This is going to sound weird, but it's time to trust the Baylor football coach.

The reason mingled in the school's official suite last month during Baylor's Cactus Bowl game against Boise State. Matt Rhule was neither overbearing nor a wallflower. He also had no ties to the school, to the state or to its football culture.

And that's not even the hard part as Baylor's new coach finalizes his first recruiting class. An East Coast guy came to central Texas from Temple in December knowing full well the NCAA, the Department of Education and/or the courts could be administering the next dose of poison to Baylor.

That's not even the hardest part in terms of why the 41-year-old former walk-on linebacker for Joe Paterno is here in the first place.

That would be to use football as both an athletic and spiritual tool to help lift the school out of an ongoing sexual assault scandal.

"It was a calling," Rhule said at his introductory press conference.

It is a calling propped up by a seven-year contract because all indications Baylor's football renovation is going to take a while. It is a calling also because Rhule all but stared Phil Knight in the eye and turned down an offer from Oregon to come to Waco, Texas.

"Hypothetically," the coach corrected, "I would have never said that [directly] to him."

Perhaps not, but the offer was on the table, and it was rejected. Oregon, even coming off its worst season in a quarter century, is by any measure better than being at Baylor right now possibly staring into an abyss.

"I'm not the perfect guy, but was I made for this job?" Rhule said. "I don't know, I just feel something about it was, 'Go there.'"

Go there? Rhule has been there. His dad, a Nazarene minister, moved the whole family from suburban Kansas City to New York 36 years ago for a job that didn't pay a dime.

Denny Rhule felt a calling: to lead, run and fundraise for Lamb's Church of the Nazarene at 44th Street and 8th Street near Times Square.

"He had to raise all his own money," Matt said. "He took a job landscaping. He took trees to the 80th floor and put them up on roofs. He's afraid of heights."

It was not the rehabbed tourist destination that Times Square is today. A decaying Times Square was the backdrop of Matt's life from age 5 to 16.

"There were a lot of buildings where they had sex places you could go," Denny Rhule said. "It wasn't a very nice place. High-crime area, dirty.

"But it was a good place to be, learned a lot there. Nothing ever happened to my Gloria and I."

It's beginning to come clear why Matt came to Baylor. If this job derails or delays his career, well, he's seen worse. During those New York years, the family would stage annual holiday black-tie dinners for the homeless.

For one day, the folks you would step over during the week had some dignity. With mom and dad, little Matt and his older sister would sling the meals.

"One night we had a service at the church for the New Year," Matt's mother, Gloria Rhule, recalled. "Then we left a little before the ball dropped. We were going to walk back to the tram to take us home. Our experience wasn't like you see on TV. There were some bottles flying. You had to step over areas where people had gotten sick."

Both parents were educators. At an elite private school, Denny taught the sons of both Paul Simon and actress Barbara Hershey. Gloria worked for the New York Fellowship, a non-profit that dealt in crisis counseling.

Matt got an education growing up on Roosevelt Island, a melting pot in the middle of the East River. He mingled with both kids from subsidized housing and the offspring of diplomats.

"I think that was really important to who he is," Denny Rhule said. "It's a feeling like God had a special place for him. He felt the calling was to go to Baylor."

There's that C-word again.

"He's been equipped to do what he can at Baylor, to solve the situation," Denny said, adding, "not solve it completely."

Probably no one can do that. There's no guarantee Rhule will get anywhere close to Briles' accomplishments: coaching a Heisman winner, back-to-back Big 12 titles and national championship aspirations.

But is that even the point? For a large part of its history, Baylor football has been a doormat. But no matter who you want to pin a moral colossal failing on, it shouldn't be all about football anyway.

The first thought must be with the victims of sexual assault in this scandal.

"I've taken some leaps of faith before," the new coach said, "and they've always worked out."

Last month, Matt and his wife Julie were at his favorite New York restaurant -- Nobu Fifty Seven -- literally weighing offers from both Baylor and Oregon. One phone dying, the other one ringing, they looked at each other and agreed on Waco.

Rhule arrived, straight outta Philadelphia, all East Coast with absolutely no Texas in him.

By that time, acting Baylor coach Jim Grobe was ready to hand over the team. Shortly after landing in Phoenix for the bowl game, Grobe quickly told reporters, "Basically, for the last six months, I've taken all the bullets, and they're out of ammunition. So now all he's gotta do is go coach football."

It's not that simple, but it is a clean slate.

"I have no ties to this situation," Matt Rhule said. "Also, as I told the players at Baylor, I didn't want them to be embarrassed having ties to Baylor.

"They wanted someone to stand up for them and fight for them. Wait a minute, now, these kids didn't do that. I'm here to be their voice."

There is plenty of advocacy in his past. Matt's parents eventually landed in State College, Pennsylvania. He walked on at Penn State, playing for teams that lost a total of eight games in his four seasons.

His parents knew Jerry Sandusky. Denny worked for the now-disgraced Second Mile organization for a year.

Like a lot of folks, they never realized the degree of Sandusky's evil.

"It was a complete shock to me and everybody in State College," Denny said.

Perhaps no coach in the country, then, better knows how football can become too big to fail -- until it does.

"It's just like my alma mater," Matt Rhule said. "You look at what's happened that maybe went wrong. You learn from it, you identify it, but you move on. You always have an eye to the future but you always honor the past."

