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The American Athletic Conference, as baseball hall of famer Yogi Berra famously said about the future, ain’t what it used to be. With the University of Houston, University of Cincinnati and University of Central Florida all leaving for the Big 12, the AAC will lose arguably its three most valuable members before Rice plays a game in their new conference. Those three were all key to the AAC’s push to become the sixth major conference: UCF made a legitimate College Football Playoff push with back to back undefeated regular seasons in 2017 and 2018, Houston made the men’s Final Four last year and Cincinnati is currently ranked No. 2 in the country in football. To make matters worse, the University of Connecticut, easily the best women’s basketball program in the country, left the AAC in 2020. The conference that Rice will join in a few years will be a far cry from the AAC of recent years.
For just the third time in school history, Rice will be moving athletic conferences. Along with five other Conference USA schools, Rice accepted an invitation to join the American Athletic Conference, the AAC announced Thursday morning. Rice will remain in C-USA for now, as the move won’t take effect until a later time which is yet to be determined, although multiple Rice coaches indicated that 2023 could be a possible target date. According to Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard, in the AAC, Rice has found a conference that meets all of its criteria.
On Saturday, the University of Texas, San Antonio gashed the Rice defense to the tune of 45 points in three quarters. While the defense had already allowed 58 points to the University of Texas, Austin, and 44 points to the University of Houston, there was something particularly disconcerting about giving up 45 points to a conference opponent, although the offense throwing two interceptions returned for touchdowns certainly didn’t help. The game marked the culmination of a fall from grace for a defense that ranked No. 12 in the country last year, allowing 18.8 points per game. So far this season, the Owl’s defense is giving up 39.67 points per game, good for No. 126 in the country out of 130 teams.
Athletic director Joe Karlgaard describes himself as someone who likes challenges. But even he has found the past year and a half to be difficult.
Just four games into their conference schedule, Rice volleyball has nearly doubled their win total from their ten non-conference games. That’s in large part due to the quality of the Owls’ non-conference opponents, which head coach Genny Volpe said might have been the toughest of any team in college volleyball.
Rice soccer didn’t make it easy for themselves Friday night at Holloway Field, but they were able to pull out a win over Louisiana Tech University to bring their conference record to 2-0. With the game tied at 1-1 in the 81st minute, freshman midfielder Catarina Albuquerque connected with a header to break the tie. The Owls held on in the final nine minutes to secure the win. According to head coach Brian Lee, the team was confident they’d get the win, even with the score tied so late in the game.
To any Rice alumni pining for some nostalgia about the Rice sports of yesteryear, the last few weeks must have been quite the treat. The soccer team, which just wrapped up its non conference schedule, played three consecutive games against the University of Texas, Austin, the University of Houston and Southern Methodist University. If you notice the common thread between these teams, it’s that they were all members of the former Southwest Conference. Soccer wasn’t alone in this trend. Football’s first three games, against the University of Arkansas, Houston and Texas, were all against former SWC foes. Volleyball, which has already played SMU and former SWC member Baylor University, is set to play Texas this week.
It’s probably safe to assume that we’ll all be long dead by the time Rice’s marketing department runs out of ways to make use of John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech from Rice Stadium — the one where he famously asks, “why does Rice play Texas?” But after this weekend, it’s starting to look like it might be even longer before the Rice football team manages to beat their in-state rivals.
It’s well established that Rice hasn’t beaten the University of Texas, Austin at football in a while – 27 years to be exact. You’d have to go back even longer, to 1965, to find the last time the Owls did what they’ll try to do on Saturday – beat the Longhorns in Austin. As they prepare, head coach Mike Bloomgren said that the Owls can’t afford to focus on the magnitude of the game.
Two overtime periods proved not enough to decide a winner between the Rice soccer team and the University of Texas, Austin on Sunday night at Holloway Field. The game went the full 110 minutes, but after the teams traded goals early in the second half, neither team was able to break the 1-1 tie. After the game, head coach Brian Lee said that he was happy with his team’s ability to go toe-to-toe with a strong Texas team.
David Bailiff cherished the two times that he won the Bayou Bucket during his tenure as the Rice head football coach from 2007-2017. But that doesn’t mean he has any misconceptions when it comes to the trophy’s appearance.
When the Rice football team beat No. 15 Marshall University 20-0 last December, their first win over a ranked opponent in 23 years, it was easy to see it as a defining moment for the program. The Owls, who had won just one game so far in their pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and only six games in head coach Mike Bloomgren’s three years at the helm, seemingly came out of nowhere to shut out a top-15 team. But according to Bloomgren, for himself and his team, it just confirmed what they already knew.
The Rice volleyball team entered last season’s NCAA tournament on a tear. They were coming off of an undefeated conference regular season, ranked No. 24 in the country and just a few weeks removed from a win over No. 2 University of Texas, Austin. But just as they were set to take on the North Carolina A&T in the first round, they were met with some heartbreaking news. Due to a positive COVID-19 test within the team, they would be forced to drop out of the tournament. According to junior setter Carly Graham, the sudden end to their season was devastating for a team looking to prove itself among college volleyball’s best.
It might be a bit of an exaggeration to describe any Rice sports program as a powerhouse. But to the extent that a Conference USA school can be a powerhouse, the Rice baseball team was one for over two decades. Between 1995 and 2017, the Owls made the NCAA postseason every single year, including a national championship in 2003, and their seven College World Series appearances (all since 1997) are tied for the twentieth most of any program. At the very least, they were the dominant force in their conference, finishing atop the conference standings every year from 1997-2015, with the exception of 2009, when they placed second. Now, only five years removed from the end of that streak, the Owls are coming off of a season where they finished tenth out of C-USA’s 12 teams, failing to qualify even for the C-USA tournament, much less the NCAA postseason.
Rice fired baseball head coach Matt Bragga, the school announced on Monday. The move comes on the heels of a season in which the Owls placed tenth out of the 12 teams in Conference USA, failing to make the C-USA tournament for the first time ever. In his three seasons at the helm, the Owls have gone 51-76-1 (25-36-1). According to athletic director Joe Karlgaard, the lack of progress shown during Bragga’s tenure prompted the change.
Rice has hired former North Carolina State University associate head coach Lindsay Edmonds to take over the women’s basketball program, the school announced on Friday. The hiring of Edmonds ends Rice’s search to replace former head coach Tina Langley, who left the Owls earlier this month to take the head coaching job at the University of Washington. According to Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard, Edmonds is exactly the kind of coach the program needs right now.
Two years ago, Brian Lee was celebrating a Southeastern Conference soccer title with his team at Louisiana State University. Lee was coming off of his 14th season in Baton Rouge, where he had led LSU’s women’s soccer team to six NCAA tournament appearances and had just been named a finalist for National Coach of the Year.
The Rice soccer team defeated Old Dominion University on Tuesday night by a score of 3-0, to advance to the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament. The Owls got out to an early lead, with two goals in the game’s first 30 minutes, before putting the Monarchs away with a third goal midway through the second half. After the game, head coach Brian Lee said that, despite the 3-0 win, the Owls had to fight past a good Old Dominion team to get the win.
Both Rice track and field teams were in College Station over the weekend for the Texas A&M Invitational track meet. Six Owls won events at the meet, three each from the men’s and women’s teams, and 14 Owls had top-3 finishes. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, the Owls put on a strong show against tough competition.
Rice women’s basketball head coach Tina Langley is leaving the Owls to accept the head coaching position at the University of Washington, it was announced on Monday. Langley leaves the Owls with the highest winning percentage in program history. Rice must now find a replacement to take over a program that won the Women’s National Invitational Tournament title just over a week ago.