|'05 post-season news
'A dream come true' for family man, Texan who
has fashioned turnarounds wherever he's been
"There are faces of people in the crowd where
you can see the doubt. Thats fine. But two, three years from now, well have
all those things changed, and well have restored the great tradition"
"You know, I tell people all the time that the reason
were going to throw the football is because when you go out in the front yard with
your kid, you dont hand it off to him. You throw it to him"
"This was a big deal to me. Rice University was a big deal when I was growing
up. It wasnt only that it was in the Southwest Conference"
"This situation here is one that Ive researched quite a bit and
theres no doubt in my mind that were going to build a winner here"
"Our motto has been, everywhere Ive coached, is,
We dont talk about what we cant do. We talk about what we can do,
and what we do have. And thats going to be our motto here"
"You hear coaches talk about Five Year Plans. Well, my Five Year
Plan is that we need to win a whole bunch of games the next five years"
"It had to do with the fact that Ive always thought a
lot of this place. I had a feeling in my heart about Rice. I came to interview, and I just
felt a connection"
"Its when that kid makes that great play, and you watch
them they get up off the ground and they run they run to their coach. And
the look on their face you cant see from the stands. But thats why I
By Paul T. Hlavinka
HOUSTON (Jan. 1) Rice University Athletic Director Bobby May
introduced the Institutes new football coach here Sunday in the person of former
University of Tulsa assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Todd Graham. May
and Graham spoke for about half an hour in the "R" Room before an apparently
wowed group of jaded media professionals and a crowd of supporters, current and former
players and onlookers.
A 41-year-old father of a blended family of six, Coach Graham called his
appointment as the seventeenth head coach in the 90-year history of Rice football "a
dream come true." In assuming the post, the native Texan with strong ties to
Oklahoma follows the footsteps of John W. Heisman, Jess Neely, Ken Hatfield, and other men
who strove, mostly with only intermittent success.
This Young Man in a Hurry has big ideas and grandiose plans, however.
"I want the Rice community to understand, more than anything, that my passion is to
bring a winner here," Coach Graham told the crowd. "Anything less than
being Conference USA champions, and bowl champions, is unacceptable. Those high
expectations are the way that were going to approach everything that we do."
"There are faces of people in the crowd where you can see the doubt. Thats
fine. But two, three years from now, well have all those things changed, and
well have restored the great tradition."
It was suggested early on that he hire another Graham, Bobby
May said, speaking of Rice baseball coach Wayne Graham, now a living legend and arguably
the dean of U.S. college baseball coaches. And Coach May said he thought the University
has wound up with a Graham of virtually identical stripe.
"I think we did that in more ways than one," Bobby said. "Our new
football coach fits to perfection the profile that we developed for this job.
Hes a winner, with strong Texas ties. Hes had success at private schools, both
athletically and academically."
"He helped choreograph turnarounds everywhere hes been,"
the veteran Rice AD added, "at the high school level, at West Virginia, and most
recently at Tulsa. He has a passion for football as a player and as a coach -- an
incredible level. He comes highly recommended by his former players, and his peers in the
coaching profession. Most of all, hes a great fit for Rice University."
Appointment especially meaningful to old-time SWC
"Ive dreamed of this day since I was in the seventh grade,"
Coach Graham told his audience, flush with emotion. The Mesquite native said he grew up
weaned on Southwest Conference football. "And I get those memories of turning on the
TV and watching Rice play Texas, and being so tied up in all the SWC games."
"So this was a big deal to me. Rice University was a big deal when I was
growing up. It wasnt only that it was in the Southwest Conference, it was the
prestige of the school."
When one reads the published rankings and sees that Rice is consistently ranked
among the top 15 or 20 universities in the country, of any size or stripe, the new head
man noted, that cannot help but make one take pause.
"Believe me, it is something that you can recruit with," Coach Graham
said. "And we are going to," he added, indicating that he and his staff will
have every intention of turning what many see as a huge disadvantage Rices
stringent admissions requirements into a recruiting advantage.
"This situation here is one that Ive researched quite a bit," he
said, "and theres no doubt in my mind that were going to build a winner
here. There are things in place that fit me to a T. I appear to have a talent
for coaching intelligent players. We had intelligent players at Tulsa. And we were able to
coach them, to get them to improve."
Call it idealistic; perhaps call it even somewhat naive, but this young fellow
believes sincerely that he can win, and win quickly, at Rice.
New head man has 'Five Year Plan' that starts with 'Win Now'
"You hear coaches talk about Five Year Plans," he noted with a grin.
"Well, my Five Year Plan is that we need to win a whole bunch of games
the next five years."
"I mean, Ive got a plan every day. My plan starts again, every day.
And it all adds up to being successful in everything we do. And if you have a passion
about that, and if you are willing to work, thats the key to achieving it. If
dont have a passion for working, you will be miserable. Because we are going to work
and have a passion about what were doing."
"But youve just got to chip at it, every day. And then you look up
and youre being succssful. Youre winning."
Being successful also necessarily implies a capability in building
relationships, Coach Graham said. "You cant just sit there and work hard and be
disciplined, but stay put and not get out and build relationships with people."
"Were going to get out there in the market place. I want to be involved, I
want to meet every person I can meet. You cant get things done if you dont
build relationships with people. And were going to build relationships with people.
Were going to get out there and build them, just one handshake at a time."
Nonetheless, the bottom line has it that people arent going to get fully involved
until a team shows something on the field, he emphasized. "So our plan is to go
out there this next fall, and show something on the field. If we do that, the rest will
all take care of itself."
How do you win? "You work hard," was Todd Grahams reply.
"Theres no substitute for it. And were going to work hard in practice, in
recruiting. Were going to work hard, every single day."
"It happens just one rep at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a
'Working hard' is well and good, but what about specifics?
One of Coach Grahams stated goals is to produce the hardest-working, most
disciplined, and best- conditioned football team in America, Bobby May noted.
Thats all well and good but lets get down to specifics. Just what
will the 2006 model year Rice offense and defense look like? Well, for starters, the new
Rice coach said, he and his staff will adapt to the materials that he has at hand
not force the issue the other way around.
And he does believe hes got enough offensive talent on the current squad to be
able to spread the ball around. That includes throwing the ball.
"You know, I tell people all the time that the reason were going to throw
the football," the defensive expert said, "is because when you go out in the
front yard with your kid, you dont hand it off to him. You throw it to him."
That quip got a big laugh, but also a bemused reflection, from the press conference
"Offensively, I believe we can recruit guys that can run and catch the football. I
believe we can recruit the one-back-type tailbacks here. I believe weve got guys
here right now who can do that."
