A year ago, Matt Rhule reportedly sat down with then-Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades on a Sunday morning in Philadelphia to talk about the Tigers' job opening. Rhule instead stayed another year at Temple, logging a second consecutive 10-win season and an American Athletic Conference title. Rhoades eventually promoted defensive coordinator Barry Odom.
Rhoades left Missouri in July to take over a Baylor athletic department in the midst of a sexual assault scandal that cost coach Art Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw and president Ken Starr their jobs.
Needing to replace Briles, Rhoades targeted Rhule again.
On Tuesday, Baylor announced that Rhule will be the full-time replacement for Briles and acting coach Jim Grobe. From 2013-15, the Bears won two Big 12 titles and 32 games. After Briles' firing in May, Baylor slid to 6-6 after a 6-0 start, the first team to do so since Illinois in 2011.
"I can't thank President [David] Garland and Mack Rhoades enough for this incredible opportunity," Rhule said in a release. "Baylor is a tremendous institution with a history of football success and I know the passion that so many have for the Bears will help bring the community together to reach even greater heights. I am excited to get started."
There are plenty of similarities between Temple and Baylor. In 2004, the Big East kicked out Temple, who won just 16 conference games in 14 seasons, citing a lack of commitment to football. Baylor's inclusion in the Big 12 -- when the Southwest Conference splintered in 1996 -- was debated, and the program didn't enjoy its first winning season in the new conference until 2010, Briles' third year with the program.
Rhule went to Temple in 2006 as Al Golden's defensive line coach, helping him revive the then-independent program and navigate its entrance into the MAC after a 1-11 season. Rhule became Golden's offensive coordinator in 2008, helping to oversee a run of 17 wins in two seasons and the program's first bowl trip in 30 years.
In 2013, after coaching the New York Giants' offensive line for a year, Rhule returned to Temple to replace Steve Addazio. He inherited a 4-7 team, and he rebuilt the program again from a two-win team in his first year to 20 combined wins in 2015-16.
This season, Rhule didn't inspire the same kind of hype as names such as Houston's Tom Herman and Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck, but his credentials are just as air tight, even if his personality lacks the magnetism and national attention that the others have drawn.
Now, he'll face another rebuilding job at Baylor, where the Bears have just one verbally committed recruit in the class of 2017. After last year's decimated recruiting class in the wake of Briles' firing, the Bears are expected to return around 55 scholarship players, plus whomever Rhule can sign in an abbreviated two-month recruiting period before signing day on Feb. 1.
For Rhule, it's a complete departure from what he's known. After a lifetime on the east coast, he'll make his way to Texas, where he's never coached.
In the wake of the scandal, Baylor needed a complete departure from anything resembling Briles. After a season in which the coaching staff remained at work on campus under Grobe, while the questions, investigations and unsavory headlines continued, Rhule provides a fresh start.
"When we set out on our search for a new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach who shared our values, who had demonstrated success, who showed a true commitment to the overall student-athlete and who we believed could lead Baylor to a national championship," Rhoades said. "We found all of that and more in Matt and I know that he will be a perfect fit with the Baylor family."
Rhule's tenure won't be without its challenges. Baylor's signature under Briles was an explosive offense that turned the Bears into a major recruiting player after turning modest recruits like Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright into stars. That produced results like KD Cannon and Jarrett Stidham -- five-star, nationally pursued recruits -- choosing to sign with the Bears.
Rhule's signature at Temple was pro-style offense and physical defense under players like Bednarik Award-winning linebacker Tyler Matakevich in 2015 and Haason Reddick in 2016. He coached eight different positions on both sides of the ball while coming up as an assistant coach, but all three of his draft picks in four seasons at Temple were defensive players.
Rhule's lack of Texas ties could also be an issue on the recruiting trail for a tight-knit group of high school coaches that can be wary of sending their signees to play for new faces. Even if he stocks his staff with state of Texas assistants known for recruiting prowess, convincing offensive recruits across the state to sign up for pro-style offense won't be easy.
If Rhule keeps his style, Baylor will be the only Power Five program in Texas that does not run a spread offense. TCU brought a pro-style scheme into the Big 12 under Gary Patterson, but after poor results on the field and on the recruiting trail, he hired spread gurus Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie heading in 2014. The Horned Frogs won a Big 12 title and the Peach Bowl in their first season on Patterson's staff.
Duplicating the success at Temple will be difficult if Rhule can't tap into the wealth of offensive talent in Texas, most of which is more comfortable sliding into another spread offense rather than learning a new system.
But the Bears got a hungry young coach. Rhule got the big-time job that he'd been slightly overdue earning.
In that sense, it was a perfect fit. Now let's see if it's a formula for success.