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November 30, 2015

Temple might have to pony up to keep Matt Rhule from Mizzou

In the middle of such negativity surrounding the four professional teams in town, Temple football is flying higher than… well, ever. The No. 25 Owls’ 10 wins match the school record set in 1979, and they will take on Houston in the American Athletic Conference title game this Saturday.

Win that game, and Temple could play in the Fiesta Bowl (yes, the one whose former sponsor employs Chip Kelly). Heady stuff, indeed. If you have time, check out this video of head coach Matt Rhule after Saturday’s win over UConn.

“What’s next?” seems to be a motto for the program, but it’s also a question worth asking of the coach himself: What’s next for Rhule? When coaches start winning at places like Temple (and Rhule is winning big), larger programs tend to scoop them up. In the past five years, it has happened with both Al Golden and Steve Addazio.

Missouri, losing longtime head coach Gary Pinkel due to health reasons, is the opening that has been linked to Rhule most frequently. He reportedly met with Mizzou athletic director Mack Rhoades in Philly on Sunday, but there seems to be confusion whether Rhule or the Tigers’ current defensive coordinator Barry Odom will be offered the job in Columbia.

John DiCarlo of OwlScoop thinks retaining Rhule is more important to the program than it was when Addazio or Golden left. There is a lot of money at stake, after all: Temple is trying to get an on-campus football stadium built, and the team could play in a major bowl game in just a few weeks. Rhule currently makes “in the neighborhood of $1.3 million,” but DiCarlo thinks they would be better off offering some more cash to keep him:

So for Temple to commit as much as it has in the name of big-time college football and come this far and then let its coach flirt with other programs or even get on a plane to go visit them would be akin to getting engaged, planning the wedding and then letting your fiance go out on Saturday nights without her ring on. It's risky, at best.

To take a look at the Mizzou point of view, I found Bill Connelly’s writing at Rock M Nation, which is part of the SB Nation network. Connelly warns of a scenario that will cause Mizzou fans to freak out, if Rhule is the choice and Odom bolts in the next few days for Memphis to replace new Virginia Tech boss Justin Fuente. Then, Mizzou fans would wait a week for Rhule to coach against Houston while Temple admins could have time to prepare their pitch:

Within that four-day (or so) window, Temple boosters and administrators will likely have time to craft an awfully attractive bid for Rhule, all the while appealing to the fact that he and his wife like Philadelphia, and that he could be a part of the stadium-building process, etc. Mizzou can outbid Temple, obviously, but Temple can make an attractive bid and appeal to his sentimentality. And while I'd still be confident in saying that Rhule will come to Columbia if offered, silence is kryptonite for confidence.

So, it seems like both schools have reason to be terrified. This should be fun.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann