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Saturday, June 25, 2022 — Houston, TX

The Fifth Lap

By Gabe Cuadra     9/6/12 7:00pm

In high school, I never envisioned myself at a small university.

In retrospect, it's hard to say exactly why I envisioned myself at a large university. Probably part of it had to do with some sort of perceived independence and freedom that I thought would come with the anonymity of being part of a massive class (though knowing what I know now, Rice's set up gives students far more freedom).


And part of it had to do with athletics. From a personal perspective, I wanted to have the  opportunity to run division I. But even beyond that, I was drawn by the allure of everything that comes from a big time athletics program.


But it was Rice, definitely not a big school, which ended up being the best fit for me. So I entered o-week, and everything that comes with the start of o-week, and wondered if South Main really would be too small after all.

After last weekend's series of home games and matches, I couldn't help but think back on those early days of concern.


Here were the teams Rice hosted for games and matches on campus last weekend: UCLA (football), TCU and Texas State (Soccer), LSU, Washington, and Purdue (Volleyball). That's not a small- school lineup. (And for those who'll point out that the volleyball teams were only here because of a hurricane, a week ago we hosted BYU, Air Force, and Arkansas State. That's still a pretty impressive set).


This isn't to say that Rice isn't a small school, or that ours isn't a smaller athletics program.Simply from a size perspective, there is a massive difference between the University of Texas experienceand the Rice experience, both athletically and academically.


But the fact that we, small as we are, take on big universities like those above, and take them on with the expectation that we'll be competitive, makes a difference. It makes a difference in the undergraduate experience, and it makes a difference in the university attitude as a whole.


Over the last century, this amazing attitude about size has become an engrained part in the university's DNA. On the one hand, our small size allows us to provide small classes, a rich residential college experience, access to top tier faculty, and a plethora of unique opportunities.


At the same time, we haven't let our size limit our scope of possibilities. We haven't decided to be too small for world changing research. We haven't decided to be too small to host a policy think tank like the Baker Institute. We haven't decided to be too small to produce a set of alumni whose impact is felt across the globe.


And, as President Kennedy pointed out 50 years ago, we haven't decided to be too small to play Texas.


From the perspective of college athletics, the test of small size will be even greater in the second century than it was in the first. The athletics facilities arms-race and the focus on securing lucrative television contracts predicated solely on big football audiences has created an increasingly challenging landscape for Rice. The recent series of conference realignments indicates that, for the foreseeable future, this trend is here to stay.


But I hope that Rice doesn't ever decide that we're too small to challenge the best. Instead, I hope that we continue to creatively turn our disadvantages into assets. I hope that we find ways to get the most out of every dollar. I hope that we seek to culminate connections through athletics that benefit the university as a whole. And I hope we continue to challenge our student athletes to be both great students and great athletes. If we dare to be unconventional, both in our approach and in our measures of success, we won't have to decide to be too small. We'll keep challenging UCLA, LSU, TCU and Texas.


And we'll help keep that awesome small-size-big-impact attitude engrained throughout this university's DNA.

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