I’ll admit it; I didn’t see it coming. Throughout my time at this school, I have criticized Rice Athletics. I thought the department was slow to address problems, that teams were trending in the wrong direction, that change was often necessary. I now admit that I was wrong. After nearly 30 years of occasional greatness and frequent respectability, Rice Athletics has returned to the good ol’ days. Finally, Rice sucks again.
I have long heard stories about Rice’s grand athletic past. Back when students cared about sports, fans filled the stands and the Owls only sometimes didn’t finish last in the Southwest Conference. Man, those days must have been great. How wonderful it must have been between 1963 and 1992 when Rice football did not record a single winning season. I can just imagine the joy I would’ve felt sitting on the hard, gray concrete of Rice Stadium witnessing a brutal defeat at the hands of a more well-known opponent.
Only now, I no longer have to imagine. This year, Rice has completed its mission. All three of its major men’s sports teams — football, basketball and baseball — are bad. Finally.
It’s been a long time coming. The last time the football team, baseball team and men’s basketball team all finished with losing records in the same academic year was in 1988-89. That year, football was 0-11, baseball was 28-30 and men’s basketball was 12-16. Even back in those glory years, Rice seldom completed the trifecta. Before 1988-89, the last time it had happened was in 1979-80.
In 2017-18, Rice has already had a 1-11 football team and a 7-24 men’s basketball team. With the baseball team off to a 10-16 start, this could finally be the year Rice breaks the drought. Cherish this year, Rice fans, because you never know when the Owls will be this bad again.
The athletic department’s plan has worked perfectly. It’s only a matter of time before students flock to sporting events like they did during all those losing seasons long ago. I bet Rice is already drafting marketing strategies like changing its fight song from “Stand, cheer, drink more beer,” to “Sit, sigh, drink more beer.” At least the drinking beer part is already there. Let’s be honest, the only way to sit through a Rice baseball game these days is to drink, and drink a lot.
Long term, this plan has staying power. At this rate, if Rice keeps gifting wins to its conference rivals, it’s only a matter of time before schools like Marshall University and Western Kentucky University rack up enough victories to be regarded as national powerhouses. Why move to a power conference when you can create your own through sheer incompetence?
Rice is closer than ever to realizing its dream of returning to its glory years. A power conference, adoring fans, losing seasons year in and year out — it’s all within reach if the Owls can keep up the current pace. Just wait a few years and there’ll be fans by the dozens packing Tudor Fieldhouse with bags over their heads. It would be a dream come true.