But the main message the new head man wants to bring with him, Rices idealistic
young coach said, from the moment he arrives on campus, is this: "Were going to
win football games here, and were going to play great defense. Were going to
play a great kicking game. Were going to take care of the football on offense. Our
kids are going to play hard. And were going to be entertaining to watch. Those are
"Our motto has been, everywhere Ive coached: We
dont talk about what we cant do. We talk about what we can do,
and what we do have. And thats going to be our motto here."
"And you just put your head down; you develop a great attitude; you give great
effort and you look up, and youve been successful. Thats the simple
Coach Grahams biggest hire among assistant coaches clearly will be for the
position of Offensive Coordinator. "Ive got several in mind right now," he
said. "But Ill be involved in everything were doing offense,
defense, special teams, recruiting, everything."
Rice team called 'very close' despite
winning only one game in '05
Oh, by the way dont sell this current group of Owl players short, the
former Tulsa talent evaluator admonished. And after all, hes been scouting them,
recruiting them, and trying to figure out how to defense them for the past three years
during his stint with Steve Kragthorpe.
"I think that this Rice team was very close. If you look at games this year, in
the last half of the season the Central Florida game was really close. The UTEP
game was one they could have won. They were just really close to being able to get over
"Its not a program, I think, thats been decimated ; where theres
no talent, no hope. No way."
"I always thought that they played hard. I thought the Rice kids got after it
well." Rather, Coach Graham said diplomatically, the situation was simply one where
the introduction of new ideas, a fresh approach, and what he termed
"modernizing" read whatever you want into that was necessary in
order to breathe new life in the Rice program.
"A lot of that has to do with getting kids excited in recruiting," he noted.
Recruit for your needs, adapt your needs to a realistic level, and build excitement
those are the keys for a successful recruiting haul, Rices new Pied Piper stated.
"When you go recruiting kids, you have to be realistic. Its just like,
defensively, I know why we ran a three-man front at Tulsa," he said, referring to the
3-3-5 defensive set that helped lead the Hurricane to the C-USA championship this year.
"Whats the hardest thing in the world, right now, for us to recruit, in
Conference USA, is defensive linemen. Well, we only have to have three."
"And then our nose tackle can be a guy thats six-foot, 280 pounds, and can
whip anybody around, but the Texases and the OUs are never going to recruit a guy for that
position thats only six feet tall."
"With an odd front," he went on, "it gives you a chance to develop your
schemes in a way that you are able to recruit to them, year in and year out. We can
recruit those defensive back, outside linebacker, strong safety kids that can run."
"And then you have to be innovative. When you only have three down linemen, people
usually think they can run over you, and they try to. They did that yesterday (in
Tulsas Liberty Bowl win over Fresno State), and we had to draw up a few of em
in the dirt to get them stopped."
Tulsa powers-that-be tried hard to keep new Rice
coach in the fold
Tulsa sports administrators apparently did everything they could to
dissuade their valued defensive mastermind from heading southward.
"I probably could have stayed right where I was right now," Coach Graham
replied to a reporters question, after a pause and a long sigh. "You know,
Coach Kragthorpe is a very hot commodity right now, and thats what theyve told
me the last five days; Ive had that hammered into my head."
"But, like I said, this is a big deal to me. Rice University is a big deal to me.
Its one of those things where, I prayed about it; my wife and I prayed about it, and
we just had a peace about it in the family."
"Were just fired up about being here, and it is a big deal to me.
This is a dream come true for me. Thats why its the right decision."
"Two weeks from now, the Tulsa job could come up. You never know how those things
are. And I would definitely have had an opportunity to be the next head guy
Wait a minute. Does this mean that, stoked-up Tulsa fans assertions that Graham
was headed for a dead-end job notwithstanding, one might reasonably
extrapolate that the Rice job, despite current headache-inducing characteristics, was in
the long run more perhaps much more attractive than coaching at the
University of Tulsa? Todd Graham was too diplomatic to admit as much, but one could easily
glean the implication from the thrust of his message.
"This job to me was a deal that had nothing to do with that," he demurred.
"It had to do with the fact that Ive always thought a lot of this place. I had
a feeling in my heart about Rice. I came to interview, and I just felt a connection. I
immediately felt connected with the place. I connected with the people here, and I frankly
think I have something that can help the situation."
"And it just felt right for us," Coach Graham said, motioning over to his
wife, Penny, seated next to the podium -- a highly attractive young lady (and mother of
six) who just might be a shoo-in for Homecoming Queen next year, if the weanies have their
say in the matter.
"You can see Im a good recruiter," he said smiling, while Penny beamed.
New mentor brought in three already-hired
assistants for show-and-tell
Also sitting next to the podium were three assistant coaches three very young
assistant coaches whove already been rounded up and signed on to the new
First, Coach Graham introduced Danny Phillips as his new defensive line coach.
"Dannys been with me since Allen High School," Coach noted, added that, in
addtion to being defensive line coach here, hell also serve as one of his
Next up came Jason Jones, who Coach Graham introduced as his defensive backs coach.
"He coached at Alabama," Graham noted, "coaching defensive backs there. We
got him to come to Tulsa for all of six months, and all he did was coach one of the top 15
pass defenses in the country."
Finally, Coach Graham introduced Jess Loepp. "Jesss been with me the three
years at Tulsa; he coached the safeties," Coach noted, "and I cant tell
you what a comfort it is for me to be able to come here today and not stand up here by
myself, to bring a solid nucleus of a staff of guys who know how Im going to do
things; know how were going to treat kids, know what a passion were going to
Now as a head coach in the manor house instead of a toiler in the vineyards, Coach
Graham said he wants to impart to Rice players and their supporters the same feelings
hes been able to experience at Tulsa, this championship season.
"I cant tell you what it felt like to walk out there last Saturday, and look
behind me, and see 15,000 people from Tulsa," he said. "When I walked out to the
first game three years ago, I couldve hollered the defenses down from the press box
and the players could have heard me, it was so empty."
"I cant tell you what that feels like. And I told Bobby, when I come in, and
see that young man sitting in that chair" pointing to an Owl
player sitting amongst his fellows and observing the proceedings -- "and take over a
program thats been down, you can see it in their eyes; its written on their
forehead whats wrong."
"And then when you become successful I looked those Tulsa kids in the eyes
yesterday and there was nothing more gratifying than that."
"To me, thats what my passion is. Its when that kid makes that great
play, and you watch them they get up off the ground and they run; they run to their
coach. And the look on their face you cant see from the stands. But thats why
"I have a plan in place, and were ready to go."
"Ive had about three hours of sleep, but Im gunned up and ready to get
out and start recruiting."
Graham biography, squibs from Rice, Tulsa sources....
Graham joins one 'Army',
has plan to enlist Owl fans in yet another
" I dont want you to have low expectations. I dont want you to
talk about the things we cant do; I want you to talk about the things we can
HOUSTON (Jan. 12) New Rice head coach Todd Graham greeted
students and alumni here Wednesday before the Rice-UH basketball game, displaying all the
fire and passion of an evangelistic preacher albeit it perhaps more of the upbeat,
Joel Osteen variety.
