A goodbye for Matt Rhule leaves head coach opening

Matt Rhule, Baylor football’s head coach for three seasons, took the program from a dismal 1-11 start in his first year to a 11-3 finish in the 2019-2020 season. Rhule departed his job in Waco for a head coaching job with the Carolina Panthers earlier this month. Lariat File Photo

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

Who will take over the Baylor football program now that Matt Rhule is no longer head coach?

In the wake of Rhule’s departure to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, that is the question that remains as Mack Rhoades, Baylor vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics, goes on the hunt for his replacement.

But it is a question that will largely remain unanswered until Rhoades and his staff make an official decision. The director made it very clear in a statement released by Baylor Athletics last Tuesday that no information will be given on any candidates while they perform their search.

“We have launched a national search for our next head coach, and will not make any comments on prospective candidates or where we are in the process until we are ready to introduce the next leader of our football program,” Rhoades stated. “We look forward to finding the individual who will carry forward the vision of Preparing Champions for Life.”

That hasn’t curbed any of the speculation surrounding the position and who should fill it, however.

Many former and current Baylor football players have thrown their votes to Baylor’s interim head coach Joey McGuire by showing their support on social media. For many, McGuire seems like the obvious choice, serving as associate head coach and defensive ends coach under Rhule in 2019 after spending the two previous seasons as tight ends coach.

Prior to Baylor, McGuire made an impressive run as Cedar Hill High School’s head coach, taking the CHHS Longhorns to three state championships, including back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, over 14 seasons. McGuire’s Cedar Hill team made 12 straight playoff appearances after not winning a playoff game before he took over.

But for some, McGuire’s high school experience may not be enough.

Other names have been mentioned by various media outlets, including Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson and University of Louisiana-Lafayette’s Billy Napier. One interesting candidate that hasn’t been talked about extensively is also already on the Baylor staff. Jeff Nixon, the Bears’ co-offensive coordinator could also be in the running according to CBS Sports.

There is a lot of uncertainty circling the Bears coaching staff, not just in who will take over as head coach, but also in if Baylor will have to hire a new defensive coordinator.

While Baylor goes on the search for a new coach, Rhule is in the process of putting together his staff in Charlotte, N.C.

According to Panthers Wire, Carolina has hired Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair to fill in the same position for the Panthers. The news was originally reported by The Athletic.

The news is significant because Phair apparently has a close friendship with Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who coached with Rhule at Temple before following him to Waco in 2017. Snow is responsible for the turnaround in Baylor’s defensive unit and has previous NFL experience, so many expect him to become Carolina’s new DC as well.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Rhule won’t announce which coaches he’ll take to the Panthers with him until Baylor makes a decision for the head coaching position. In his introductory press conference for Carolina on Thursday, Rhule said the coaching staff at Baylor was one of the best he worked with.

“I want to have a diverse staff and a mixed staff,” Rhule said. “I have one of the best staffs in football at Baylor. A lot of my guys got to Baylor from the NFL, so a lot of my guys have NFL experience … Phil Snow’s been in the NFL. I haven’t won a game as a head coach without him as my defensive coordinator.

If he’ll come, I’ll certainly have some sort of role for him somewhere.”

Baylor Athletics hasn’t made any statements in the week since Rhule moved on to the NFL but Snow is currently still the Bears’ DC according to Baylor’s coaching staff roster.

The water is murky for Baylor football at the moment, but with recruiting season well under way for the rest of college football, a decision is expected sooner rather than later.