Rhule came to Temple from the New York Giants as an offensive line assistant five years ago, telling his new team that in four years they would win the conference championship.

The Owls did exactly that last month, beating Navy for the American Athletic Conference title. Shortly after leading Temple to its first conference championship in 49 years, Rhule found himself in a Phoenix hotel room screaming for his former team in their bowl game.

"When they scored that first touchdown, my wife and I almost had security come," Rhule said.

It is a calling for Rhule because there is one certainty: Baylor's whole football culture is about to change.

In that raucous suite that night of the Cactus Bowl, board of regents chair Ron Murff was asked if football got too big at Baylor.

"I can say 'out of proportion' ... ," Murff said. "Art Briles just was kind out of the mainstream of the university the way he was doing [things]."

Murff is one of three Baylor officials being sued by Briles, who is alleging libel, slander and conspiracy in his firing.

Let's start slow, then, discussing that culture change. Athletic director Mack Rhoades is a shining example. In July, he left one set of problems at Missouri for another set at Baylor.

There was no guarantee he'd get any coach of substance. Rhoades, though, kept telling insiders he would get someone good. It wasn't revealed until later that he had talked extensively to Rhule at Mizzou before hiring Barry Odom.

Rhule eventually turned down that interest for one more year at Temple. At that point, Matt and Julie had become minor celebrities in Philadelphia.

Julie Rhule had grown up on a farm in the middle of Pennsylvania. She was a waitress while Matt was a fry cook at Chili's in State College, both attending Penn State.

Julie took a semester off to be with a grieving family after a relative had died.

"We went on a couple of dates," she described. "I said, 'Listen, you're young. You've got your full life ahead of you. I've got a lot going on in my life. Do college; do you. I can't do this right now.'"

Matt wouldn't stop calling. They were married a few years later.

"I had no idea what I was marrying into, but I haven't regretted a single second," she said.

That includes seven coaching stops since Matt Rhule broke in as the Albright College (Reading) linebackers coach in 1998.

That includes one year as a graduate assistant at UCLA. That includes walking into Temple coach Al Golden's office one way and asking for a job in 2006. There wasn't one but when an opening came up a few months later, Golden called Rhule to coach his defensive line.

By the time Baylor called, Rhule was a Temple guy having spent a combined 10 years with the program.

"I was shocked with people's reactions to this move," Julie said. "People have been very congratulatory. I thought, 'Wow, are we in Philly right now?' "

"If a light turns red, they boo," Matt reminded of the infamous Philadelphia skepticism.

They are Texans now. Julie actually someone finds comparisons between Philadelphia and Waco. The family has been immersed.

Matt and Julie still had to break it gently to the oldest, 11-year-old Bryant. They picked him up early from school so Bryant wouldn't hear the news of a new home while in class.

"One of the ways we kind of processed it is, 'We're going to watch a show so you can see Waco,'" Julie said.

The flipped on the TV to HGTV's "Fixer Upper" starring the first family of Waco, Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Ask the new coach about his offense and he pauses. Let's just say it's finally clear Briles and his innovative up tempo spread that branded the entire school, actually, has probably left town with its creator.

"It's a worthwhile question," Rhule said of his yet-articulated offense. "I wish I could give a better answer. There's people that believe tempo is the star. There's people who believe the system is the star. There's people that believe the players are the stars. I come from that mindset."

If that's the case, it's going to be a long slog. With less than a week to go before National Signing Day, rival schools don't even have to lie to negative recruit.

All they have to do is open a newspaper or sports website the last eight months.

There are four ongoing Title IX lawsuits from Baylor women. The Department of Education is investigating whether the school violated Title IX. The NCAA has grandstanded saying it does not intend to impose Penn State-like sanctions. (Like that will ever happen again.)

But there is the possibility of the NCAA starting a traditional rules-breaking investigation. Example: Any of those players accused of assault who practiced or players could theoretically have received extra benefits by seeing the field.

"There's no commitments?" Rhule ruminated during Baylor's 31-12 over Boise that night in Phoenix. "You know what? I'll go sign the 25 kids I like."

At that moment in late December, there was actually one commitment. That placed Baylor's "class" at No. 137 in 247Sports' rankings, behind some FCS programs.

As Feb. 1 approaches, Rhule's first Baylor recruiting class has swelled to 20. Considering part of the program has been (figuratively) burned to the ground, that is impressive.

There are six players enrolling this month who count against last year's class. Six other players committed on Sunday alone. With the scandal swirling, retention has been higher than expected. There are approximately 61 scholarship players on the roster.

With a full class, Rhule might approach the 85-scholarship limit.

Seventeen of the 20 recruits are from Texas. The top in-state recruit is Gavin Holmes, a 178-pound receiver rated the 58th-best player in Texas. The top player at his position is a 272-pound guard rated 362nd nationally. There are 19 three-stars, one two-star. No are four- for five-stars.

There are rumblings there is a big-time signee waiting out there to land. Not bad for a class that basically didn't exist a month ago.

"They're not just taking guys to take guys," said Ryan Bartow, 247Sports' national recruiting insider. "Some solid gets in there."

We'll have to trust the Baylor coach on all of it. And maybe it's about time at a fractured university in some way responsible for the fractured souls of those victims.

Those recruits will get the same message as their new teammates have already gotten.

"We are not who they say we are," Rhule said. "We are who we are. The guys who stay and move forward will be remembered for a long time."