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SPORTS 2/4/15 4:04pm

Basketball drops two conference games

The Rice University men’s basketball team suffered two consecutive losses on the road this week to the University of Houston 48-59 and the University of North Texas 65-75.Although Rice and Houston were tied 22-22 at halftime, Houston managed to pull away in the second half, outscoring the Owls by 11 points despite Rice shooting 55 percent from the field. Head Coach Mike Rhoades said loss of focus was an important factor in the defeat against Houston. “Once again we got off to a good start,” Rhoades said. “I thought it was one of our games where we just lacked enough focus to continue through the game. We did some good things early, got it going a little bit, but we just allowed Houston too many extra shots. We weren’t as aggressive on both ends of the court as we have been in the near past.”Rhoades also said the team came out strong against North Texas, but once again played a weaker second half. Despite scoring a season-high 15 three-pointers and recording their highest-scoring first half of the season, Rice’s offense stagnated in the second half. Rice led 45-37 at halftime, but was held to only 20 second-half points on 21 percent shooting while the Mean Grean scored 38 points. “We played a great first half, but they are a very talented team,” Rhoades said. “Our defense was just okay. We had a lot of confidence going into the second half … We just did not get off to a good start [in the second half]. Then it became a dogfight, and we just allowed them too much confidence [and too many easy scores] throughout the second half. The Owls have two upcoming road games against Marshall University and Western Kentucky University. Rhoades said the team needs to improve its practices to win key road conference games.“We just [have] to have a really good week of practice and prepare to pull these games out,” Rhoades said. “They’re both good programs, but you know it’s league play, so you have to find a way to win on the road.”Rice’s next home game is on Thursday, Feb. 12 against Middle Tennessee State University.

SPORTS 2/4/15 3:46pm

Casey Clark qualifies for US Olympic Trials

Casey Clark excels in both the classroom and in the swimming pool. The Baker College senior will be graduating in May with a degree in civil and environmental engineering and already has a job lined up with Shell. With her friendly personality and relaxed conversational style, anyone speaking with her would not expect her to be the same person whose competitive drive and skill makes her one of the most accomplished swimmers in Rice history. Clark began swimming competitively year-round at the age of nine, but in about two months, her demanding schedule of two-a-day practices and traveling for meets might be over. She says the reality of the impending shock of not swimming competitively again has not hit her yet. “[Swimming] has been such a large part of my life,” Clark said. “Swimming takes so much time and it becomes your identity. People know me as ‘the swimmer.’” From the moment she came to Rice as a graduate of Klein High School, 45 minutes north of Rice, she took the pool by storm and made an immediate contribution to the Owl’s swim team. She shared the team’s Rookie of the Year award, won three individual bronze medals and broke a Rice record in her first season as an Owl. That summer, Clark competed in the United States Olympic Team Trials. Commonly referred to as “Trials,” the meet is held every four years before the Summer Olympics to select the participants for the U.S. swim team. Clark competed in those Trials in both the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter freestyle. According to Clark, her goal was to achieve Olympic Trials cuts in order to compete in more events at the meet and simply enjoy the experience. “Obviously, going into Olympic Trials, I didn’t think I was going to make the team,” Clark said. “It was more about the experience of going and trying to maximize the amount of swims there.” Clark said despite not placing very highly, she recalls the thrill of competing on one of the highest stages. “It was really cool to just be at that high-profile meet,” Clark said. “They had fireworks on the pool deck and everything. It was just cool to be in a setting in which swimming was getting the attention that I feel other sports get.” In a long-course meters (Olympic-size 50- meter pool) meet in Austin two weeks ago, Clark posted two lifetime best marks in the 100-meter freestyle (57.08) and the 100-meter butterfly (1:00.42), the latter being an Olympic Trials cut.  Despite qualifying for the Olympic Trials once again, Clark is leaning toward not competing in the meet once again in 2016. According to Clark, going to the Trials would require her to train rigorously for over a year more than she would otherwise.  “It is kind of a tricky situation because I am graduating in May and I accepted a job in New Orleans,” Clark said. “With that, I don’t think I would be able to train or compete at the level that I need to be at.” However, Clark said she has not completely shut the door on swimming in Omaha with the nation’s best once again in July 2016.  “I am just going to start working, but I could take a couple months off and then train again,” Clark said. “If I decide that it is something I can do, then I might.” Clark’s current focus, however, remains her college meets which take place in a short-course yards competition pool. While international meets such as the Olympics take place in 50-meter pools, most meets in the United States occur in 25-yard pools, which make for faster times due to the differences with the metric system and the larger number of turns in the races. Right now, Clark is working on tapering, or gradually beginning to rest, for the Conference USA Championship Meet in Knoxville, Tennessee on Feb. 18-21 and for the NCAA Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina a month later. As possibly the only Owls swimmer to compete in both meets, Clark said she has to find a way to be rested yet prepared. “I am sort of half-tapering for conference and half-tapering for national,” Clark said. “Just points-wise, it does not make sense for me to not be rested and conference and not try to swim at the top level, but at the same time, I can’t put all of my eggs in that basket and not do well at nationals.” Clark is looking forward to bringing back a second consecutive conference championship to Rice. In last year’s meet where she was named the Swimmer of the Meet, the Owls won the conference. This year, she said it will be much more difficult to attain that level of success. “Our conference is going to be way more challenging,” Clark said. “Last year we won it handily by about 300 points. It is going to be a lot more challenging, but we are definitely a stronger team this year.” With a conference championship meet, NCAA championships and even possibly another Olympic Trials left for her, she currently sits atop the Rice swimming record books with individual school records in the 100 yard freestyle (49.26), 100 backstroke (53.86), 200 freestyle (1:45.69), 200 butterfly (1:57.28) and in her favorite event, the 100 butterfly (52.70). In addition, she has been a member of four of the school’s five record setting relays. Clark said it might take another record-breaking swim for her to attain her goal of reaching the finals at the NCAA championships this year. “I’ve been twice before but I didn’t make finals,” Clark said. “My goal is to final and score points at NCAAs.”

