The first head coach Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts spoke at length about at Matt Rhule’s introductory event wasn’t Rhule himself.
Instead, it was Mickey Joseph, the interim who led the Huskers through the final nine games of the 2022 season.
Alberts, the first to speak, thanked Joseph early in his opening statement.
“Mickey did an outstanding job,” he said. “I had a lot of respect for coach Joseph prior to him becoming our interim coach, I have more respect for him now. The way that he worked, continued working, doing the right things, fighting hard for these young men and investing in them was really something. To see them have that moment against Iowa was really, really special.”
Joseph took over after Scott Frost’s firing and ended the year with a 3-6 record in his time at the helm, bring the team to 4-8 in 2022. The rivalry win over Iowa in the final game, as mentioned by Alberts, may have been the highlight of his stint. Other than that, he lost his first game to Oklahoma and led the Huskers to back-to-back victories over Indiana and Rutgers before going on a five-game losing streak.
As evidenced by the hiring of Rhule, Joseph’s time as coach wasn’t enough to earn him the role beyond this season. In recent weeks, Joseph said he was yet to have a conversation with Alberts regarding his future with the program, and he expected some closure in that regard following the season’s conclusion.
Alberts said he met with Joseph weekly — as he did with Frost — and gave the interim coach the chance to show his vision for the program.
The athletic director said that Joseph has a bright future in coaching and implied that experience played a part in the decision.
“For me, looking at where our program is today, and perhaps some of it is risk mitigation, if you will, having somebody that has built a program multiple times at multiple levels under difficult circumstances, Matt Rhule was the coach that was the most obvious choice for me,” Alberts said.
Joseph’s only previous collegiate head coaching experience came a decade ago in two seasons at Langston, an NAIA school. Rhule spent four seasons as the head coach at Temple and three at Baylor, making significant improvements at both programs after poor first years.
Now that a decision has been made, Joseph’s role is still up in the air. He originally signed on to be Nebraska’s wide receivers coach, passing game coordinator and associate head coach, and both Alberts and Rhule were asked about the possibility of retaining him as an assistant.
Alberts said that keeping Joseph wasn’t a requirement for any coaching candidate, and that Rhule will have full control over his staff.
The new head coach said he reached out to Joseph right when he got the job, and agreed that he performed admirably as interim.
“I’ve been an assistant coach on a staff that’s been let go and I’ve always appreciated the coach coming in and talking to me,” Rhule said. “So, you know, I’ll try to be thorough with that process over the next couple days.”
Rhule’s focus right now is talking to the current players, but the staff, with an assistant salary pool of $7 million dollars, may begin to take shape soon. Joseph isn’t the only coach who could be kept either, but Rhule said that any potential assistant has to be in line with what he wants for the team.
“It all comes down to fit, people have to want to be here,” he said. “Number one, they have to want to be in the role that they’re in. And we have to all move forward. Again, when I’ve not had success, it’s when some people are pulling in one direction. There will be a very clear vision and a very clear process for how we do things within the walls of the football program and within the X’s and O’s, and so any staff member that’s bought into that, I’d love to talk to them.”
The decision isn’t solely a manner of whether Rhule wants Joseph or not, either. Joseph has put together a successful coaching career, and his name could be in the mix for other jobs. Arizona State was reported to have some level of interest before hiring Kenny Dillingham as head coach, and he’s potentially a candidate for the opening at Tulsa, according to The Athletic.
In Joseph’s most recent media availability, he didn’t have any worries about his future, wherever that may be.
“The next guy comes in, he deserves to pick his staff,” Joseph said after the win against Iowa. “I’m good with it. I’ve been in this thing for over 25-plus years. I’ve got a pretty good resume, so somebody’s going to hire me.”