Here is the second part of our conversation with new Temple coach Matt Rhule. To read Part I, click here.
You touched on this a little bit, but Temple's a program that's obviously had to fight for everything it's gotten. You were there from pretty close to the beginning. Just to see the program now in the Big East -- surprising everyone this year just by winning its first two games in the Big East and becoming a competitive team there -- what goes through your mind? How satisfying is it to see the place really take it to another level?
Matt Rhule: That's a great question. Every once in a while you get almost -- I was back on campus today and I thought of when my wife, son and I first got to Temple, and where we were and where the program was when they only had 60-something scholarships at the time, and we were dealing with all kinds of things. Back-to-back 60-point losses my first year, 1-11. And my last three years there we were bowl-eligible all three years, two bowl games, first bowl win in 32 years. So to see all that happening and to be able to leave Temple last year for the Giants after, when we finally won a bowl game, makes it come full circle. And then further to see them out there competing in the Big East this year was so gratifying, not just on behalf of myself but really on behalf of all the coaches that I worked with. The head coaches had done such a great job. There were so many assistant coaches that really did a tremendous job in their time, guys like Andrew Dees, who's with the Buffalo Bills, Mark D'Onofrio, who's at the University of Miami -- just great assistant coaches who were from the very beginning. Jethro Franklin with the Miami Dolphins. Great coaches who dug in there in their first couple years there, made things happen, and the kids who bought in and fought all the way through. So it's really gratifying. I can tell you when we were watching the South Florida game there were tears in my wife's eyes and I. We were so happy that they won that game, and now that's our opportunity to be out there too.
Obviously it's a fan base that's maybe a little fragile right now just from the sense that they've seen two good coaches move on. How do you reaffirm to them that you're in this for the long haul, that you're here and you're ready to take this program to the next level?
MR: I think you assure people by telling them why you want to be there, you know what I mean? Every coach that would've gotten up there today would've said, "This is where I want to be." But I think when you tell them why and people hear that it's a genuine reason, then it maybe makes them feel more secure. For me, I want to be there because I spent five years there and I had chances to leave and I didn't. The only time I ever left was for the chance to go to the National Football League. I want to be there because my wife works there, and as we moved to New Jersey she continued to work there. I want to be here because my son grew up here, his friends are all here, his school is here. At the end of the day you don't want to be somewhere just because it's a good place. You want to be here because it's your home, and for five years we built our home. We raised our family here. So when the chance came to come back, we moved into an empty house that we kept. We kept it because we always wanted to be there. So that's all I can tell people. I think if they know me and know the reasons why, they'll hopefully know that it's genuine.
What is the plan now with the NFL season going on for you?
MR: I'm going to just have to balance my duties as an assistant with the Giants and with my head-coaching duties here. Obviously right now it's a dead period, so there's a significant amount of time for coaches to be back from on the road. Right now the focus when I'm coaching the Giants is obviously the day-to-day operations with the Giants and winning games with them. And when that time is there, when I have time, when I make time, I'll work on the current roster, look at the staff and eventually recruiting. So it's just one of those opportunities where I'm going to have to do both, and I get to do both at the same time.
What have your colleagues' and players' reactions been like back in East Rutherford?
MR: They were great. They were great. Coach [Tom] Coughlin was tremendously supportive. The assistant coaches were tremendously supportive. And I know they all kind of knew I was going through the process and really pulling for me at the time. And all the players are such tremendous men on that team. The offensive line now is going to treat me like a head coach and make sure that I get heat a little bit about sitting in the front or things like that, but they're great guys. I'm happy to have coached them. I'm happy to be around them and I'm honored that I get to finish the year out with them.