PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Temple turned to the Minister of Mayhem to keep its football renaissance alive.
The Owls hired Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins on Tuesday, plucking one of the SEC's top defensive minds to become their fourth coach in the last eight seasons.
Collins will replace Matt Rhule, who left the Philadelphia-based school last week for Baylor after leading the 23rd-ranked Owls to consecutive double-digit victory seasons and the American Athletic Conference championship this year.
Rhule was at Temple for four seasons and brought the program to new heights, including consecutive bowl bids for the first time in school history.
Collins, 45, has been with the Gators for two seasons and before that was defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. The Gators defense has ranked in the top-10 in the country in each of Collins' two seasons in Gainesville.
"We will compete for championships, we will provide a world-class student-athlete experience and education, and we will represent the community with pride," Collins said.
A Georgia native and former player a Western Carolina, Collins has spent most of coaching career in the South. He spent one season (1996) at Fordham in New York and two seasons (1997-98) at Division III Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania early in his career.
Collins also had stints at Georgia Tech, Alabama, Central Florida and Florida International. He became defensive coordinator for the first time at Mississippi State under coach Dan Mullen and was part of some of the school's most successful teams.
"They're going to get a guy that motivates players, a guy that really understands the game and understands both sides of the ball, not just the defensive side," Florida coach Jim McElwain said. "He's done a great job of studying the offensive side and the things that it takes there. A relentless, competitive recruiter, and a guy that's now been around at some places to see how he can establish his own kind of way of doing things."
Collins once described his defensive philosophy as "a little bit crazy," which helped stick him with the "Mayhem" nickname.
"We're really excited about the opportunity for him and his family at Temple," McElwain said. "It's a place that's really done a great job, and he'll carry that on."
The Owls are counting on Collins to keep the program humming alone as one of the best in the AAC. Rhule worked wonders at Temple and the Owls (10-2) are poised to win 11 games for the first time in program history with a win over Wake Forest in the Dec. 27 Military Bowl. Rhule won a combined 20 games in his last seasons — Temple won 20 games total from 1998-2006 and was winless in 2005.
Rhule was an assistant under Al Golden, who orchestrated the heavy lifting that led the Owls to a bowl game. Rhule returned to the program in 2013 as the head coach following Steve Addazio's two-year stint.
Temple assistant Ed Foley will coach the Owls in the bowl.
"The guy that takes this program over is taking over a program in phenomenal shape," Foley said.
The Owls have become a feeder program of sorts and Golden (who left for Miami) and Rhule both proved that winning in Philly can lead to a Power Five gig. That's a career target for Collins as much as taking Temple to any late December bowl game.
While the program has seen results skyrocket on the field, fan support remains apathetic.
Collins will lead a program that plays in the NFL stadium Lincoln Financial Field. The school's drive for a 35,000-seat stadium appears to be stalled.
The $126 million plan has generated controversy since February, when Temple's board of trustees approved a feasibility study, hired architects and tore down apartments on university land near campus.
Rhule was as much as a rah-rah booster of the program as he was as coach, helping the Owls stay visible in a crowded Philly sports landscape. Rhule helped resurrect from Temple from the brink of extinction — first as an assistant, then as head coach — and led the Owls into the AP Top 25 last year for the first time since 1979. The Owls returned to the Top 25 this season and won their first conference championship since 1967.
Collins now his turn to try and keep the Owls perched there.