Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Rhule are friends, no doubt adding a layer of interest to Sunday's game in Carolina between the Cardinals and the Panthers. Not only are the two high-profile college coaches who made the jump to the NFL, but Rhule handed Kingsbury his final college defeat in 2018, the one that ultimately got him fired.
And Rhule felt bad.
"Just to tell you the kind of man he is, he literally texted me an hour after the game as it was coming out I had gotten fired just saying, 'Sorry about that.' " Kingsbury told Carolina reporters Wednesday. "And (he) was genuine about it. He really felt bad I had lost my job because they had beat us."
The regular-season finale between Texas Tech and Baylor had been a playoff of sorts. The winner would be bowl eligible, the loser not. Baylor came way with the 35-24 win. Kingsbury was fired with two years left on his contract.
"I was sad for him at the time because I think he's a really good coach, I think he did a great job at Texas Tech and when he was leaving I just wanted to call and let him know if there was anything I could do for him, just like I know he would do for me," Rhule said. "When he got this opportunity in Arizona, I got fired up for him. Every time I get a chance to see him I make sure to reach out."
Kingsbury landed on his feet well, first taking the offensive coordinator job with USC, albeit briefly until the Cardinals came calling in January of 2019. Rhule, meanwhile, finished up a superb job at Baylor -- after rebuilding Temple before that -- before being hired by the Panthers this offseason.
"I consider (Kliff) a friend," Rhule said. "He's one of the guys I called when I was trying to figure out last year if I was going to go to the NFL or not. He was kind enough to have a couple of my Baylor coaches out to talk football with him when he first went to Arizona to help us in the Big 12."
Kingsbury too had high praise for his counterpart.
"He's a phenomenal coach and an even better person too," Kingsbury said. "He's one of my favorite people I've met in coaching."