In fact, a content analysis of Coach Grahams pep talk would reveal he
uses the terms "fired up" and "passion" more than anything else in his
The new Owl mentor spoke to about 500 gathered, burger-munching, blue-clad enthusiasts
here at Fox Gym, telling the group he was on the verge of enlisting each and every one of
them in a crusade oops, politically incorrect usage.
"This group is going to grow and grow and grow because we are going to
win," Coach Graham told the crowd. "We wont be denied. Were going to
approach things going a hundred miles an hour. That trains moving forward, and
were going to drag everybody here along with it. We will not take no for
an answer, and were going to win."
Coach Graham said hed met with the entire Rice team for the first time
earlier in the day. Most of the team was present at the rally, but in actuality got lost
among the surprisingly large crowd.
"I just cant tell you, coming here today and meeting with our
players, and seeing in their eyes the excitement and the enthusiasm that they have,
theres no question but that we can get it done and we can be successful," TG
"But theres just one thing Im going to ask you to do. Its
that I dont want you to have low expectations. I dont want you to talk about
the things we cant do; I want you to talk about the things we can do."
Players, coaches, fans all can control attitude, effort
"One of the things that we can control," Coach noted, "is that
you can control your attitude, and you can control your effort."
The new Rice head man frankly admitted that hed encountered more pessimism
than he would have preferred, in his first few days on the job.
"Ive been here about a week, and just about everybody Ive seen
has told me whats wrong with the place," he said. "We need to start
talking about everything thats right with this place. This is a great university,
one of the very greatest. And I"ve experienced an unbelievable reception in the short
time Ive been out on the road recruiting."
"We had an unbelievable reception the other night, with about 600 Texas
high school coaches, that are thrilled and fired up about one of their own getting an
opportunity, in this great state and at this great university."
Coach Graham, in referring, obviously, to himself, was harkening back to the six
years he served as head coach at Allen High School in north Texas. During that stint he
coached several future Owls as schoolboys, including Chad Richardson and B. J. Forguson.
Rather than emphasizing the negative, Todd suggested a different approach.
"Lets talk about winning; lets speak about it; lets visualize
winning," he said. "Im going to call on you. Im going to need your
help. Theres things we need to get done."
Yeah, like money. Get out those wallets, Owly-birds. Put up or shut up.
"Im going to be hitting that road and were going to sign a
great recruiting class come February 1, and Im going to be calling on you. We need
you to get involved like youve never been before. We need you to be able to do more
than youve ever done. And if you do that, well get things accomplished, no
question about that."
Coach Graham introduced almost-complete staff
Coach Graham then took time to introduce to the crowd his already-named members
of his coaching staff, all of whom, including just-introduced Offensive Coordinator Major
Applewhite, were present at the assembly.
Following same, two members of the student group "Autrys Army"
presented the new coaching staff each with their signature, blue "Army"
Ever the enthusiast, Coach Graham fired back, "One of the things
youre going to see, and its going to be a big change we want to reach
out. Our football team is going to be visible on campus, and build relationships with our
student body. And we want to develop a rabid fan base of students in that stadium."
With that, blue t-hirts donned, Graham led his staff, to a man, over to Autry
Court, where they took their seats on the third row of the Rice student section, fellow
"Army" members surrounding them.
And guess who won the game.
Todd Graham introduction rally photos....
Coach Graham parades his new staffers before the crowd of 500-plus. From left to
right, they are: David Beaty, Major Applewhite, Dean Jackson, Todd Dilbeck, Jason Jones,
Jess Loepp and Andy Phillips. Present but not pictured was Yancy McKnight
staff at rally
HOUSTON (Jan. 14) Rice head coach Todd Graham introduced the bulk of
his coaching staff to gathered students, players and Owl fans present for the pep rally
held before the Rice-UH game Wednesday; that is to say, an hour or two before the Owl
basketball team pummeled the Coogs into submission. The two events combined fairly
well to re-establish college sports supremacy on South Main for the city of Houston as to
the immediate future. Want more evidence? We herewith present Coach Grahams
verbatim capsule comments on the staffers present, as he introduced them. Coach Graham:
"Youre going to see my staff members on campus; youll be seeing them
around town; were going to be doing everything that we can to get people moving in
the direction where we want them to go."
"We will be the hardest working, most disciplined, best
conditioned football team in the country, and well get it done, because weve
got great people to do it."
"We talk about the fact that you win through hard work, busting your tail every
day, and having a passion about it. And so it was important to bring a strength coach that
possesses those traits. And all of these guys are going to have twice as much energy as
me, and twice as much passion about this program."
"But our new strength coach is a guy that was very successful as the football
strength coach at Oklahoma State, and then proceeded, I think, to completely turn the
Louisiana Tech program around this year. If you guys had to watch them, you saw them put
it on Fresno State, too. Hes a guy that epitomizes having a hard head, and being a
tough coach, and a guy who our kids are going to loved being trained by, and thats Yancy
McKnight, our new strength coach."
"He's a high-energy, no-nonsense type leader who'll be a vital part of future
"My background as a Texas high school football coach molded me as being a teacher,
and I consider myself a teacher. I have a passion for making a difference in young
peoples lives. And when I got this job, theres one guy that I told
Im going to hire you whenever I get to be a head coach, the former head
football coach and athletic director at Irving McArthur high school, our new wide
receivers coach, David
"Next Id like to introduce our new quarterbacks coach and Offensive
"Major Applewhite -- just that name speaks for itself. He brings us instant
credibility to where we want to go offensively."
"We want to spread the field and throw the football, and every quarterback and
receiver in this state will be interested in Rice with Major as our offensive
"We started talking with mutual friends, and he is a guy that I watched play as an
unbelievable competitor on the field and a winner. I sat down and talked to him,
having had had several people in mind for our offensive coordinator job."
"But when I sat down and talked to him, within ten minutes I knew he was the man
to lead our offense, to be our offensive coordinator. Just plain and simple, hes a
winner, and conducts himself with such great class, and poise, and character."
"Were going to see maybe if we can turn him over to Yancy and get him back
in shape to play, too!"
"Next is a guy thats well known and well respected in the ranks of Texas
high school football, a guy thats been a close friend of mine for a long time, and
who has great passion, our new running backs coach Dean
Jackson from Hillcrest High School, Dallas Texas."
"Dean's a very hard-working guy who will be an outstanding recruiter. He's got
strong Texas ties, another one of those Texas high school coaches who will really help
"He's worked with me before, knows the expectations and knows the passion and
intensity of how we're going to do things."