SPORTS 1/28/15 7:44am

Tennis continues strong start to new season

This weekend, the no. 75 ranked Rice University men’s tennis team played three non-conference matches to bring their overall record to 3-2.  On Friday, the Owls swept both games of a doubleheader against the University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Texas, Pan American. Then on Sunday, the Owls lost a close matchup against Old Dominion University 4-2.  Friday’s matches were moved indoors to the Downtown Club due to rainy conditions. With the matches held indoors, singles took place first. The Owls won all but one of the 25 sets of the day en route to two victories against in-state opponents. Sunday’s match was once again held at the George R. Brown Tennis Center. Facing conference opponent Old Dominion University, the Owls started with an early lead after winning the doubles portion of the match. However, singles proved to be a much larger challenge for the Owls as they dropped four of the five finished matches to the Monarchs with the lone win coming from junior Adam Gustaffson on court four.  Rice Head Coach Efe Ustundag said his team could not capitalize on the lead that they opened with after winning five of the first six sets of the day.  “[Old Dominion] is a team that fights,” Ustundag said. “They are going to find ways to get back into those matches and that is exactly what happened.” Ustundag said the team was not aggressive enough in singles play to overtake the Monarchs. “We kept playing, hoping for them to give it to us,” Ustundag said. “We didn’t go and take it from them.” The Owls have now lost two matches –against the University of Texas, San Antonio and Old Dominion. Both games were close home losses against conference opponents. The Owls will now travel to Starkville, Mississippi to face off against no. 21 Mississippi State and no. 48 Texas Tech University. These two teams will be the highest-ranked opponents that the Owls have faced this season so far. According to Ustundag, the team must get used to the season’s increasing difficulty. “Now the competition gets even harder,” Ustundag said. “Our job is going to get tougher and tougher.” Despite being ranked lower than the teams that they will face next weekend, Ustundag said he is confident that the Owls can keep pace with the best of them. “I don’t think there is too much of a difference between us and the teams we are about to play,” Ustundag said. “It is a matter of who converts and who does a better job putting away matches.”

SPORTS 1/28/15 7:39am

Former Owl heads to second Super Bowl

Few National Football League players ever get to play in a Super Bowl, and even fewer get to do it twice. Rice University alumnus Luke Willson has accomplished that in just two years.With the Seattle Seahawks becoming the first team in 10 years to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances, Willson, the Seahawks’ starting tight end, will represent his alma mater in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.Willson, a former member of Lovett College, graduated from Rice with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science and a minor in business. Willson capped his Rice career with a victory in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl. Willson was then drafted the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.According to Willson, his time playing football at Rice helped him prepare for his NFL career, as he learned how to move on from losses.“My first few years [at Rice] everyone faced a lot of adversity, so that really prepared me for the NFL,” Willson said. “Especially this year when we were struggling a little bit early on and going through some challenges. We kind of fall back on times when we faced adversity before and how we got through it and how we learned from it.”Willson also said he learned his work ethic during his time in Houston.“There’s a lot of hard-working guys on that Rice team and that’s kind of what the program is built on, and that’s what I took into the NFL,” Willson said.Last season against the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, Willson recorded two receptions for 17 yards in a winning effort. This time, Willson will look to improve upon those numbers, but remains focused on winning the big game. Willson has improved on his rookie numbers this season, posting 22 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, and making six receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown during the Seahawks’ playoff run.Willson has already made a name for himself in the NFL as the starting tight end for the reigning Super Bowl champions. In last week’s NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, Willson made a play that may have saved the Seahawks’ season.With 1:25 left in the game, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch scored a rushing touchdown to put Seattle up 20-19. Seattle elected to go for a two-point conversion to put them up three points, and Willson ended up catching the ball in the end zone after a broken play. According to Willson, he was not even supposed to be going for the catch on the play.“It was kind of just a backyard football play; not exactly how we were planning to go,” Willson said. “I was actually involved in protection and [Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson] scrambled around. I really thought I was out of the play and the next thing I knew the ball was in the air. It hung up there a while and I was able to come down with it, and it turned out to be a big play in that game.”The touchdown put the Seahawks up 22-19, and after the Packers scored a game-tying field goal near the end of regulation, Seattle was able to win the game in overtime.Only seven teams in NFL history have ever won back-to-back Super Bowls, and no team has accomplished that feat since the 2004 New England Patriots, who will be Seattle’s opponent in the game. According to Willson, the team will go into their second consecutive Super Bowl with the same mindset as last year’s, although they will be more aware of the off-field hype that surrounds the biggest annual event in the United States.“It’s a little bit different, but at the same time a lot of it is the same,” Wilson said. “We have a pretty good idea of how this game is going to as far as distractions go. But on the football side of it, it feels very similar. We’re playing a great team just like we did last year. We just have to come out and execute.”Despite being an NFL starter on the verge of playing in his second Super Bowl in two seasons, Willson hasn’t forgotten his roots. He still follows Rice football closely, and said he has some interesting, if not controversial, ideas about its future.“I hope one day we’ll be in the Big 12 Conference,” Wilson said. “Especially nowadays with everyone realizing how short NFL careers are and how important education is. I feel if we went to the Big 12 we could attract some people. The way the program is headed and how we’ve been able to win a bunch of games the last three years could send us into a Power 5 conference, and that would really get the ball rolling.”Willson and the Seattle Seahawks will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1. The game will be televised around the globe on NBC at 5:30 p.m.

