Temple Owls Would be Wise to Place Matt Rhule on the Hot Seat

By Mike Gibson
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In the real world, an employee who shows gross incompetence gets a period of about two months, not a year or years to evaluate his performance.

It’s called a probationary period.

The probationary period of first-year Temple head football coach Matt Rhule has come and gone, and in the long and storied history of failed Temple football employees, he has to rate right up there near the top of a sorry list made out by athletic directors who failed to see red flags.

In the real world, the boss calls Rhule in after a performance like Saturday night in a 28-21 loss to previously winless UConn (and a lot of Saturday nights before that) and says, “Matt, you’re a good guy, but you are not cut out for this job. The guy who hired you wasn’t my guy. I now have my own guy as athletic director I want to have my own guy as head football coach. After watching Pete Lembo beat Indiana with Ball State talent every year, I decided he’s my guy. I want to be able to beat Penn State with Temple talent next year and I think he’s better suited to do that than you are. That’s why I’m bringing in Lembo to replace you at the end of the season. You can coach the final game. Good luck, Matt. Here’s your severance check. No hard feelings. I think Kutztown might have an opening after next season. I’ll give you a good reference.”

Firing coaches is a messy business that most schools see as a necessary evil in the real world of intercollegiate athletics.  There’s the real world and there’s Temple.

At Temple they allowed a most incompetent coach, Bobby Wallace, to hang around for eight years and nearly destroy a program. They allowed Ron Dickerson to hang around for five years before that and Jerry Berndt for four years before that.  Firing coaches has not been part of Temple’s institutional DNA for much of the past 30 years. Maybe the new guys, President Neil Theobald and athletic director Kevin Clark, both from Indiana, are much more connected to the real world than Temple’s past administrators were.

If so, Rhule will be on the hot seat once Temple’s season ends at 1-11  in what will probably be a loss at Memphis on Saturday.

The argument that former coach Al Golden was allowed to go 1-11 his first year and Matt Rhule should also be allowed to go 1-11 his first year is a complete fallacy. Golden inherited the rubble of Wallace. Golden finished his tenure at Temple by recruiting five classes that were ranked No. 1 in the MAC by either Scout.com or Rivals.com. Steve Addazio‘s best recruiting class was ranked No. 55 in the nation, higher than any of Golden’s classes. The cupboard was dry for Golden. It was stocked enough for Rhule to eat Idaho, Fordham and UConn alive, but he lost to all three. Even Golden won one more game his first year than the guy he succeeded. For Rhule to do that, all he would have had to do is win five games, one more than Steve Addazio did in 2012. Five games. It wasn’t too much to ask, considering he had 16 starters back.

Addazio had virtually the same talent against a better UConn team last year and shut the Huskies out in the second half of a 17-14 overtime win. Rhule allowed a worse version of the Huskies to score 28 points in the second half. With the same talent, the only variable in this lab experiment is coaching.

How do you play Central Florida so well and lose to a team Central Florida beat 63-17? Mind-boggling. How do you lose to arguably the worst team in the history of the FBS in Idaho? Double mind-boggling.  How do you lose to a Fordham team that lost to Lafayette? Triple mind-boggling.

In this high-stakes’ game of major college intercollegiate athletics, three strikes like that usually mean you are out. Temple doesn’t play that game of hardball, and unless that institutional-wide thinking changes soon that’s why the Owls deserve the 3-9 or 4-8 seasons and two years of playing in an empty 70,000-seat stadium that will almost certainly follow this one.

Mike Gibson, an Associated Press Sports Editors’ Association and Keystone Press Association award-winner for Best Sports Story and Best Sports Feature, is a Phillies writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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