"The last time youve seen this next guy, he had a jacket on and glasses, on
Saturday Night Live our Chris Farley look-alike, Todd
Dilbeck, our new offensive line coach. Todds one of the best football coaches
and teachers that Ive ever coached with. And I knew when I came here I wanted him to
be our offensive line coach. Our offensive linemen are going to love him. He coaches with
a great passion."
"There are three more guys, Ive saved them for last, because they really
mean a lot to me. When you take on a completely new experience, a new adventure, you'd
like some continuity. And these guys have worked with me for the last three years at
"And one of thems been with me since Allen High School; hes been with
me everywhere Ive been. When the call came from Rice, we were getting on the bus to
go to the Liberty Bowl stadium, and Bobby (May) called. And I walked in there, and I just
nodded my head. And, man, they said, Coach, were going with you. We really
want to go with you."
"They didnt even ask how much they were going to pay. They didnt care
about that. And these guys coached the number one defense in Conference USA this last year
and the Liberty Bowl champs."
"And to have those guys come here with me, and to give up good jobs to come here,
means a lot to me."
"These three men are Jason
Jones, our defensive back coach, Jess
Loepp, wholl be our tight ends coach, and Danny
Phillips, wholl be our defensive line coach and special teams coordinator. Andy
has been with me the longest, I think seven years, at Allen High School, a good year at
West Virginia University, and with me at Tulsa and now with me at Rice."
"Ive still got two more positions to go. You guys will be fired up about the
next two guys. We should be able to get the information out about them shortly. All of
these guys, I could say I would want my son to play for these men."
"These are guys who possess the same type philosophies of positive attitude and
energy as I do. They come from diverse settings, from a conference and bowl champion at
Tulsa, to successful high school programs in Texas and Oklahoma."
Editors Note: Later this week, Coach Graham also announced the hire of Paul
Randolph as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, also that of Mike
Vaught as assistant athletic director/football operations.
The following assistant coach biographies are available online: Yancy
Loepp Paul Randolph
Todd Graham introduction rally photos....
University of Tulsa assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Todd Graham is likely
to be named the new head man at Rice, sources have reported
for 2:00 p.m. Sunday
HOUSTON (Dec. 31, 10:25 a.m.; updated Jan. 1, 11:35 a.m.) -- As the clock ticks
down to the new year, speculation, and now the limelight, on South Main regarding
the vacant head football coach's slot appears to be focused squarely upon the University
of Tulsa's assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, Todd Graham. Multiple
sources have now reported that the rapidly-rising 41-year-old formally has been
offered and has accepted the head coaching job at Rice.
Rice officials have scheduled a press conference at the R-Room above Rice
Stadium for 2:00 p.m. Sunday to announce the decision and introduce Coach Graham to local
media and interested onlookers.
Local Fox affiliate Channel 26 announced Graham will be guest on its Sunday evening
"News at Nine," which in actuality tonight will run from 9:30-10:30 p.m.
Graham flew to Houston overnight from Memphis, where his C-USA champion Golden
Hurricane defeated Fresno State, 31-24, Saturday afternoon in the Liberty Bowl. The
new Rice head man had said he would not discuss the job until after the bowl game was
When approached by reporters after the game, Coach Graham still would not
confirm his acceptance of the job, stating that he preferred to focus the attention upon
the accomplishment of Tulsa's CUSA champion and bowl winning team. However, he ended
the brief interview by signing off with the words, "It's been great."
The circumstances clarified somewhat on Saturday morning when the Webletter
learned that current members of the football team had received an email from Rice Athletic
Director Bobby May informing them of a team meeting which is to take place at 1 p.m.
Sunday, New Years Day.
In todays edition, the Tulsa World reported that
a source within the University of Tulsa football program said two days ago that Graham
had, indeed, been offered the head coaching job at Rice .
That Saturday edition of the World also reported that Coach Graham, when reached
at his hotel Friday, would not confirm that he had taken or been offered the job, and that
he refused to comment, except to say he was focused on TU's game against Fresno State in
Saturday's Liberty Bowl.
According to Friday's Houston Chronicle, at least four candidates have
interviewed to replace Ken Hatfield -- San Diego coach Jim Harbaugh, TCU offensive
coordinator Mike Schultz, Texas Tech offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes and Texas A&M
offensive coordinator Les Koenning.
Harbaugh accepted a multiyear contract extension to remain at USD after it was
reported that he contacted Rice officials after returning to San Diego after his on-campus
interview, stating that he was turning down the job for personal reasons. Harbaugh was
quoted as saying the Rice coaching position was "the right job at the wrong
time." There has been no confirmation whether the former NFL quarterback was
actually offered the Rice job.
Tech's Dykes reportedly withdrew name from hat
Meanwhile, sources reported that Techs Sonny Dykes contacted Rice on
Friday to withdraw his name from consideration.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported
that Coach Dykes said he became frustrated at not hearing from Rice for a week after
interviewing for the job, and that he and Tech coach Mike Leach decided that "we had
to do something."
"I told them I didnt want to be under anymore consideration,"
Dykes was quoted as saying. "I hadnt heard anything from them. It got to a
point where were getting ready to play this game [against Alabama in Mondays
Cotton Bowl]. I didnt want it to be a distraction."
In Houston for TCU's EV1 Bowl game with Iowa State, Frog offensive coordinator
Mike Schultz remained low-key and respectful in his comments regarding his current
position in limbo. "I'm honored to be a candidate," Schultz said, according to
Schultzs head coach Gary Patterson was quick to thump the tub over his
highly-respected OC. "No one has asked me," Patterson
told the Dallas Morning News. "But the best thing about Coach Schultz for
Rice is that he's from Houston and he knows how to recruit around this state. He'd be a
Schultz, who has been TCU's offensive coordinator for the past five seasons,
reportedly visited Rice on Monday and was interviewed by several athletic department
staffers and at least one of the search committee members.
Todd Graham has been Tulsas defensive chief and assistant head coach
through Steve Kragthorpe's three years as head coach. That span has produced a 20-17
record, two winning seasons, two bowl appearances and a Conference USA championship, the
school's first league title in 20 years not to mention three straight spankings of
the Owls after the Feathered Flock had simply dominated Tulsa in previous years.
In 2003, Tulsa jumped 49 places in total defense, from 109th to 60th nationally.
The Cane also gave up a touchdown fewer per game than the year before and climbed 28
spots in passing defense, from 44th to 16th.
After a defensive swoon last season, the Hurricane erupted once again in 2005,
playing its best defense under the Steve Kragthorpe's tutelage, while going 8-4 and
winning the C-USA title. The Hurricane rose from 101st to 42nd in scoring -- allowing 10
fewer points per game than in 2004 -- and from 80th to 37th in total defense.
Thanks in no small part to Coach Grahams defensive philosophy, Tulsa
forced 34 turnovers this past season, goof for fourth nationally, and tied for fifth
nationally with 20 pass interceptions.
