Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell is AP coach of the year

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
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Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell is The Associated Press college football coach of the year after leading the Chanticleers to a surprising, near-perfect season.

Chadwell received 16 first-place votes and 88 points from the AP Top 25 panel to finish ahead of Indiana’s Tom Allen, who was second with 14 first-place votes and 66 points. Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell was third (5, 44) and Alabama’s Nick Saban was fourth (8, 42).

Chadwell is the first Sun Belt Conference coach to win the AP award, which was established in 1988, and the third coach to earn it with a team from outside the Power Five leagues. UCF’s Scott Frost was AP coach of the year in 2017 and Gary Patterson won the first of his two AP awards with TCU in 2009 when the Horned Frogs were competing in the Mountain West.

San Jose State’s Brent Brennan finished fifth, meaning Group of Five teams had three of the top five coaches in this year’s voting.

The 43-year-old Chadwell directed a breakout season for No. 9 Coastal Carolina (11-1) in his third year leading the program.

The Chanticleers were picked last in the Sun Belt’s East Division after finishing 5-7 (2-6) last year.

“I knew we weren’t as bad as people were going to pick us to be,” Chadwell said. “I thought we were going to be pretty good. I knew we were going to be better.”

Instead, behind freshman quarterback Grayson McCall running a creative option offense, Coastal Carolina had its best season since transitioning to the Bowl Subdivision in 2017.

The Chanticleers made the Sun Belt championship game, though they did not get to play in it because of COVID-19 issues within the program. But they finished with a perfect regular season that included victories over Sun Belt West winner Louisiana-Lafayette and three-time conference champion Appalachian State.

McCall was injured during the victory against Louisiana-Lafayette and didn’t play the following week. When the Chanticleers still beat Georgia Southern the next week without McCall, Chadwell knew he had something special.

“Nobody panicked,” Chadwell said. “We started getting all kinds of national attention after that Louisiana game and I started worrying that’s going to go to our head, and it didn’t. And after that game when we found a way to win it, I thought we’re going to be tough to beat from here on out.”

Coastal Carolina also beat BYU in one of best games of this strange season. After a virus outbreak forced Liberty to pull out of a nonconference game scheduled for Dec. 5 in Conway, South Carolina, the Cougars and Chants agreed to play on short notice.

Coastal won a 22-17 thriller, stopping BYU on the final play a yard short of the goal line and a winning touchdown.

Earlier this week, senior defensive end Tarron Jackson was named an AP All-American and senior defensive tackle C.J. Brewer was selected to the third team.

“This has been the best senior leadership class I have ever been around,” Chadwell said.

The Chants’ perfect season came to an end last week when they lost in overtime to Liberty in the Cure Bowl.

Chadwell came to Coastal Carolina in 2017 as offensive coordinator for former coach Joe Moglia after four successful season at FCS Charleston Southern. Instead of being offensive coordinator, Chadwell served as interim head coach at Coastal in his first season when Moglia needed to sit out for health reasons.

“That was the worst professional year of my life. It was so challenging,” Chadwell said. “It was basically being a substitute teacher when everybody knew the teacher was coming back.”

Moglia returned for one season in 2018 and then retired, handing it off to Chadwell, who quickly brought the program to new heights.

“I never doubted that it would work. I felt strongly about what we were doing,” Chadwell said. “I think this year was maybe the first time it was truly my team.”

And it turned out to be the best team in school history.

“Everybody wants 2020 to end. I kept telling my wife I hope it gets to Dec. 31 and we just keep running it over because it’s been unbelievable,” Chadwell said.

Voting

Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina – 88 points (16 first-place votes).

Tom Allen, Indiana – 66 (14).

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati – 44 (5).

Nick Saban, Alabama – 42 (8).

Brent Brennan, San Jose State – 25 (3).

Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M – 7 (2).

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame – 7 (1).

Matt Campbell, Iowa State – 7.

Billy Napier, Louisiana-Lafayette – 2

Kalani Sitake, BYU – 2.

Ryan Day, Ohio State – 1.

Dave Doeren, North Carolina State – 1.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern – 1.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson – 1.

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.