WACO, Texas — After three years and one of the best re-builds in college football, Matt Rhule is leaving Baylor to become a head coach in the NFL.
Rhule's departure comes as no surprise after he was courted by NFL teams since arriving in Waco in December 2016.
This creates a late opening for Baylor's head coach. However, the next head coach of the Bears may already be in Waco.
Joey McGuire was one of Rhule's original hires at Baylor. He came from Cedar Hill High School near Dallas.
McGuire was tabbed the Bears' associate head coach entering the 2019 season and reportedly turned down the head coaching position at UTSA upon Frank Wilson's firing which eventually went to fellow former Texas HS coach Jeff Traylor.
McGuire was one of three coaches Rhule nabbed from the Texas HS ranks, alongside former Baylor QB Shawn Bell and David Wetzel who was the first to become an on-field assistant. Since then, McGuire's name has spread throughout college football as one of the hottest names in coaching.
Rhule stated to the media during the season, "Joey McGuire is going to be a great head coach, some day."
After hearing the news of Rhule's departure Tuesday, current and former Baylor players, including RB Trestan Ebner, took to Twitter campaigning for McGuire to be promoted.
McGuire's son Garret, who was on the roster in 2019, pointed out that the four head coaches in the College Football Playoff following the 2019 season were all promoted from within upon their predecessors' departures. Those include LSU's Ed Orgeron, Ohio State's Ryan Day, Clemson's Dabo Swinney, and Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley. Garret is campaigning for his dad to be promoted to head coach of the Bears.
In fact, McGuire, who has never been a coordinator at the college level, was named Interim Head Coach upon news of Rhule's departure from Baylor.
Two other strong candidates for the job are also on staff in Waco. Those include co-offensive coordinator Jeff Nixon and defensive coordinator Phil Snow.
Nixon has prior NFL experience and came to Waco from San Francisco where he was the 49ers' tight ends coach. Nixon has guided the offense during the rebuild and helped turn it into one of the most efficient offenses in college football.
Snow is one of the most respected defensive coaches in college football and was Rhule's defensive coordinator at Temple. Snow has been coaching in college since 1979 and has never been a head coach. He also has four years of NFL coaching experience with the Detroit Lions.
All three are widely respected within the program and Baylor's athletic department.
If Baylor were to look outside the program, it would typically look for the next "big name" at the Group-of-5 level. However, the two biggest names there - Appalachian State's Eliah Drinkwitz and Memphis' Mike Norvell - have already been hired at Power 5 conference jobs, with Drinkwitz going to Missouri and Norvell to Florida State. On the collegiate coaching carousel, Jan. 7 is considered "late."
There are three current Group-of-5 head coaches who Baylor Athletic Director Mack Rhoades may look at to replace Rhule. Those include Arkansas State's Blake Anderson, Louisiana's Billy Napier and North Texas' Seth Littrell.
Anderson played at Baylor in the 1980's and is a native of Hubbard, in Hill County, just a 30-minute drive from Waco.
Furthermore, Anderson was in the mix for the job in 2016 when Rhule was hired. Anderson has been the head coach at Arkansas State since 2014. He went 47-30 and won the Sun Belt Conference twice.
Napier won the Sun Belt West Division in each of his two seasons as a head coach. His prior stops include Clemson (2006-10), Alabama (2011, 2013-16), Colorado State (2012), and Arizona State (2017).
Napier was named Sun Belt coach of the year in 2019. He finished 11-3 and won the LendingTree Bowl on Monday. As a head coach, he's 18-10.
If this move happened a year ago, Littrell's name may have been a the top of the list. However, after his North Texas team went a mere 4-8 in 2019, his name may have lost a little luster.
Littrell just finished his fourth season as the head coach at North Texas and is 27-25, overall, 0-3 in bowl games.
Littrell has a track record for recruiting diamonds in the rough, and found UNT QB Mason Fine from Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
Plus, Rhule managed to get Baylor to the Big 12 Championship Game for the first time.
With National Signing Day on Feb. 5, it is expected that Baylor will announce the new head coach within 10 days to make sure it minimizes the loss of recruits or holds the class together.
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