Graham had stop at West Virginia, coached high school ball
Graham worked a similar revitalization in his previous coaching stop at West
Virginia. As a co-defensive coordinator in 2002, he helped the Mountaineers rank 30th
nationally in rushing defense and 33rd in total defense while going 9-4, with wins over
nationally ranked Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.
Before moving to WVU, Graham was a highly successful high school coach and
athletic director at Allen (Texas) High School for six years (1995-2000). His teams made
five playoff appearances and won two bi-district championships. In 2000, Allen posted a
9-3 record and captured the 5A Division II bi-district title while defeating four teams
ranked among the Top 10 in the state of Texas.
A Mesquite, Texas, native, Graham coached and later played at East Central
University in Ada, Oklahoma, helping the Tigers win an NAIA national title in 1993.
Coach Graham holds a master's degree in education from East Central.
Oh, and Todd Grahams an Aggie, too a Poteet Aggie, that is,
because for three years, from 1988 to 1990, he served as an assistant coach the the south
central Texas 2A school.
Graham confessed his desire to become a head coach to local media. "That's
been a goal of mine," he told the Tulsa World earlier this season. "From the
time that I was a little boy, I've always wanted to be a Division I football coach. That's
my ultimate goal."
Coach Graham has a reputation as an outstanding recruiter, and Tulsa insiders
saw him as a logical candidate for the Tulsa head coaching job if Kragthorpe should move
Letter to Owl Club
(sent Dec. 20)
Dear Owl Club Members:
On November 30, Ken Hatfield
resigned after 12 seasons as the Owls head football coach. He started the news
conference by saying, I hope that today the Rice administration, the Board, the
faculty, and all the friends will rally around this new opportunity and give the current
players and the future recruits the support needed to be successful in Conference USA.
Since you are an important member
of the team behind the teams, this email is designed exclusively for the Owl
Club team. The Rice Athletic Department, through the leadership of Bobby May, would like
to provide you with this update to share where we are to date regarding the search for the
next head football coach at Rice University.
The committee to select the next
head coach is assembled. We have representation from all areas of campus: faculty, staff,
university leaders, student athletes, alumni, and friends of Rice Athletics. The committee
is now charged with trying to narrow down the names and resumes of more than 70
Much behind-the-scene work has been
done in the weeks leading up to the formation of the committee. Many thanks for the
hundreds of phone calls of support and interest from our dedicated Owls fan base that
Bobby May and staff have fielded from alumni and friends of Rice Athletics regarding
possible applicants to fill the vacancy.
The caliber of nominations and
applicants is quite impressive. Since we want to respect the privacy of all
applicants, we cannot share names; however, we can say that we have a great talent pool
with a cross-section of NFL, college, and high school coaches that hold positions of head
coach, offensive/defensive coordinator, and director of football operations to name a few.
As we move into the last few weeks
of 2005, we will be working diligently with the committee to ensure the right person is
selected to lead your Owls football team. Our timeline is immediate, so we can be
competitive in having a quality recruiting class for 2006. Our hope is to announce the new
coach early January 2006, if not before.
Thank you for your continued
support of Rice Athletics and our dedicated student-athletes.
Go Rice Owls!
The Owl Club Team
Rice not without
in search for new football mentor
Facilities, financial issues can be addressed, AD says
HOUSTON (Dec. 3) "The
search for a new coach will begin immediately."
Bobby May: "We're
not going to put any limitations on the parameters"
With that announcement, Rice University Athletic Director Bobby May launched
the school's mission to replace departing football coach Ken Hatfield with an individual
who of necessity will need to possess extraordinary, some might even say
The yardstick for success at Rice appears to be quite a bit more complex than at the
The former Rice mentor had that imperative firmly in view during his tenure, he told
gathered media, players and supporters Wednesday. "If you're at Texas, it's being in
the top five, you know, every year."
At Rice, on the other hand, the first requirement is to recruit and matriculate actual
student- athletes who graduate, Coach Hatfield told the crowd. "Number two, Rice's
next coach must go out and be competitive when he plays people who are like-minded
not necessarily Texas, but other people that are like-minded and have an equal
chance of winning."
Bobby May, who's filled the position of Athletic Director at Rice, now, going on his
18th year, expressed similar sentiments. "When measuring a program's success, we
sometimes forget that it's more than accumulating 'W's," he said. "Successful
programs build character, develop leadership skills, and prepare student-athletes for life
The Rice AD will organize a search committee immediately, and that group will conduct a
national canvassing. The committee will be composed of what the Rice AD termed
"representatives of constituent groups" associated with the University.
"We're not going to put any limitations on the parameters," Bobby said.
"We'll try to find the very best possible candidate, who is the very best possible
fit. It will done as fast as we can make it; while at the same time giving us plenty of
time to assess the field; assess the candidates, and do the due diligence you need to do
in order to have a successful search."
"We need somebody that fits into the culture at Rice," Coach May added.
"It would be someone that's highly successful, has impeccable integrity, who knows
how to win, who eats, sleeps and drinks football, but understands the academic challenges
that student athletes will face at Rice, and is prepared to come in-- knowing all that--
and feel they can be successful here."
Ah, but what about the facilities issues? Although, realistically speaking, Rice still
has one of the finest on-campus, football- only facilities in the country in our beloved
Rice Stadium, the old girl, one must admit, is getting a little long in the tooth and the
worse for the wear. The field surface, bleacher condition, and scoreboard are obviously in
need of first aid. And the ancillary facilities weight room, offices, practice
fields, and so on, though adequate, could use a little sprucing up, too, at least
according to some.
Consequently, some measure of commitment as to facilities improvement will have to be
made to any viable incoming coaching candidate, Bobby said.
"Obviously, it's more important than just finding an individual to come in and
replace Ken," the veteran Rice AD said. "We need to do as much as we can do, in
order to create an environment here, that will be of interest to prospective coaching
candidates. So we have a lot of work to do outside of the search, to maximize our chances
for success going forward."
Revamping can't come all at once
Rice Athletic Director Bobby displays somber mien during Coach Hatfield's resignation
However, don't expect everything to happen at once, he warned. "You know
they're big things," he said. "You're not going to do them all at once. But we
need to do a few things; as many as we can, and as soon as we can, in order to have a
chance to attract the very best possible candidate here at Rice."
Coach Hatfield, speaking in regard to the facilities issue, was equally sanguine.
"Naturally, there are a lot of things that you would like to have," he said.
"Everybody has those things on their wish lists. Problem has been, a lot of things
have changed in intercollegiate athletics in recent years. Part of the difficulty has been
with the conferences that we have moved around in, the past few years. That has hurt us in
recruiting a good bit."
"But we found a home in Conference USA. And I think, seeing the way we played
against Central Florida and UTEP, we can be competitive in this league it's a good
"We just want something more, right now."