SPORTS 1/28/15 7:38am

Conference proves tough for women’s basketball

In six games, the Rice University women’s basketball game registered six losses.This week, the Owls fell to the University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana Tech University. On Thursday night, the Owls took on Southern Miss and lost by a final score of 65-54. Following the loss, the Owls faced off against the Lady Bulldogs. Rice led for much of the game but Louisiana Tech finished the game on a 21-8 run and won 88-71.The team failed to reach 60 points for the seventh straight game against Southern Miss. At the 11:22 mark of the first half, the Owls took an 18-16 lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Maya Hawkins. The lead did not last long though, as Southern Miss went into halftime with a 34-26 halftime advantage. Rice would get as close as 34-32 with a quick burst in the second half, but would not regain the lead for the remainder of the game. Key contributors for Rice included senior forward Megan Shafer, who scored nine points off the bench in just 13 minutes of action, and fellow senior Christal Porter, who led the team with nine rebounds. Against Louisiana Tech, the Owls made the necessary adjustments on the offensive side of the ball and were rewarded by having three players score in double digits. Not only did Rice reach the 60-point mark for the contest, but they reached 70 points for only the third time this season. However, the defensive performance and turnover margin proved too much, as they allowed a season-high 88 points to the opposition and committed 22 turnovers. Louisiana Tech’s offense capitalized on Rice’s mistakes, shooting 59 percent from the field and scoring 20 points off turnovers. Senior point guard Chrisstasia Walter, who scored a game-high 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a perfect 11-of-11 at the free throw line, led the Bulldogs offensively.The game featured 13 lead changes and seven ties, including Rice having led for the majority of the first half. Porter earned her fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds while senior guard Nakachi Maduka scored 13 points and added eight rebounds for the Owls. Porter said, despite the six-game losing streak, spirits are high in the locker room and the seniors on the team contribute to keeping things positive. “The locker room has definitely been staying positive,” Porter said. “Senior leadership is important to remind the team of how successful we have been [in past years]. We have been [competitive] in every conference game, so it’s just a matter of keeping up the work.”Freshman guard Shani Rainey has been a spot starter for the Owls and is a key player off the bench. She said she feels she and her teammates need to take advantage of every single possession to revert back to their winning ways. “One thing that we as a team need to do is value every possession,” Rainey said. “We can’t take even one off because that could be the deciding factor on who wins the game [and who loses].”  According to head coach Greg Williams, the Owls need to focus on scoring consistently.“Offensive consistency has been a problem all season,” Williams said. “We do not have a proven scorer in late game situations, so we [find ourselves having] to adjust game to game to find that player.” The Owls return to Tudor Fieldhouse this coming Sunday, Feb. 1 to take on the University of North Texas. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.

SPORTS 1/28/15 7:35am

Basketball splits weekend conference matchups

The Rice University men’s basketball team (6-12, 3-4 C-USA) went 1-1 last week against the University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana Tech University. The Owls came back to defeat Southern Miss 58-56 after being down by as many as 10 points. Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson scored the winning free throws after he was fouled when the game was tied with fewer than six seconds left. Jackson led the team with 19 points and senior forward Seth Gearhart added 16.Head Coach Mike Rhoades said he was pleased with how the team was able to come back in the game.“I was really proud of our guys,” Rhoades said. “We got down 10 there, and we could have bagged it. We’ve had a lot of games this season where we were in the position and came back but couldn’t get over the hump, but we [did].”Rice jumped out to an early lead against Louisiana Tech, who is currently second in Conference USA with a record of 15-5. The Owls never recovered after the 28-24 halftime deficit and ultimately lost 45-58. Gearhart scored 16 points for the second consecutive game, making it 12 straight games that he has scored double-digit points. Jackson contributed 12 points in the game.According to Rhoades, Louisiana Tech’s defense played tough and did not allow Rice many scoring opportunities.“It was a hard game to score in today,” Rhoades said. “It wasn’t lack of effort. I thought our guys did a great job of being composed and continuing to fight. We did not shoot the ball well, and their athleticism had something to do with that.”Gearhart is one of the 30 seniors in the country nominated for the national Senior CLASS Award. The award honors student athletes who excel in community, classroom, character and competition. The Owls will begin a four-game road trip on Wednesday, Jan. 28, against the University of Houston, their final non-conference game. The next home game is Thursday, Feb. 12 against Middle Tennessee State University.

SPORTS 1/21/15 2:48pm

Hawkins emerges from injury

Wearing a highly protective metal brace on her surgically repaired left knee, sophomore guard Maya Hawkins has overcome adversity to become one of the central players on the Rice women’s basketball team.Hawkins has spent much of her first two seasons at Rice recovering from an injury to her anterior cruciate ligament. In the first two games of her return from injury, Hawkins posted career-high scoring performances of 25 and 23 points to carry the Owls at the start of conference play.Whether it’s consistently diving on the floor for a loose ball or wrestling with the opposing team for possession, Hawkins said she has a tendency for making the “hustle plays.” “My favorite aspect of the game has to be defense [because] I believe defense is one of the few things in basketball that you can control the entire game,” Hawkins said. “Sometimes, your shot might be off, or you might have a few turnovers, but you can always sprint back and make a stop on defense and play with that edge if you really put your mind to it.”Hawkins has impacted her team in her limited time on the court with her leadership ability. Hawkins said she takes great pride in constantly motivating her teammates and said she attributes this to the perpetual support she received while sidelined with a torn ACL in her left knee. “My teammates have shown me nothing but support throughout the entire process of my rehabilitation,” Hawkins said. “They really showed me what it means to be a part of a team, and their support and confidence in me helped me regain confidence in myself. [My teammates] and other family members really push me to work hard every day so that I can show them that their investment was well worth it.” According to Hawkins, the ACL injury she sustained entering her sophomore year was not her first severe injury. “My first major injury was my freshman year at Rice when I fractured my tibia,” Hawkins said. “Thankfully, it did not require surgery of any kind, but I had to miss [most] of the season. The hardest part about coming back from that injury was coming back with confidence that I could perform well and compete at the college level.” The Owls return to Tudor Fieldhouse Feb. 1, where Maya Hawkins and the rest of the Owls will be in action against the University of North Texas in a nationally-televised game. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. 

