Rhule officially introduced, preaches hard work, building toughness within program
LINCOLN - In front of a packed Hawks Championship Center practice field, filled with hundreds of former players, university officials, and media members, Athletic Director Trev Alberts, and the Nebraska Football program turned over a new leaf, introducing Matt Rhule as the 31st head coach in program history.
The day began with Trev Alberts discussing the process that went into the hiring. The main takeaway: building a football team tough enough to withstand the rigmarole of a physical Big Ten conference.
“If there’s anything this program’s been about the last 30-40 years, it’s toughness,” Alberts said. “So I was looking for coaches that understood what practice looked like. And what the team should look like... Ultimately getting back to being the most physical team on the field on Saturday… That’s Husker football. That’s Husker Athletics. Toughness was a key component to what our vision was going to be.”
Rhule’s last season of college head coaching was at Baylor in 2019. He led the Bears to an 11-3 record, a Big 12 title game, and the Sugar Bowl. He was named Big 12 coach of the year that season, and became the first power five coach to take a team from 11 losses to 11 wins in two seasons. Rhule understands, and is familiar with, the challenge of rebuilding a program
“The price of glory is paid at practice at 6:00 AM. The price of glory is paid out on the recruiting trail,” Rhule said. “We are going to work harder than we’ve ever asked ourselves to work. This is going to be hard. You can’t win three games, then four games, and come to work excited… We have to have a plan and that plan requires working way harder than the next man.”
Nebraska has not had a winning record since their 9-4 season in 2016 which led them to the Music City Bowl. A common term around college football, when Memorial Stadium is packed each Saturday for a struggling team, is that Nebraska fans deserve better. Rhule says the program owes it to the fans to get the ship righted.
“It is not a burden, but a responsibility on me as the coach to know that there will be people from all across the state who take the money they make to spend on watching us play,” Rhule said. “You can’t win every game every year, it just doesn’t happen. But you can be a team people are proud to watch.”
Rhule is an alum of Penn State and grew up watching the Big Ten conference. He talked about the key elements needed to win in it.
“Typically, if you look at the Big Ten, whoever has the best quarterback play typically is going to win and you have to be able to win in the elements,” Rhule said. “And you have to win in the elements. You’re going to need to win when it’s hot early in the year, cold late in the year, you’ve gotta win on the east coast and soon on the west coast so I think having a defense, having a run game, those things are important.”
One of the biggest questions surrounding the program with the Rhule hiring is what will happen to Mickey Joseph. The former wide receivers coach had a 3-6 record as the Huskers Interim Head Coach. Rhule says he spoke with Joseph upon accepting the job and looks forward to further talk and discussed the process.
“It all comes down to fit. People have to want to be here number one, and we have to all move forward,” Rhule said. “Some of the times I’ve not had success are when some people are pulling in one direction. There will be a very clear vision and and process of how we do things within the walls of the football program. He’s a very good recruiter, very good coach, players love him, so I’m looking forward to having more conversations with him.”
Rhule’s most recent job was being head coach of the Carolina Panthers where he was fired in October with an overall record of 11-27. According to Rhule, time at the games highest level has made him a better college coach.
“I was on the hot seat from the end of last year to the middle of this year, and when you’re on the hot seat, do the players really have to listen to you?” Rhule said. “If I’m proud of anything, it’s the relationships with the guys on the team that went out and won yesterday (Carolina defeated Denver on Sunday 23-10), the guys that still call me, it shows me that I can come back to college, continue to push guys, have the same relationships.”
Trev Alberts did confirm to reporters after the formal press conference that Matt Rhule will be paid $74-million for 8 years (about $9.25-million a year).
Rhule said once all introductions are done, he plans to tear off the suit and get down to business recruiting Nebraska’s next talent.