Note, incidentally, the continued use of the first person plural by the now-resigned
Rice coach. Somehow, that seems a positive.
But there appears to be another side to the facilities equation. The Rice sports
administration has been forced to respond to belt-tightening ultimata by increasing the
number of so-called body bag games in any given season.
In 06, if the proposed schedule stands, the matter has reached what most Rice
fans believe to be absurd lengths, as the Owls open the season at UCLA; then play Texas at
Reliant Stadium a virtual, if not theoretical, road game; and then, for good
measures, travel to Tallahassee to take on whats bound to be a riled-up Florida
State Seminole team, what with their four-loss season this year.
Bobby hinted that some relief might be in the offing if his response as to the
matter is to be taken literally.
"You need to strike a balance." he said. "We have a revenue issue here
at Rice. Many of you had seen the small crowds that we had here. When you have directives
from the Board, that you have to meet targets, then you have to take the actions that will
enable you to give your best shot at meeting those targets."
"At the same time, you have to not put your coach and your team regularly at a
"You've got short-term issues and you've got long-term issues. Since I've been the
AD we've approached that issue different ways. Certainly every weekend you go out and you
would like to be in a position to feel like you can win."
"And I hope at some point, our program will feel that way regardless of who we
line up against. We need to see that kind of progress; we need to see that kind of
momentum built. But it's just one of the challenges that we have to face. We have a
financial challenge; we have a competitive challenge, and we have to show that what we
said we were going to do, that we're going to deliver."
But somethings got to give. The athletics administration appears to be caught
between the horns of a dilemma how to increase support and attendance while at the
same time balancing the Board of Trustees-imposed austerity program with the need to avoid
practically brutalizing Rices student-athletes while still realizing adequate
The first place thats got to give--and has, Coach May implied, without saying so
directly, is in the approach of the Board of Trustees. The Board, after all, did put its
money where its mouth was by ponying up Coach Hatfields contractual buyout.
Key member says Board is on board
Ken Hatfield: "I think right now is the time for anybody who ever claimed to be
a Rice football fan, to back up what you say, and to come out"
Key Rice Board of Trustees member Bucky Allshouse, a former defensive back for
the Owls, said this week that Rice Athletics should, indeed, expect the solid support of
the Board -- including Board Chairman Jim Crownover -- during this crucial
"The Board is completely behind Rice Athletics, and the support is broader than
what some have supposed, " he told KHOUs Matt
Bobby May concurred, saying that support, both financial and otherwise, was
consistently strong throughout the University structure, despite the usual and typical
posturings of a small cadre of faculty members. As for them, so what else is new.
Theyre at Duke, theyre at Stanford, theyre at Northwestern for
that matter theyre even at places like the University of Texas.
"We have great support from this university," Bobby insisted.
"There are some people that don't provide the same level of support, but by and large
I think Rice University wants to be successful in everything it does, whether it's
academics or athletics. I think Rice officials are very proud with what's been
accomplished with Rice athletics recently, and in the near term certainly in the
last 15 years."
"I don't think it makes sense to have a program at Rice that doesn't strive to be
the very best, and I think that's what Rice wants to see."
Certainly the view of a small, albeit somewhat vocal minority that
athletics-versus-academics is a zero-sum game, does not sway the day in the offices that
"I think, certainly since I've been here, and probably a long time before that,
there's always been an element that wasn't as excited about intercollegiate athletics as
most of the people in this room," Bobby told the press contingent Wednesday.
"Clearly but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a place; that doesn't mean it
can't be successful; that doesn't mean it's not going to be supported."
"It's just kind of a fact of life. You're going to have some people who prefer
something other than athletics; you'll have some who are just rabid fans, who think about
nothing but athletics. So it's a mix; it's a balance; and we feel we have the support here
from the university, that we need to be successful."
So never mind a small contingent of the chattering classes, the conclusion goes
its time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.
"We need to be able to get our ducks in a row; we need to be able to present the
best face we can to the people that will have an interest in this job," Bobby said.
"We need to make as many commitments as we can in order to make this job compelling.
I think we have so much going for us; it's a great institution; a great history; a great
new conference; lots of positives and we need to capitalize on all of them."
And in that regard, Rice sports administrators are on schedule and ready to make
immediate progress, Coach May added. "We are on the timetable,"
he asserted. "We are trying, as we speak, to get as many of these things lined up as
In summary, what all who are interested in Rice athletics need to bring to the table,
right now, perhaps was best expressed by an old hand at intercollegiate athletics
whos plenty familiar with what Bobby May termed "the Rice culture"
and thats no-one but Kenny Hatfield himself.
"What is needed, more than anything else," he said in concluding his swan
song, "is the vigor of all the fans and the people who have followed Rice, and who
can follow Rice, and everybody come together. After one year in Conference USA , we know
the teams we are playing, so it's a situation now, where, if everybody's pulling together,
we have the best opportunity for success."
"And I think sometimes, whatever the reason, you see other teams, other people go
through it; I think right now is the time for anybody who ever claimed to be a Rice
football fan, to back up what you say, and to come out. There's no reason for anybody
who's ever followed Rice football, in the past; no reason for anybody who wants Rice to
succeed, not to step up to the plate right now, and say, let's get behind them;
let's win this conference, let's go out and be another Central Florida, go from 1 and 10
to a championship next year.'"
Announces resignation before somber crowd
"I first talked to them about being thankful to God, that they have had a
chance to play college football, because not everyone has that opportunity"
HOUSTON (Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m.) -- In an atmosphere that can be
described as very nearly funereal but not without its upbeat moments, Rice head coach of
football Ken Hatfield announced his resignation today before gathered media, staff,
players and friends in the Rice Stadium R-Room.
In so doing, the long-time Rice coach expressed himself in a manner as positive as
any human being rationally could muster under the circumstances.
"Today I am resigning as the head football coach at Rice University," Coach
Hatfield announced. "I hope that today the Rice administration, the Board, the
faculty, and all the friends of the University will rally around this new opportunity, and
give the current players, and the future recruits, the support needed to be successful in
"Thats important," he added, chiming in a theme that doubtless will be
expressed by many in the coming days, dealing with the need for support for Rice athletics
from as many quarters as possible, from its staunchest, long-time boosters to the most
remote of alumni and least involved of current students.
Rice Athletic Director Bobby May mirrored those expressions in his comments to media
during a question-and-answer session held after the formal announcement. But first, he
expressed his unqualified admiration for the manner in which Coach Hatfield, as is always
the case, conducted himself.
"The decision Ken announces today is his own," Bobby told the crowd, which
included Coach Hatfield's wife, Sandy, his brother, Dick, and about 40 members of the
current Owl team, in addition to media, staff and sundry supporters and university
officials. "It was totally unselfish, and what he felt was in the best interest of
the program. The discussion surrounding his decision was amicable, never
Coach refers to lessons imparted
"The discussion surrounding his decision was amicable, never
It was toward those Owl players present that Coach Hatfield directed the bulk of
his prepared remarks, although the implications were obvious for all to perceive.