SPORTS 1/21/15 2:44pm

Men's tennis opens at home

The newly constructed George R. Brown Tennis Center hosted its first official matches this weekend as the Rice men’s tennis team begins its 2015 season.  On Friday, the Owls (1-1) lost 4-3 to the University of Texas, San Antonio (1-1). On Sunday, the Owls defeated Cornell University (1-1) 4-1. At the beginning of Friday’s game, the UTSA Roadrunners won the doubles round and the Owls were unable to come back. Sophomore Zach Yablon, freshman Jamie Malik and sophomore David Warren won their singles matches, but senior Srikar Alla could not hang on to a 4-1 lead in the third set against UTSA senior Thomas Stillman. Stillman went on to win the match 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (8), and the Roadrunners clinched the 4-3 victory. On Sunday, the Owls faced off against nationally-ranked No. 60 Cornell University. The Owls took control and won the match when Alla delivered the clinching point against Cornell senior Sam Fleck.  Head coach Efe Ustundag said the Owls were disappointed after losing their home opener in Rice’s new venue. “The nerves just got too much out of us,” Ustundag said. “The energy that was built up since last semester just came out differently than we had hoped for.” According to Ustundag, the team was able to rebound on Sunday by focusing less on previous mistakes and more on what could be improved. “We got better at not letting those opportunities that got away from us affect us,” Ustundag said. “Today, having that first match out of the way, we could come out and focus on the small details like the energy and intensity.”  According to Ustundag, the Owls have a long a way to go before they can consistently compete with teams like Cornell’s. “We still [need] a lot of improvements,” Ustundag said. “I think this was a nice preview of how good we can be when we are clicking on all cylinders.” The $8 million George R. Brown Center differs in its design from the Owls’ previous home at the Jake Hess Tennis Stadium. Instead of having a concentrated seating area around the center court, the new center allows fans to move from one court to another as dictated by the play. Ustundag said the fan-friendly design contributed to the Owls’ success. “I think it’s phenomenal,” Ustundag said. “Just being able to turn around and have four guys and three roommates of each [player] just standing right behind them and supporting and pushing, I feel like it makes a huge difference.” The Owls now go on to face another two games next weekend against Incarnate Word University on Friday and Old Dominion University on Sunday.

SPORTS 1/21/15 2:41pm

Women's tennis looks to defend title

Following a successful 18-7 record last year and an NCAA Championship Regional Round berth, the Rice women’s tennis team adds two new faces but continues their vision for excellence.  From last year to this year, there have been several personnel changes including a new assistant coach, Taylor Fogleman, who joined Rice after spending the past few seasons at Tulane University.Finally, the team has added two American-born players who have continued to impress their upperclassmen teammates throughout the preseason and heading into the first match. Senior Natalie Beazant said the two players, Lindsey Hodge and Savannah Durkin, fit in with the team early on. According to Beazant, Hodge and Durkin being American does not negatively impact the team’s dynamic, which consists of five international players out of eight total.“They fit into the team really well, but they are great girls to be around and work hard every day so the team respects them for that,” Beazant said.  “Besides them and one more girl, the rest of the team is international mainly because tennis is an international sport, but even with this team makeup, everybody has the same goal so it all works out.”  The women’s tennis program believes the closeness between the players themselves and with the coaching staff will be a defining characteristic. With four upperclassmen taking the helm and mentoring the younger players, combined with joint offseason workouts and team activities such as Top Golf, those teammate bonds will carry them far into the season.  Beazant said the team’s success will be derived from their chemistry off the court.“Knowing how close we are already is wonderful,” Beazant said. “Having [Fogleman] as an assistant coach and especially [Schmidt] as a head coach [whom] you can trust both on and off the court and wants the best for you in life, makes us some of the luckiest student athletes in the world.”According to Beazant, playing in the new $8 million dollar George R. Brown Tennis Facility is an exciting prospect and will motivate the team throughout the season.“I think it is simply amazing being at a school ranked as high as it is academically and also have brand new facilities that we have now,” Beazant said.  “I remember when I was told a few years ago that the school was planning on building new courts, so it has been really exciting to see that entire process take place.”The Owls shut out Lamar University 7-0 last Saturday, Jan. 17, and hope to continue that momentum into next weekend’s matchup against the University of Kentucky. The match will take place in Evanston, Illinois on Jan. 24 at 2 p.m.

