YOU WANT TO KNOW how swamped Matt Rhule is these days? Well, in the first 60 seconds or so of what turned into a 15-minute phone conversation on Friday, he was forced to excuse himself twice to address some urgent business, which is perfectly understandable. I was probably fortunate to get that much of his time. Good thing we've always had that kind of a relationship. And, by the way, welcome to his new universe, which has taken him from North Broad Street to deep in the heart of Texas. As in Waco, halfway between Dallas and Austin.
"Who wants it to slow down?" the former Temple coach said. "I'm living right now."
On Wednesday, he was handed the keys to the Baylor program, four days after his Owls won their first conference title (American Athletic) in 49 years. It was their second straight 10-win season, or one more than they had in the 116 seasons before that. He left for a program in a Power Five conference (Big 12) that's had some serious off-field issues in the past 12 months, but did win 32 games from 2013-15 and produced Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III in 2011.
Rhule's departure from Temple was bound to happen. It simply was a matter of when and where. No explanations necessary.
"It was really, really fast, and it was really hard," Rhule said. "It's always hard to leave something. You you know when it's time to start something new. I'm just beginning a new adventure, the next chapter.
"The hardest thing was telling (the players). I can handle (any criticism). They all stood up at attention, even though they knew what I was telling them. And they gave me a standing ovation when I left. That told me we had done things the right way. They wanted what was right for me. I came here to do something special, too."
What else was left for him to do at Temple? Win more titles? Maybe make it to a New Year's Six bowl, if everything fell into place? For going 10-3, the Owls are going to the Military Bowl against 6-6 wake Forest. For going 6-6 (and losing their last six for coach Jim Grobe), Baylor is in the Cactus Bowl, also on Dec. 27, against 10-2 Boise State. The Bears went to the Fiesta Bowl in 2013, and the Cotton a year later.
If it wasn't Baylor, it could have been Oregon for Rhule. A year ago, it could have been Missouri. AAC schools Memphis, Houston and South Florida lost coaches to Power Five programs - Virginia Tech, Texas and Oregon - in the last 12 months. Don't hold your breath waiting for that trend to change. So why should Rhule be any different, just because he'd spent most of the last decade at Temple and truly liked being there? Sorry, that's never been enough.
"Not many people stay in one job their whole life," Rhule said. "Still, there's a ton of emotions. I had an opportunity to come to a place where the kids had been through a lot of hard stuff. I was prepared for this, because of the job I had. Temple's going to hire a great coach and continue to win. Temple doesn't need Matt Rhule. They need the players that are there.
"I just really felt this is where I'm supposed to be at this point. We have some really big challenges ahead. It's not going to be easy. They need a guy who's going to help them build the future. I think that's who I've always been."
He was a perfect fit here, even in going 2-10 his first season. He started 7-0 in 2015 and won his last seven this year. Since 2009, Temple has had five seasons of at least eight wins under three coaches combine. Rhule took what former boss Al Golden started and made it better. Maybe the folks questioning his loyalty should thank him instead and wish him the best. He took out a full-page ad in the paper thanking Temple and expressed those same sentiments again at his introductory news conference at Baylor. It's time for everyone to move on and accept reality. The world doesn't stop spinning.
"Anytime there's a transition, people are nervous wondering what's going to happen next," Rhule said. "They're not sure how it's going to go. It's going to take work. It doesn't happen overnight . . . This is what I do. I coach football. We try to build teams. It's exciting. Just like it was when I got the Temple job.
"The kids at Temple did an amazing, amazing job. I don't want to diminish anything they accomplished, but who wouldn't want the chance to play in a conference where, if you're competitive, you can maybe play for a national championship? If I can do here what I did at Temple, then we have a chance to be pretty special.
"Right now, I've got six balls in the air at once. The guys that are there, I'm trying to make sure they feel like, 'OK, it's going to be a good thing.' Kids are kids. That much is the same. I just had four of the best years of my life. I absolutely loved that time. I'll always remember those four years, those players. I'm just starting over. I want this chapter to be just as memorable."
First, he has to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings. Home isn't exactly 10th and Diamond anymore.
"Well, there's no Tacconelli's (pizzeria)," he said, laughing. "But the Mexican's pretty dang good."