Mac Engel

Nobody deserves to win Big 12 coach of the year more than Baylor’s Matt Rhule

With five wins this season, Baylor is the biggest surprise of the Big 12 and its coach should be the league’s coach of the year.
With five wins this season, Baylor is the biggest surprise of the Big 12 and its coach should be the league’s coach of the year. AP

His record will not be the best, and a strong case can be made that the Big 12 should name its Coach of the Year award after Matt Campbell, but Matt Rhule is your winner.

West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen will certainly garner more national attention, and Campbell continues to achieve the unachievable in Ames with Iowa State ranked 24th in the nation.

But what Rhule has done in Waco trumps them both. He is your Big 12 Coach of the Year.

BU finished with one win in 2017 and now it is one win from bowl eligibility in 2018.

With three games remaining – at Iowa State, home against TCU and vs. Texas Tech in Arlington– there is a decent chance Baylor will finish the regular season with the five wins it currently owns.

Considering how the season has evolved, however, the safer bet is to bet on Rhule and Baylor finding one more win; the Bears will play a wounded and struggling TCU team in Waco on Nov. 17. That game against TCU will be Baylor’s best shot to qualify for a bowl.

The Bears have not lost a Big 12 game at home this season.

When evaluating the Big 12 Coach of the Year candidates, the job must be considered before submitting the final selection. Winning at West Virginia is not easy, but it’s been done since the days of Don Nehlen and Major Harris.

What Campbell is doing at Iowa State is reminiscent of the job Bill Snyder once did at Kansas State.

And neither of those men had to navigate the quagmire of junk that Rhule has to maneuver around in Waco.

When Rhule left Temple to accept the Baylor job in December of ‘16 and signed his seven year contract, he took on responsibilities and circumstances that extended far beyond normal football coaching job descriptions.

He had to turn into a de facto spokesperson for the entire university, and lone voice for the school against the questions that Baylor was behind on dealing with issues of sexual assault. Why a football coach had to do that is bizarre, but that was the Baylor job.

Rhule had to be the one who said, “We treat women with respect” in conjunction with normal coach phrases such as, “We have to improve our running game, and the quarterback has to get the ball out quicker.”

Then there was the matter of two recruiting classes that were essentially lost and gutted when previous coach Art Briles was fired in May 2016.

Then there was the matter of Rhule implementing his own means and ways to a roster that was on their third coach in three years. That transition alone normally is hard enough.

Then there is the matter of a new coach who comes into a job that is recovering from a scandal; the administration in these situations scrutinizes everything, and typically limits a coach and his staff from going about business as usual.

Rhule also has to deal with and navigate potential sanctions from the NCAA as committed by the previous regime.

Baylor created its own situation, and Rhule has done everything possible to improve it.

Despite a terrible home loss to a decent Duke team on Sept. 15, Baylor has exceeded any possible plausible expectation. A near-win at Texas on Oct. 13, and Baylor would already be bowl eligible.

Remember, Baylor was picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 preseason poll. The Bears are currently fifth, and they may well qualify for the Armed Forces Bowl.

They also may not win another game, but considering how much they have already done this season, betting against them to reach six wins is unwise.

West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and ISU’s Matt Campbell will both win more games, but no one has done a better job in the Big 12 this season than Matt Rhule.

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