SPORTS 1/14/15 10:40am

Defense leads Rice to bowl victory

Two touchdown passes from redshirt junior quarterback Driphus Jackson in the last 19 seconds of the first quarter gave Rice all the momentum it needed. After throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor with 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Fresno State University junior quarterback Brian Burrell threw an interception to sophomore cornerback J.T. Blasingame on Fresno’s first play back. Jackson threw his second touchdown pass in as many plays on the next down, a 69-yard strike to senior wide receiver Mario Hull with four seconds remaining in the quarter.The two touchdowns took Rice’s lead to 16-3 at the end of the first quarter, and the Owls never looked back. Rice went on to cap its 2014 season with a postseason bowl victory in the Hawai’i Bowl, defeating Fresno State 30-6 Dec. 24. The win took Rice’s record to 8-5 overall, including winning eight of their last 10. Rice earned its second bowl victory in three years and its 18th win over the last two seasons, the best two-season stretch in school history.The offense stagnated in the second quarter, but went on to score a touchdown in the third and fourth quarters, while only sacrificing two field goals in the game. It marked the first time since 2011 Rice did not allow a touchdown from the opposing team.Coming off a 71-36 loss against Louisiana Tech in which they allowed 677 yards of offense, the Owls’ defense looked to rebound against Fresno State, allowing 27 yards through three quarters. Fresno State finished with 93 yards passing on 38 attempts, and Burrell completed 10 of 20 passes for 44 yards and two interceptions. The defense also added four sacks on its way to holding Fresno State to 158 yards and 22 points under its season average.Senior safety Julius White said the team was out to prove something after the school’s worst defensive performance since allowing 77 points to Louisiana State University in 1977.“Defensively, everybody had a kind of chip on their shoulder,” White said. “[The Louisiana Tech game] wasn’t the way we wanted to go out in the regular season. We didn’t really play much like ourselves that game, so wemade this game like there was something we had to prove. We needed to make a statement on national television that that’s not the defense that Rice wants to be.”According to Head Coach David Bailiff, the team saved its best defensive performance for last.”[It was] probably one of the best defensive performances we’ve had all year,” Bailiff said. “I thought our front four was very disruptive and really thought our secondary was just outstanding. I thought we tackled really well.”Jackson won the game’s Most Valuable Player award after having his best statistical game of the season, completing 15 of 24 passes for a school bowl-record 318 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers. Jackson also added 41 yards rushing and finished the season with 2,842 yards passing and 24 touchdown passes, good for the third-best mark in Rice single season history.Senior wide receivers Mario Hull and Jordan Taylor and junior wide receiver Dennis Parks each had a touchdown catch in the game. Parks recorded his first career 100-yard receiving performance, catching five passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. In Taylor’s final game, he caught five passes for 61 yards and a score. The senior finished his career with 176 receptions, 2,588 yards and 20 touchdowns. Taylor finished his career third in Rice history in receptions, second in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns.According to Jackson, his passing statistics were inflated by the play of his wide receivers.“I had to be on point when it came to reading coverages, but the receivers did a great job of adjusting to balls,” Jackson said. “I get a lot of praise for the touchdown to [Mario Hull], but Mario made a great adjustment to that ball because it was short and he ended up making a play on it. I get a lot of praise for what’s going on, but I’m just doing my one-eleventh and everybody else did their part and it came out the way it was supposed to.”Bailiff, however, had more praise for the quarterback. Bailiff said Jackson led the team to victory through his play and decision making.“I thought Driphus did an incredible job of not only managing the game, but at times taking it over,” Bailiff said. “With his big plays and some of the reads he was able to do, we’re really excited he’s coming back next season. It really seemed every time we needed a play Driphus made one for us.”The bowl victory was Bailiff’s third win in four attempts, and he is now currently tied with Jess Neely for the most bowl wins by a Rice head coach. Rice will now shift its focus to the offseason and preparing for the 2015 season. The team will lose five starters from this year’s offense and seven from the defense. The team will look to reload around rising senior quarterback Jackson, who will look to build upon his first year starting. 

SPORTS 1/14/15 10:39am

Women's basketball opens conference play

The Rice University women’s basketball team entered conference play with a 5-6 record, including a 5-2 record at home. During the non-conference portion of the schedule, Rice competed against two of the top women’s college basketball programs in the nation, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas, Austin. Ranked No. 5 and No. 3 respectively at the time Rice played them, both teams defeated Rice in the non-conference portion of the season.To mark the beginning of conference play, the Owls went on the road for three consecutive games. In the first game, the Owls defeated the University of Texas, San Antonio in overtime with a final score of 62-58. Sophomore guard Maya Hawkins scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the game to earn the first double-double of her career. She was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and committed just one turnover in 37 minutes of play off the bench. As a whole, the Owls bench outscored UTSA 37-15 over the course of the game. Rice then went on to play the University of Texas, El Paso Jan. 4. Despite another team-leading performance by Hawkins, the Owls could not complete a late second half comeback and lost 54-51. Hawkins scored a team-high 23 points for the Owls, which included three three-pointers. The rest of the offense struggled, as no other Owl scored more than six points in the contest. Senior post player Christal Porter and sophomore post player Adaeze Obinnah tied for the team high in rebounds with nine each. After a five-day layoff, the Owls competed in their final game of the road trip against the University of North Texas. After a slow start from the Owls, the team went on a 15-5 run to close the first half and take a 27-23 lead into the break. With just 4:23 remaining in the game, Rice held a narrow 43-42 lead, but was unable to hold on and lost by a final score of 53-48. Junior forward Megan Palmer led Rice in scoring and rebounding, recording nine points and eight rebounds. Rice committed a season-high 23 turnovers in the game, which UNT turned into 21 points. Hawkins said her recent success should be attributed to her teammates and how they have supported her during her comeback after suffering an injury last year.“My performance at the beginning of conference play was largely due to my teammates,” Hawkins said. “Their encouragement before, during and after my recovery process has helped me to regain my confidence … and I couldn’t have accomplished anything without them.” Hawkins said playing on the road was a challenge, but also said she was proud of the way the team fought. “Playing on the road was very tough, but I was proud of how our team played while away, even though some of the games didn’t go as we would have liked,” Hawkins said. “Our team will be working hard all week long to ensure that we secure these next two games in front of our fans at home.” Head Coach Greg Williams said Hawkins’s return from injury will hopefully spark the team in the games to come. “We are glad to have Maya back on the court,” Williams said. “She adds defensive quickness at the point position and is our most consistent three-point shooter.”Williams said the team needs to prepare for their next two games at home to get the season back on track.“Both [Old Dominion University and Louisiana Tech University] are athletic with most of their scoring coming from their perimeter players,” Williams said. “Every game is different, as are the decisions players make on the floor, [and] we are ready to come out strong on our home court.” Rice returns to action this Thursday, Jan. 15 at Tudor Fieldhouse to face Old Dominion. Old Dominio currnelty boasts an overall record of 8-6, incluidng 1-2 in Conference USA. Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 6 p.m. 