"College football is all about learning," the Rice mentor said.
"Rices players are expected to succeed in class every day, and at the same time
to improve every day as a football player. Those are our goals."
Coach said that he felt honored to have coached "all these guys, right here, and
promise you the greatest joy I had was traveling with them, from California to Boise,
wherever, and listening to the compliments they received by everyone we came into contact
with, from the airlines and on."
"Hearing of the quality they showed did my heart as good as anything that ever
"I hope that they learned a lot of leadership traits from the game of football.
When I spoke with them today, I first talked to them about being thankful to God, that
they have had a chance to play college football, because not everyone has that
"In being thankful, I encouraged them to be a good role model for young people to
look up to, those who aspire to be something such as they, a great Rice football player
and a great Rice student."
"Thats a tremendous responsibility, and I hope theyll never forget
The veteran Rice coach told the crowd that, in a team meeting with his players held
shortly before the onset of the press conference, another thing that he brought up and
discussed with his men was about excellence true excellence, not just the rah-rah
"We talked about playing your best, one play at a time. Thats the main
characteristic of a champion," he noted, against nodding toward the morose group of
Coach Hatfield couldnt help but express regrets at the ones that got away
a burdensome factor when playing a tough, Division 1A schedule under rigorous academic
"When I looked back, yesterday, and looked at all the games we could have
won," he said, "I saw we were one play away from winning eight games three years
ago, seven last year and seven this past year it reminded me that football truly is
a game of inches where a single play can make all the difference."
"Thats why you learn to play the very best that you have in you, one play at
a time in practice. And if you do so, the scores of your games take care of
Devoting oneself to a cause while remaining an individual was an important theme of
Coach Hatfields program, he stated. "These guys were all part of putting the
team first, in everything that they did," he emphasized. "Its said that
when youre part of a cause thats bigger than yourself, and you learn to
participate unselfishly, you learn the great lesson of being a success in life."
"And thats what they have learned."
"And I hope that they will apply all of those things as they go about their
personal lives and their careers. Theyre great people."
The players gave Coach Hatfield a standing ovation after he completed his prepared
Coach known for quiet religious strength
The long-time Rice coach has been renowned for his quiet, but strong, religious
strength and observance, and many of his players shared such disposition, the Rice squad
maintaining typically the largest per capita membership in the Fellowship of Christian
Athletes. So it would have been totally out of character for Ken Hatfield not to depart
without a thankful reference.
" I thank my God for giving me the talent and ability to live on this earth and to
be able to play the great game of football," he told the group. "Ive
enjoyed untold moments and memories, both as a player and as a coach, through the game of
The former Rice coach (how strange it is to say that) went down a long list of extended
thank-yous, but he began, quite naturally, with Sandy Hatfield, his wife and help-mate,
who undoubted suffered every loss and every media and alumni barb with twice the intensity
and sharpness than did her husband, a tough, old Arkansan.
"I am particularly indebted to my lovely wife, Sandy, whos been with me on
the sidelines for 37 years," Coach Hatfield said. "Shes been my wife, my
companion, my friend she is everything to me."
The 62-year-old native of Helena, Arkansas, became Rice's coach in 1994, succeeding
Fred Goldsmith. The 1-10 mark in 2005 was the team's worst during Hatfield's tenure and
the Owls' poorest mark since going 0-11 under Jerry Berndt in 1988.
Rice lost 14 straight games between 2004-05, but ended what had been the nation's
longest Division I-A losing streak with a 42-34 win over Tulane on Nov. 12.
Attendance at 70,000-seat Rice Stadium dwindled this year. Rice averaged 10,072 fans at
its five home games, an all-time low in 56 seasons, and the home finale against UCF on
Nov. 19 drew only 8,267.
Hatfield went 55-78-1 in 12 seasons at Rice, including 7-4 seasons in 1997 and '98, and
an 8-4 record in 2001.
Older Rice fans can remember Ken Hatfield as a star football player in his own right,
as he earned All-American honors as a defensive back and kick returner at the University
of Arkansas. His first head coaching job was at Air Force, and he followed up a very
successful tenure there with stints Arkansas and Clemson. He finished this season fifth
among active I-A coaches with 168 career victories.
Local TV outlets
report Hatfield out;
official announcement said pending;
press conference set for 3:30 pm Wed
Media buzz mounting
Ken Hatfield: will he stay or will he go?
HOUSTON (Nov. 29, 10:42 p.m.) Houstons Fox 26 led a
brief but consistent parade of local television newscasts Tuesday night all reporting that
Rice head coach Ken Hatfield, indeed, has resigned or is in the process of working
out the details of his resignation and that a public announcement to such effect is
On Fox 26's 9:45 evening sportscast, sports anchor Mark Berman reported what he
termed a confirmation of that same TV outlets report on Monday evening, to the
effect that Coach Hatfields resignation is a certainty, and that the public
announcement "may come as soon as tomorrow" i.e. Wednesday.
Berman said that he personally asked Coach Hatfield, Tuesday morning after the
press conference, if he was resigning, and that he "declined comment." He also
said that he asked Bobby May the same question later today, and Bobby also declined to
The Fox sports anchor added that the apparent reason why Coach Hatfield did not say
anything about the resignation Tuesday is because, first, he wanted to have a meeting with
his assistants to discuss their futures, and second, that Rice officials were, at the
time, trying to talk Coach Hatfield out of resigning, but that the decision to
resign was Ken's, and his alone.
Moments later, KPRC-TV sports anchor Randy McIlvoy reported Coach Hatfields
resignation as the lead story of his regular evening sportscast at 10:25 p.m.
McIlvoy stated the reason that the fact of the resignation was not made public on Tuesday
was because "the lawyers were still in the process of completing the details" on
Coach Hatfield separation agreement.
KPRC showed a video clip of Coach Hatfields verbal exchange with Houston
Chronicle sportswriter M. K. Bower during the morning press conference, during which the
veteran Rice coach became more than slightly irritated at the Chronicle Rice Beat reporter
and challenged his line of questions (for a summary of the exchange, see our
story below, and also M.K.
Bowers brief report in Tuesdays Chronicle late online editions.)
The KPRC sports anchor said that hed spoken with Rice Athletic Director Bobby May
Tuesday afternoon, and during the course of the conversation May had expressed
irritation at the fact that Coach Hatfield had called the 11 a.m. press conference without
consulting Rice athletics or administration officials. KPRC quoted Bobby, as of Tuesday
afternoon, as saying, "At this point, Ken Hatfield is our coach. There is nothing
more to say than that."
