ALTOONA, Pa. — Stop me if you’ve heard these words before: Penn State athletic director Patrick Kraft and former Nittany Lion and State College native Matt Rhule are friends, the best of ’em.
Have you been sitting on the metal bleachers inside Beaver Stadium unable to get any cell service and didn’t hear Rhule was fired as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers early Monday morning?
Let’s clear the air here. Kraft and Rhule worked together at Temple when Rhule was leading the Owls and Kraft was leading the athletic department. And it was at Temple where an indelible bond was formed between the duo that resulted in Rhule’s profile skyrocketing up the ranks largely as the result of beating Penn State in 2015.
“We’re really like brothers. He really did help,” Kraft said of Rhule in his introductory press conference. “Matt’s a brother to me and I’m proud of him and what he’s doing.”
Fast forward to Monday when Rhule became one of the top free agents in the coaching ranks. It didn’t take more than a few hours before he was mentioned as a candidate to be head coach at Penn State.
With Matt Rhule out as Carolina Panthers’ HC, keep an eye on Penn State. Rhule is from State College.
PSU HC Franklin’s status has been in limbo on and off, and they have UM-MN-OSU coming up.
PSU’s new AD, Patrick Kraft, is a buddy of Rhule’s.
Franklin might feel some heat.
— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) October 10, 2022
Rhule would be a great name to be linked to the head coaching position … if it were open. Of course, there is this guy James Franklin who’s currently in that position at the moment. In fact, he’s doing really well this year with the Nittany Lions at 5-0 heading into a top-ten tilt against Michigan this weekend.
On top of the current state of Penn State, there are eight million reasons why this won’t be happening anytime soon. Franklin’s buyout is not only large, but he’s also wrapped up under contract until 2031, though let’s be real, that doesn’t mean much anyway.
Does the margin of error shrink for Franklin as the Nittany Lions embark on the yearly three-game stretch that makes or breaks the season?
It’s probably closer than you might think. And despite quite a bit of success by Franklin, it’s not as though he’s universally liked by those at the university, donors or by the fans.
The flip side is Rhule has more than 40 million reasons why he’s in no rush to find employment with a massive buyout coming from the Panthers. What gets tricky is that buyout is tied to the university that employs him next as a coach.
Rhule can build a program and he proved that at both Temple and at Baylor before trying his hand at the NFL. The Panthers are a tire fire which is how he inherited them and really, it never got much better under his rule. He will have his pick of where he wants to work and could easily find himself somewhere in the Big Ten even with high-profile openings at both Wisconsin and Nebraska or even a place like Arizona State.
Will he be doing it at Penn State in the near future? Don’t count on it.
For as long as Rhule remains unemployed or even on the hot seat wherever he ends up, his name will be cycled back through any conversation had about Penn State and a head coaching vacancy.
Not all love or friendships last and as we’re seeing across the country, it’s not always good on the other side for the hand-picked guy. Yeah, definitely looking at you Scott Frost. For as good as Rhule’s track record has been, it’s certainly not a guarantee that he’ll have the same amount of success with the Nittany Lions.
Franklin has his flaws like many do (see Jimbo Fisher’s last play call against Alabama Sunday), but at the end of the day he’s getting the job done … for now. Until he isn’t, there isn’t any reason for Kraft and company to deviate from the norm.
All Franklin and his team need to do is just keep winning.