SPORTS 1/14/15 10:38am

Men’s basketball begins conference play with win

The Rice University men’s basketball team opened conference play on Friday, Jan. 2 with a 15-point win over the University of Texas at San Antonio. They then dropped two games to the University of Texas, El Paso and University of North Texas. The Owls are currently 1-2 in conference play and 4-10 overall. Before conference play began, Rice played the University of Texas, Austin, which was ranked No. 10 nationally at the time of the game.Although UT won the game 66-55 with a late run, Head Coach Mike Rhoades said even though they did not win, the game showed them they could compete at a high level.“We really played well,” Rhoades said. “We played well enough to win ... We were right there. We have to keep getting better so we can learn to win games. The Texas game showed us that we can play with a lot of people if we’re on our game, follow the game plan, and play together.”Over the past three conference games, sophomore guard Marcus Jackson has averaged 23 points per game on 60.5 percent shooting from the field. Rhoades said Jackson’s increase in scoring is not the only thing that has changed about Jackson’s game and praised him as an emerging leader in the team.”It’s not even a scoring streak as much as it is [experience],” Rhoades said. “Early in the year, he was really pressuring himself to do everything. All we talked to him about was [playing] better defense — just keep playing better defense and your offense will come. He’s a good player and he’s taking the right shots. What we see is that he’s [taken] a leadership role.”Rhoades said he was proud of the team’s commitment to practice over winter break. “I’m really proud of this team, [mainly] the effort and the approach they’ve had over break,” Rhoades said. “We’ve been [on campus] for a long time just by ourselves and we’ve gotten better and closer as a team. I’m really proud of them. We’ve come up short in some games but we won our first [conference] game against UTSA. I think it was the first time in four years we started off the league with a win. We played well enough to have UTEP on the ropes. The other day against North Texas, we didn’t play very well, … but we found a way to get back in it and almost pull it out.” Rice has road games against Old Dominion University and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte in the upcoming week. The next home game will be on Jan. 22 against the University of Southern Mississippi at 7 p.m.Old Dominion currently has the best record in the conference, going 13-2 over the course of the season, and 2-1 in conference play. UNC-Charlotte is sitting in the middle of the pack with an overall record of 7-8. Old Dominion has the No. 1 scoring defense in C-USA, allowing 55.9 points per game. Converseley, Rice allows an average of 65.4. The game against ODU will tip off on Thursday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m.

SPORTS 1/14/15 10:36am

Covington to forgo final season for NFL Draft

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Christian Covington has decided to forgo his senior year and declare for the NFL Draft. Covington is a native of Vancouver, Canada and three-year starter for the Owls. He is on track to graduate in May. Covington is projected to be a late round draft pick by after missing most of the season due to injury. On Nov. 1, he sustained another injury when he dislocated his left kneecap against Florida International University. This injury required surgery and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  In the seven games he played this season, Covington recorded 20 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. In his 2013 All-Conference USA season, Covington recorded 59 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and four sacks, including a memorable sack of Texas A&M University quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.  At the time of injury, his timetable for return was six months, which would keep him out of play until April. He projects to be unavailable for the NFL Combine in February and Rice’s Pro Day, which is usually held in March.  The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Covington entered the 2014-15 season as a consensus All-Conference USA selection. Early mock drafts and draft projections expected him to enter the draft after this season. He received some late first round and second round chatter from various draft analysts including CBS Sport’s Dane Bugler, who compared his skill set to that of former Florida State University defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. After the injury setbacks that he suffered this year, however, his spot in mock drafts has fallen significantly. projects him as a 5th round pick. He is currently rated the seventh best defensive tackle in the draft by CBS Sports.  Covington asked for an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which issues one of three grades to underclassmen prospects — first- round projection, second-round, or a recommendation to stay in school for another year. According to the Houston Chronicle, Covington received a recommendation to stay in school for another year. The change is part of an effort from the NFL to urge underclassmen to stay in school longer after an all-time high of 98 underclassmen declared for last year’s draft.  In an official statement released by Covington, he thanked the football program, his coaches, friends and teammates for his time at Rice. “I want to thank Rice University and the Rice football program for the honor and privilege of suiting up for the Owls,” Covington said. “My four years at Rice have marked some of the best years of my life, and I am truly blessed to have been able to attend such a prestigious university with amazing people and play with such incredible teammates.” Covington, whose decision to forgo his senior year could cost him a significant difference in his draft selection and rookie contract, said his choice was not easy or taken lightly by him. “The decision for me to leave was not an easy one,” Covington said. “Through the help of a lot of prayer and the help of family, my decision to declare became clear.” For the Rice football team, this means another starting spot to fill for Defensive Coordinator Chris Thurmond, who will lose seven other defensive starters to graduation. According to Thurmond, Covington’s departure will be a setback for the team, but the defense will adjust and prepare for next season with other personnel. “We’ll just continue to move forward,” Thurmond said. “ Any time you lose good players, it is just something that is part of the business and something you have to deal with.” Thurmond, who learned of Covington’s decision in the days following the 30-6 victory over Fresno State University in the Hawai’i Bowl, said he believes that Covington is ready for the challenges of the NFL. “Christian is a talented guy,” Thurmond said. “He has good athletic ability and I’m sure he’ll make a place for himself.” If Covington is selected in the NFL draft, which will be held April 30 through May 2, it will mark the fourth consecutive year that a Rice player is selected. Covington is the first player to leave early for the draft since tight end James Casey in 2009.

