A legendary tenure is set to come to an end at the end of the baseball season. Baseball head coach Wayne Graham has been informed that his contract will not be renewed next year. Graham has been the head coach at Rice since 1992 and has led the Owls to 23 consecutive NCAA tournaments. He has never had a losing season, though the Owls are currently 16-23-2 this year. Graham said the decision was ultimately out of his control.
"I guess things end," Graham said. "You can't fight the top. Their decision is their decision."
Graham took over a Rice team in 1992 that had never made the NCAA tournament. He first took the Owls to the tournament in 1995 and has not missed it since. In 1996, his teams began a streak of 20 consecutive years with a conference championship. Graham appeared in seven College World Series, most recently in 2008, and won the national championship in 2003.
According to Graham, he made the decision to go release his contract situation to the public because he felt it was in the best interest of the team.
"I felt there were rumors surrounding the program now that were affecting the players," Graham said. "I think when you clarify that and get it out in the open, now we can go about our business and proceed to get into the NCAA playoffs."
Graham told Fox 26 he believes another former player is vying for his job. According to former Rice pitcher Wade Townsend, that player is Lance Berkman. Berkman played for the Owls and won the National Collge Player of the Year award in 1997. A series of tweets from Townsend allege Berkman has been lobbying athletic director Joe Karlgaard to take over the position.
Graham, who is 82 years old, has repeatedly voiced his desire to continue coaching, whether at Rice or at another school. The hall of fame coach said he believes the athletic department wanted a fresh start to revitalize the program, which has not advanced to the Super Regional round of the tournament since 2013.
"I certainly wasn't asking for more money," Graham said. "There's no barrier [to me continuing] other than someone wanting change and thinking the program would benefit from a new face."
Athletic director Joe Karlgaard declined comment on Graham's contract situation.
“I understand Coach Graham has made a statement regarding his contract, which expires at the end of the 2018 season," Karlgaard said. "As is our practice, conversations regarding coaches contracts and tenure are conducted confidentially and professionally. We do not comment on these or other personnel matters, and I will continue to proceed in that fashion."
Last updated April 25, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.