Rice University officially welcomed new football Head Coach Mike Bloomgren Wednesday afternoon. Bloomgren, the 19th head coach in Rice football’s history, replaces David Bailiff, who was let go last week after 11 seasons at the helm.
Bloomgren lived in Houston for five years when he was a child before moving to Tallahassee, Florida at 10 years old. Now 40 years old, he spent four years coaching in the NFL with the New York Jets and spent the last seven years at Stanford University. Initially Stanford’s offensive line coach and running game coordinator, he rose to the position of offensive coordinator and associate head coach before taking the job at Rice. Bloomgren said he is thrilled to be taking over the Owls, later calling it the greatest moment of his professional career.
“I had an opportunity to meet with the team today,” Bloomgren said. “I think they felt how excited I was. I almost jumped in the crowd a couple of times and found myself walking at them. I calmed myself down and I had to remind them that we can’t start spring ball for three months and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. But, I simply can’t wait to get started.”
Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard led the head coaching search. He said he fully believes Bloomgren is the right person for the job.
“We had several candidates who could do this job and told us they would take it and run with it,” Karlgaard said. “But one rose about the rest. [Bloomgren is] an extraordinary fit for this university and our football program.”
Bloomgren said he has been interested in the Rice head coaching job for the past two years, long before the position was open. He said he thinks he will fit well at Rice because of the intelligence of the football players.
“I think the fit comes from the student-athletes and the caliber of them -- the fact that you have to be elite in both areas,” Bloomgren said. “There’s five of those institutions in America that you can play Division I football and still get world-class academics. In my opinion, they’re Rice University, Stanford University, Duke University, Northwestern [University] and Vanderbilt [University].”
Bloomgren said he is hoping to elevate the football program to new heights during his tenure.
“I think that at Stanford, we did a good job of always talking about raising the bar and how the price always increases year in and year out,” Bloomgren said. “I think that’s one thing we have to do right now within this program. We have to raise the bar. We have to raise the standard. And the standard of excellence on and off the field is something that we are going to try to pursue in everything we do.”
Bloomgren said he plans to run a similar offense at Rice to the one he ran at Stanford. The West Coast offense he used at Stanford led running backs Bryce Love and Christian McCaffrey into Heisman Trophy contention. His offensive lines, known for their physical play, played a major role in clearing holes for those backs. According to Bloomgren, he is planning to bring the same level of physicality to Rice.
“I believe in a West Coast foundation with a power running game,” Bloomgren said. “I think that if you can run the clock, control the clock, score touchdowns and play great defense, that’s a recipe to win games and championships. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Last week, at the press conference announcing Bailiff’s firing, Karlgaard said he was looking for a person willing to rethink the way Rice approaches football. According to Karlgaard, Bloomgren fits that persona.
“I think when he thinks about sports medicine and sleep, nutrition, all of those things, he’s cutting edge and thinks differently,” Karlgaard said. “When it comes to how we play on the field, he wants to be really physical, and in many ways that’s old-school football. I think in many ways he’s the perfect combination of an old-school football coach and a progressive mindset.”
Bloomgren will now begin the process of putting together next season’s coaching staff. New head coaches typically overhaul the staff, especially at the level of offensive and defensive coordinator. He said he expects to hire people he knows well.
“We’ll definitely talk to everybody on [Rice’s] staff,” Bloomgren said. “I’ve got some guys in mind. The problem is that even if they’re great coaches here, they’re not guys that I’ve worked with and guys that I’ve been in the trenches with and guys that I trust. With a first job, as important as it is to get things going the right way, I’m going to go with guys that I know and trust for the most part.”
While he is assembling his staff, he will prepare to coach in the Alamo Bowl with Stanford. According to Bloomgren, Stanford Head Coach David Shaw asked him to coach the game, and he agreed to do it with Karlgaard’s approval. Bloomgren will also attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony with running back Bryce Love in New York City later this month. With the early signing period for recruits beginning on Dec. 20, he will be recruiting for Rice as well.
Once the transition period is over, Bloomgren will take over full time. When he does, he will inherit a team that went 1-11 this past season, its worst mark since the 1980s. Despite last year’s record, Karlgaard said Bloomgren makes him optimistic for the future of Rice football.
“This is maybe as excited as I’ve been in my four years here,” Karlgaard said. “The sense of optimism that I have for the long-term trajectory of the program now is greater than it’s ever been. I feel really good about this university and where we sit and how [Bloomgren] is going to help lead our football program. I have all the confidence in the world that we’re going to get where we need to go.”