In an era of flight trackers and internet sleuths, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts pulled off the ultimate heist — getting a potential coaching candidate in and out of Lincoln without anyone noticing.
Speaking about Nebraska’s coaching search, Alberts said he interacted with 13 different candidates, with Rhule being option “1A” among those coaches. But, negotiations were slow and not always easy, so Alberts believed he needed to get Rhule to Lincoln for a visit.
Through the help of a donor, Alberts said Rhule and his wife flew into Omaha and stayed at his house while getting to know Lincoln. But, how did no one notice? For one thing, Rhule said this occurred on a Husker gameday where attention was elsewhere.
“We literally flew in — I can’t believe no one found out — we drove around and we said, ‘Could we raise our kids here? We said absolutely,’” Rhule said. “We left and I kind of looked at my wife that this was done.”
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While Rhule declined to say what day this visit took place on, negotiations still carried through to Thanksgiving. Although seeing Lincoln certainly helped seal the deal for Rhule and his family, his relationship with Alberts also played a major role.
And when Rhule, his wife Julie and their three children stepped off their plane in Lincoln on Monday morning, the first people they saw were Alberts and his wife, Angela.
“My wife has been the superstar in this whole deal,” Alberts said. “They flew into Omaha and stayed with us at our house and we were able to show them around Lincoln and the great state of Nebraska. It’s just like recruiting — if we get people here, they’re blown away. It’s one thing to see videos about our university, but you have to get them here.”
And for Rhule, his wife’s blessing was also of the utmost importance when deciding on Nebraska. The long, tough hours of a head football coach are hardly an industry secret — and Rhule said his wife is the exact same.
“My wife Julie woke up yesterday morning at 6 a.m., put three dogs and three kids in a (Mercedes) Sprinter van, drove 12 hours back to Charlotte and got there at 11:00, ironed the kids’ clothes until 12:30, was up at 4 and is here smiling,” Rhule said of the journey to get to Lincoln. “She’s a grinder, and she’s the best.”
So, without that covert trip to Lincoln or the bonds built between his family and the Alberts, perhaps Rhule wouldn’t have ended up as Nebraska’s head coach. Instead, Alberts’ ability to fly under the radar (or evade it altogether) paid off in helping Nebraska land his top choice.
“When we were able to sit down face-to-face and build that trust, I think it was a game-changer for both of us,” Alberts said.
Matt Rhule to Nebraska: Here's what people are saying
Nebraska P Brian Buschini
I love Nebraska and all we stand for! The mentorship I’ve gotten from Coach Ron Brown has changed my life! Thank you fans for continued support, let’s turn this thing around @CoachMattRhule… Absolutely I’m coming back, GBR‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/oLNPfxfqQo— BRIAN BUSCHINI (@brian_buschini) November 26, 2022
UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green
Very pleased & excited to welcome Matt Rhule to Nebraska as our head coach & leader of Husker football. Trev conducted a razor-focused, strategic & deliberative search keyed on long term success for our Husker student scholar athletes & the best fans in intercollegiate athletics. https://t.co/s1va1winIo— Ronnie D. Green (@RonnieDGreen) November 26, 2022
Ex-Husker Will Compton
UNL President Ted Carter
AD @TrevAlberts has run a thoughtful, thorough search for our next @HuskerFBNation football coach. I fully support his selection of Matt Rhule -- someone who knows what it takes to rebuild, because he's done it before. My full statement: https://t.co/GE33xbI3uE pic.twitter.com/byh9FSwc2f— Ted Carter (@UofNE_President) November 26, 2022
Matt Schick, ESPN
Love the hire of Matt Rhule. A program builder & rebuilder.— Matt Schick (@ESPN_Schick) November 26, 2022
Temple had one 10-win season in its history. Rhule did it twice.
After Briles scandal, he went 1-11, 7-6, 11-3. Pre-portal.
Husker fans want progress. Based on his track record, they won’t have to wait long to see it.
Nebraska hires a guy in @CoachMattRhule that has a great reputation as a college builder. And Nebraska definitely needs building.— Kevin Kugler (@kevinkugler) November 26, 2022
Enjoyed chatting with him covering several Panthers games. I think he'll be happy to be back in college. https://t.co/B4xlWIOdoZ
Rodger Sherman, The Ringer
If the Carolina Panthers agreed to pay me $40 million to not do any work I would choose not to do any work but I guess Matt Rhule is built different— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) November 26, 2022
Matt Rhule is great hire for @HuskerFBNation. Built double-digit win teams at Temple & Baylor. Prior to him getting there, those were two of hardest schools in CFB to win at. Scouted at both schools during my time in NFL and getting 10 wins at either place is an incredible feat.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) November 26, 2022