IT SEEMED as if almost everyone at Temple wanted Matt Rhule to be the Owls' next football coach.
We'll get to find out whether almost everyone was correct.
The proof, as always, will be in the bottom line. So we might not know for sure for a while. But Monday on North Broad Street, it sure felt right. And not because all the right things got said. That happens at any news conference where the new guy is being introduced. No, this was more about the vibe.
Who says you can't come home again?
Rhule, 37, who played linebacker at Penn State, didn't get the job 2 years ago when Al Golden left for Miami. It went instead to Florida assistant Steve Addazio, who had two national-title rings. How many people get a second shot at something they want so much? But when Rhule left last offseason to become an assistant line coach with the New York Giants, he and his wife, Julie - who a few times each week commuted to her job at Temple - never sold their house here. Maybe they knew something.
"It's a surreal feeling that this actually happened," Rhule said. "It's hard to get any opportunity. But to get it at a place you really want to be . . . "
When athletic director Bill Bradshaw met with the players on Dec. 5, the day after Addazio left to go to Boston College, he found out immediately where they stood.
"I asked them what they were looking for," Bradshaw said. "That was importand for us to hear. Two guys in the front row stood up and said, 'Matt Rhule.' I don't know what better reference you can get than the young people who are there every day."
Rhule, son of a Hall of Fame high-school coach, spent six seasons as an Owls assistant. He was the offensive coordinator and the recruiting coordinator. Now he gets to be the bad cop, too.
"They know me," he smiled. "I can only be myself. I wasn't ready [in 2010]. I'm ready now."
The Owls went 4-7 last season, their first back in the Big East since being asked to leave 8 years earlier. But they did win 26 games from 2008-10, including their first bowl victory since 1979. Going forward, the conference will have a different look.
Next season, they open at Notre Dame.
"That's the first thing my wife [who's expecting the couple's second child in March] said to me," Rhule recalled. "Think about that. Seven years ago, when we were having 66-point losses or whatever it was, to here we are, starting against maybe the defending national champion. On NBC, the Temple T and the ND. Just think how far that's come. And we're going to go in there and play them. At the same time, it says how far we have to go.
"One thing we have to do is go find a way to win the Big East. We've done a great job. But we haven't done that yet. We want a championship trophy. I want the guys to be able to come back and say, 'There it is.' There's a bowl trophy, and I'm proud of that and that's wonderful. But there needs to be a championship trophy. That's not easy. That's what we're going to chase."
Until the Giants' season ends, which could be in another 2 weeks, he'll split time between the two. No one's questioning his energy level. Or his embrace of everything North Broad.
"He was part of building this," junior quarterback Chris Coyer said. "He's always bled Temple. For him to come back, you can tell he can't wait to start. I think the locker room is a very happy place.
"He's endeared himself to a lot of us. That doesn't mean he isn't going to kick our butt in the offseason. A big part of it for us was getting someone who really wanted to be here, and wasn't necessarily going to stay for 2 or 3 years and head for somewhere bigger."
Hey, if Rhule's done enough in 2 or 3 years to make somewhere bigger look at him, that means Bradshaw did his job.
"Time and place," Bradshaw said. "His interview might have been the best [2 years ago]. But we needed something else, something different. The way he handled it had a lot to do with how we looked at him [this time]. It was incredibly evident from Day 1 that Matt wanted Temple, that he fit here."
Now all he has to do is make it work. This much is clear: He's someone who is easy to root for, because he's invested.
"I remember a BCS school offered me a job [when he was on Temple's staff] and my wife said, 'I think you're going to love it there,' " Rhule related. "This is the right place for us, the right people for us. I knew if this opportunity ever came, I was going to fight for it. Not apply. Fight . . .
"If it's within my power, I'm going to be here."
It's a terrific story. Now all it needs is the right ending.