SPORTS 1/14/15 10:34am

Vandalism, theft strike club crew team boathouse

This winter break, burglars broke into the Rice Crew team’s boathouse, tagging their boat with graffiti and stealing solar light panels. The vandalism and theft occurred some time between Dec. 24 and Dec. 26. The boathouse is located in the Buffalo Bayou/East End area, a location known for its graffiti culture. This incident of graffiti and theft marks the fourth burglary of the team’s first semester on the Bayou.Coach Mike Matson told ABC13 that professional paint repair costs for the tagged boat could be anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500.The team looks forward to the completion of their new permanent structure, which will have high-tech security features. In the meantime, the team is seeking assistance from the local Houston Police Department, along with support from other rowing teams in the Houston area and the Rice community. Vespoli, manufacturer of the team’s tagged boat, has reached out to the team as well.“It sure is sad that these people are that desperate to be breaking into our boathouse to try to steal what few things we have and even go so far as to vandalize our boats,” Laura Nicholson, a McMurtry College freshman, said. “But in the words of our coaches Mike and David, Rice Crew will continue to push [forward] and rise and rise again through these challenges.”Coach Mike Matson has been a strong voice of support for the team, addressing this issue while keeping the team focused on the future championships. Matson said the burglary will not affect the team’s performance.“This was an unfortunate occurrence, but certainly not a setback,” Matson said. “We learned from the experience and have properly adapted our security working in conjunction with the police. Our focus now shifts to the championship season ahead and sending Rice’s first boat to the SIRA championships in over a decade to proudly represent the Owls.”The team is set to meet with the East End Graffiti Abatement team on Friday to remove the graffiti from their boat.

SPORTS 1/14/15 10:31am

Athletics unveils $31.5 million training facility

The Rice Athletic Department recently announced the proposed construction of a new student athlete development building. The Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center will be located at the north end of Rice Stadium and will cost $31.5 million to build. The 60,000 square-foot building will house a weight room, a home team locker room, staff offices, an auditorium, a football team lounge and areas dedicated to training and sports medicine. These facilities will be available to all Rice student athletes.According to Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard, these renovations will benefit students and coaches on and off the field.“The Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center affords our student athletes and coaches a better environment for training and medical care than we currently offer,” Karlgaard said. “I believe our football players and other athletes will be better prepared and healthier as a result of the new building.”Karlgaard said that these facilities will also help recruitment efforts.“I hope young men and women who seek a world class academic and athletic experience will see this facility as a key component of their skill development,” Karlgaard said. The tarp-covered area that encompasses the north end of the stadium will be demolished to make room for the building. The existing scoreboard will also be removed and will be replaced by a new one that will be on top of the new center.According to Karlgaard, however, these renovations will not reduce seating capacity.“I’m not sure this facility will have a tremendous impact on our fan experience,” Karlgaard said. “We are working towards further renovations that will create an excellent atmosphere for spectators in our stadium.”The Dallas-based architecture firm HKS will be designing the new building. HKS designed Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas and Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts.Donors have pledged the funding necessary for construction, which will begin in early 2015 and will be completed in time for fall 2016.

SPORTS 12/7/14 7:12pm

Football accepts bid to Hawai'i Bowl

The Rice University football team has accepted a bid to play in the 2014 Hawai’i Bowl, according to reports. The Owls (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) will head to Honolulu, Hawaii for their third consecutive bowl appearance, a school record.Rice will take on Fresno State University (6-7), who lost to No. 22 Boise State University on Saturday, Dec. 6, in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Junior quarterback Brian Burrell leads the Bulldogs offensively and has thrown for 2,576 yards and 22 touchdowns, good for second in conference. Junior running back Marteze Waller is third in the MWC in rushing, recording 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns for the season.Fresno State has the No. 101 ranked defensive unit in the country, allowing 32.6 points per game, and has given up at least 20 points in each of their last seven games.The Hawai’i Bowl is scheduled for Christmas Eve (Wednesday, Dec. 24) at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and will air nationally on ESPN.