However, the report added, May stated that there was "some confusion over the
situation" and that further communications and negotiations were in the works.
At the same time, KHOUs Gifford Nielsen reported the Hatfield resignation story
as a followup to his regular newscast basketball report. After giving the Rice-Prairie
View score (the Owls won, 67-58) over a brief film clip of the game, Nielsen added,
"Speaking of Rice...." and then basically repeated a condensed version the same
information as had been given by KPRC moments earlier.
However, KHOU is carrying an online video clip of Coach Hatfield's opening statement
made at his 11 a.m. Tuesday press conference, linked below.
Rice athletics department officials in attendance at the Rice-Prairie View
basketball stated their unawareness of Coach Hatfields status, but a former
Thresher sports editor stated he had heard of the fact of Coach Hatfields
resignation on local radio reports earlier in the evening.
A press conference has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the R-Room.
to KHOU's audio/video of Ken Hatfield's Tuesday 11 a.m. news conference...
Coach Hatfield faces media in Tuesday's press
Hatfield: Let's get ready to play UCLA
No personnel, policy changes announced
HOUSTON (Nov. 29) -- Rice head coach Ken Hatfield's much-anticipated
press conference came and went with the veteran Rice mentor's deflection of any
questions perceived to be hostile, and an outright announcement that no coaching or
other personnel changes are in the offing.
Coach Hatfield, in response to writers' questions, attributed Rice's 1-10 season
on the inexperience of his players, and pointed to better times ahead with the return of
over 93 per cent of this year's squad members for next season.
"I think the real focus will be on improving defensively, and we've got people
backed up now, and that's got to be a real plus for us," he said. "I
think we get a lot of skill people back."
Another thing the long-time Rice coach pointed out was the relative closeness of
numerous losses during his tenure at Rice. "Field goal kicking has not been
consistent for us, and that's been true the whole time we've been here, with the possible
exception of when we had Derek Crabtree."
"I've looked back and we've lost 16 or 17 games because of one missed field
goal. They've been that close."
Status quo considered acceptable, with added experience
A local print reporter asked Coach Hatfield
whether he thought the status quo would be perceived as an acceptable alternative, given
the fact that the team has continued to lose more and more of its games in each of the
past four years.
"Yes, I do," Coach Hatfield responded tersely.
When asked what he based such conclusion on, he replied, "My experience in
coaching for 40 years. What would YOU base it on, in your experience?"
The reporter responded that he based his question on the premise that recent history
would show that the program is going the wrong direction.
"Alright, then, in recent history," Coach responded, "how many
games have come down to one play making the difference, one way or the other? How
many games, in the last three years, have come down to win or lose on one play?
Have you ever researched that?"
When the reporter said he hadn't, Coach Hatfield replied, "Well, you ought to do
This year, the amended offensive schemes were largely successful, the Rice head coach
averred. "There wasn't any doubt that we threw the ball better; we did a lot
better job in the shotgun."
Defensively, any possible tactical changes for '06 will be based upon an assessment of
personnel in spring drills, Coach noted. "When we put the three-man line in, we
only had about four or five healthy defensive linemen. Now we have redshirt freshmen
coming up to play, although what we finally decide to do will depend upon who we
"Players make the plays," he said, "so that means we have to do what we
can to get the best players on the field, defensively."
Upticks in record said not result of changes in
When Hatfield-coached teams rebounded from losing seasons to win seven or eight games,
earlier during his term at Rice, he noted, very little was doing in the way of changing
offensive or defensive sets, which could be attributable in any degree to the improved
record. Rather, he said, it was simply a matter of more experienced performers on
the field who made the best of their talents.
When queried about the possibility of playing at home next year in front of crowds that
might be even smaller than the few who came this season, he dismissed the attendance issue
by saying, "You look back -- when, in the last 20 years, has Rice ever played before
big crowds? That's never been any different."
Recruits come to Rice for the educational experience it offers in the classroom, he
went on, and the personal links and experiences it offers on the playing field.
Anybody who feels he has to be playing before 80,000 people -- and for whom such takes
preference over the quality of his educational experience -- won't be interested in coming
to Rice to begin with.
"We have four people who've committed to us early, and, throughout the season,
they've never wavered, despite what they saw from us on the field."
In fact, Coach Hatfield said, a 1-10 season can even be turned into a recruiting
'plus', in that the really talented recruits will feel that they can come in and play
right away, and they know they'll get every opportunity to do so from Ken Hatfield's
staff, he said.
"I think we did a heck of a job in preparing for the UH game," the Rice coach
added, "and I think if we go out and score and make it 17-0, then you've got a whole
different ball game. But we didn't. We fumble the ball on the one yard line;
we weren't able to hold them down there, and that's one of those things that
"It's kind of symbolic of the whole year."
Coach Hatfield observed that the rugged non-conference schedule was particularly taxing
on the youngsters who were forced into action early. "Starting the year off at
UCLA -- they're having a great year and could beat Southern Cal this week. And I
think also we had a little tough time playing a Texas team that I think is still
pretty good, last time I looked."
"And so it was hard to gain a lot of confidence for our young players. But
I think as time went on they got better. I think that once we got started in the
conference schedule -- we missed our one nonconference home game in September with Navy;
wound up playing that as our first home game the middle of October, which is the latest
we've ever played."
"But we stayed in the fight; we continued to improve. I think when you look
at Conference USA, we saw that we could play with everybody in this league. Whether it was
our comeback at East Carolina or whether it be our chance to beat UTEP or Central Florida,
we have now gone through the conference for a year and we're in good shape to be
competitive in the league next year."
Garrett says Syp richly
deserving of all-league honor
John Syptak got call from league office -- that said, 'you're first-team
HOUSTON (Dec. 1) -- John Syptak, senior defensive end of the Rice
Owls was honored this week by being named to the first team Conference-USA in a poll of
the media and coaches of the conference. John, a former standout at Bellville High in
Austin County, was the only Rice Owl named to the first team.
Syptak led the Rice Owls in tackles this year with 72, tackles for losses with 10,
and his 4 quarterback sacks tied him for third place all-time in Rice history. His
accomplishments are even more remarkable when you consider that he was double-teamed on
virtually every play this season.
One of John's teammates was especially proud of him. Garrett Dornan, a teammate of
John's both at Rice and at Bellville, commended John for the award. "There is no
doubt Syp deserves this honor. He has worked so hard at being a good football player and
all the hard work is paying off," Garrett said. "And the good thing about Syp is
that he has been so humble throughout all of his publicity and I believe that is part of
the reason he has been so successful. He was never complacent and was always trying to
improve his game."
Garrett and John were teammates since their middle-school days, beginning in the 8th
grade. "It makes me so happy for Syp that he got that award. We have been through so
much together while playing football together. I feel like I won a piece of that award
with him," mused Dornan.