Penn State AD Pat Kraft: Troy Dannen is ‘strategic,’ fits well with Matt Rhule at Nebraska

Penn State athletic director Pat Kraft has worked closely with Matt Rhule and Troy Dannen, and Kraft said he believes Nebraska’s second-year football coach and its new AD form a perfect pair.

“They’ll be great,” Kraft said. “They know each other. Troy is very strategic. He understands how to lay out a plan. In this world, you’ve got to know what’s coming around the corner or you’re going to get caught and left behind. I think this is great for Matt and Nebraska, but it’s also great for all of the Nebraska teams.”

Nebraska hired Dannen on Wednesday from Washington, where he worked as the athletic director since October after spending eight years at Tulane.

Dannen arrived in Lincoln on Wednesday night. He spent time with Rhule and the Nebraska football team — which starts spring practice early next week — before flying to Memphis for the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Nebraska plays Friday night against Texas A&M.

At Tulane, Dannen connected with Kraft, a fellow AD in the American Athletic Conference. Kraft led the department at Temple from 2015 to 2020. He extended Rhule’s contract with the Owls after Rhule’s third season as head coach at the school in 2015.

Rhule is “like a brother to me,” Kraft said. They talk often. Rhule and Kraft discussed Rhule’s situation at Nebraska after Trev Alberts left unexpectedly for Texas A&M on March 13. Alberts, the Nebraska AD since 2021, hired Rhule in November 2022.

An Illinois native and Indiana graduate, Kraft said he also talked with Dannen in the brief time that the Nebraska job was open.

“It wasn’t a Washington thing. It was a Nebraska thing,” Kraft said of Dannen, a Northern Iowa graduate from Marshalltown, Iowa. “It was about Nebraska. It was a great move for his family. That I know was the draw, but I know he struggled.

“Sometimes timing isn’t always the best, but that’s a perfect fit for him and the family. Troy is really smart. People will see fast, he’s strategic. He understands the shifting landscape.”

Kraft took over at Penn State in 2022 after a stint as the AD at Boston College. While in the AAC, he formed bonds with Dannen, Hunter Jurachek, then at Houston and now at Arkansas, and Mark Hanlan, then at South Florida and now at Utah. All of them remain close.

Kraft said he told Alberts after Rhule accepted the Nebraska, “just do what Matt says, and you guys will be fine.” Kraft’s advice for Dannen will be the same.

“I have learned and continue to learn a lot from Matt,” Kraft said. “I know his relationship with Trev was good, but Matt is cool as a cucumber. (Rhule and Dannen) will get their cadence very quick. I’m just excited for both of them, because I know what Matt needs.

“I want him to be uber-successful — until we beat them in the championship game.”

(Photo: Jesse Beals / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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