunday, it was reported that scandal-plagued former Baylor head coach Art Briles would be one of the guest speakers at the annual AFCA Coaches Convention in Charlotte this week. In justifying having Briles as part of the proceedings, AFCA executive director Todd Berry stated that “one of the things I believe he’s going to share, is there are some things that happened and he can share an experience no one else can with our group, so that we can avoid issues down the road.”
After a wave of criticism over the impending appearance, however, the AFCA has done a 180-degree turn and canceled Briles’ session with the coaches. “I’m saddened that our coaches have lost an opportunity,” Berry said in a portion of the statement announcing the move,
Briles was fired by Baylor in May of 2016 amidst a sexual assault scandal involving his Bears football program. In August of last year, the disgraced coached was hired by a CFL team; a couple of hours later, after the hiring was denounced by fans and sponsors, the organization announced that Briles would no longer be joining the team.
Since his dismissal, Briles has not found a job in the coaching profession, at least a paid one.
The AFCA Coaches Convention happens every year right around the time of the national championship game and is regularly a place where coaches at every level of the game go to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, exchange ideas and (for some) find new jobs.
The 2018 edition of the convention is already underway in Charlotte, N.C. and features another fascinating set of talks by coaches around the country. Perhaps the most interesting of the bunch might be one with the rather obscure title of ‘Standing Strong / Game Management.’ Why might the average fan raise an eyebrow over such a seemingly routine subject? Well, the fact that scandal-riddled former Baylor coach Art Briles is set to address the room.
“It’s our responsibility to educate coaches,” AFCA executive director and former Louisiana Monroe head coach Todd Berry told The Athletic. “Certainly one of the things Coach Briles experienced, and one of the things I believe he’s going to share, is there are some things that happened and he can share an experience no one else can with our group, so that we can avoid issues down the road.
“While there are things you know in theory, the reality is you’re going to gain more from someone who experienced it, that knows what to look for.”
The news of Briles’ speaking engagement comes just days after there was a minor furor brought up over Houston coach Major Applewhite hiring his son Kendal Briles to be the Cougars’ new offensive coordinator. The elder Briles was reportedly involved in the coaching search at FCS Incarnate Word but has otherwise kept a fairly low profile after getting fired at Baylor in 2016 after numerous sexual assault allegations were brought against the football program.
Briles did briefly take a job in the CFL but the uproar the team faced that followed cost him the position after just a few hours.
While the Coaches Convention’s reasoning of trying to educate others may be sound, it remains puzzling why they would think inviting Briles would be a good idea after a law firm determined that the Baylor coaching staff chose not to report sexual assaults and Briles himself is at the center of several lawsuits. Either way, the normally sleepy Tuesday following the national title game will certainly be a lot more interesting up in Charlotte.