Nebraska and former Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule struck a deal Friday to make him coach the Cornhuskers.
A person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that after several days of discussion, Nebraska made Rhule an offer Thursday that convinced the former Temple and Baylor coach to attend college after more than two years in the NFL to return.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as details of a contract – including what the Panther Rhule may still owe – are still being worked out and no announcement from the school was imminent.
ESPN first reported that Nebraska is striking a deal to make Rhule his coach.
Rhule has been out of work for less than two months since being fired five games into his third season with the Panthers.
He was 11-27 at Carolina and left with about $40 million on the remaining seven-year, $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth highest-paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.
One of eight Football Bowl subdivision programs with at least 900 wins but more than 20 years from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is pinning its hopes on the 47-year-old Rhule to recreate success at his previous two collegiate stints . Twice Rhule took over ailing programs and built them into conference contenders within three years.
The Cornhuskers defeated Iowa 24-17 on Friday and finished the game 4-8, their sixth straight loss. Athletic director Trev Alberts fired Scott Frost on September 11 after the Huskers opened 2-1 with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and home to Georgia Southern. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph.
Nebraska has been 16-31 in more than four seasons under Frost and never finished higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or went to a bowl.
Rhule became Nebraska’s sixth coach since Tom Osborne of the College Football Hall of Fame retired after the 1997 season. The Huskers have not won a conference championship under Frank Solich since 1999 or played in a bowl under Mike Riley since 2016.
Rhule is no stranger to the Big Ten. As a teenager, he moved from New York City to State College in Pennsylvania. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-1997 and began coaching there as a volunteer assistant.
Alberts has lamented the Huskers’ lack of player development and physicality, particularly on the lines. These areas appear to be in Rhule’s wheelhouse. He was Temple’s defensive line coach in 2006 before switching to offense as quarterbacks coach and coordinator. He left Temple for a year to work as an assistant coach on the New York Giants offensive line in 2012.
Rhule returned to Temple as head coach when Steve Adazzio left for Boston College, and the Owls went 2-10 and 6-6 before posting a ten-win season and winning the 2016 American Athletic Conference championship.
He was appointed Baylor’s coach on December 6, 2016 after an investigation found that the private Baptist university had failed to adequately respond to allegations of player sexual assault, leading to Art Briles’ sacking.
Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game, and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.
Rhule became the first NFL coach to be fired this year after the Panthers lost four of their first five games.
AP College Football writer Eric Olson contributed to this report.
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