SPORTS 12/3/14 2:44pm

Women's basketball wins three of first five games

The Rice University women’s basketball team began the 2014-15 season by winning three of their first five games, including four of five at home.After an opening day victory over Prairie View A&M University, the Owls lost to Associated Press No. 5 Texas A&M University on the road despite trailing less than 10 points for the majority of the game. Since then, the Owls have won two of their last three games.On Monday, Nov. 24, the Owls defeated Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi with a final score of 59-54. Following the victory, Rice defeated Alcorn State University 61-33 on Friday evening. With the wins, the Owls improved to 3-2 on the season. Ten of the 11 Owls who entered the game against Alcorn State recorded points. Sophomore forward Jasmine Goodwine led the team in scoring with 15 points while junior forward Megan Palmer snagged a season-high 13 rebounds. Rice won the battle of the paint with a 40-18 point margin, thanks in part to a balanced attack of post play and drives to the basket.The offense built an early lead due in part to Rice’s best defensive performance of the season. Rice allowed just seven points to the Lady Braves throughout the entire first half. Alcorn State shot 3-32 from the field (9 percent) and 1-8 from three-point range. The seven points allowed in the first half tied a Rice record, and the 33 points for the game were the sixth-fewest points allowed in school history. With a mix of returning players and new additions to the squad, Head Coach Greg Williams said he was pleased with the balanced attack the offense showed on Friday night. “We feel we are able to play nine or 10 players each game and figure out who is playing well on any given night,” Williams said. “Hopefully as we play more games we can get some more consistency, individually and as a team.” Williams said the team will rely heavily on the play of seniors, especially forward Christal Porter, in order to be successful this season.“We have five seniors, and [we] are counting on them to finish their Rice careers with strong seasons,” Williams said. “Christal [Porter] is our most experienced returning player, and we are hoping she has a breakout year. She has been rebounding well to start the season, and we hope her scoring will follow suit as she is capable of being a double-double performer each game.”Williams said he is also optimistic about the incoming crew of freshman in his arsenal. “Freshman Shani Rainey has started our first five games, so she has made an immediate impact,” Williams said. “Wendy Knight has been solid in practice, and we have a lot of confidence in her.”The Owls next face off against the University of Houston on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. on the road. The Owls will then return to Tudor Fieldhouse on Saturday, Dec. 6 to face Stephen F. Austin University before taking a two-week recess for final exams. 

SPORTS 12/3/14 2:44pm

Men’s basketball loses three in Alaska tourny

The Rice University men’s basketball team lost all three games this past weekend in the Great Alaskan Shootout, an annual early-season tournament held in Anchorage, Alaska. In the first match, Rice played Mercer University, who beat No. 2 ranked Duke University in the NCAA Tournament last year. The game went into overtime, with Rice eventually losing 77-71. The next day, Rice lost 76-74 to Washington State University. Rice lost its final game on Saturday, their third in less than 40 hours, to Division II University of Alaska, Anchorage 65-54. Senior forward Seth Gearhart led the team in scoring over the weekend, with 49 points total, including a season-high 22 against aWashington State.Head Coach Mike Rhoades said the team continually got better throughout the tournament but was stunted by fatigue at the end of the week.“The crazy thing about [the tournament] is we got better, we just didn’t get the results we wanted,” Rhoades said. “We played three nights in a row, with our last two games being real quick turn arounds. We didn’t have much left in the tank on the third night. No excuses, we still have to find a way and overcome being tired.”Rhoades also said the team had trouble closing out games.“We just couldn’t put 40 minutes together to pull out a win,” Rhoades said. “That was disappointing. ... This is going to be a process. One thing I can say about our guys is they have a great attitude about it. They know this process is going to take time, but we’re close.”The Owls’ next game is Wednesday, Dec. 3 against Houston Baptist University, followed by a game against St. Edward’s University Saturday, Dec. 6.

SPORTS 12/3/14 2:43pm

Bowl destination difficult to predict despite eligibility

With Rice University’s regular football season in the books, the Owls now await their postseason bowl destination. For the first time in school history, Rice will head to its third consecutive bowl appearance after winning the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl over the Air Force Academy 33-14 and losing last season in the Liberty Bowl to Mississippi State University 44-7.According to NCAA Bowl regulations, a team must earn six wins to become bowl eligible, although it does not ensure a bowl appearance. Seven wins in a season essentially guarantees that a team will earn a bid to a bowl game. With Rice’s seventh victory against the University of Texas, El Paso on Nov. 21, Rice practically guaranteed itself a position to play in a number of possible bowl games.According to postseason bowl procedures, the winner of the Conference USA Championship automatically chooses which C-USA-affiliated bowl game to participate in. This season, Marshall University and Louisiana Tech University will play for that right in the C-USA Championship Game in Huntington, West Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 6. C-USA is one of the only conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision that does not have a pecking order for bowl games. Typically, teams are assigned to bowl games depending on their final rankings within their conference. For C-USA, however, bowl-eligible teams (programs with six or more wins) must wait for an invitation from each bowl’s representatives and accept or decline the invitation. Each of the bowls will typically offer invitations to the schools that they believe will bring in the most revenue via ticket sales and television deals. Therefore, larger schools will usually receive invites from more prestigious bowls over smaller programs, even if they have fewer wins, because of their larger fan bases that are often willing to travel to bowl games.C-USA has five primary bowl tie-ins: the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl, the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and is secondarily affiliated with the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. The Boca Raton and Bahamas Bowls are both in their inaugural seasons, and this is the first year the New Mexico Bowl has been affiliated with C-USA.For Rice, any of those bowl games are possible destinations, although some think certain bowls are more likely than others. Rice football beat writer Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle said he believes Rice’s most likely bowl destinations are the New Mexico or the Hawai’i Bowls. According to Phil Steele, a college football pundit with the most accurate bowl predictions for the past 16 years, Rice will most likely head to the Hawaii Bowl to face Fresno State University on Dec. 24.  The article originally stated that the winner of Conference USA could choose the Liberty Bowl, which is no longer accurate as of 2014. Furthermore, the Independence Bowl is only secondarily affiliated with C-USA.

SPORTS 12/3/14 2:42pm

Not Your Average Joe: Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard hopes for big payoff from four-point athletics initiative

When he came to Rice University in the summer of 2013, Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard knew the limitations he had to work with. Having worked in the athletic departments at Stanford University and Oberlin College, Karlgaard knows what it takes to run an athletic department at a school that values academics as its first priority.Karlgaard said Rice was an appealing destination to him due to the school’s emphasis on academics as well as the potential to increase the visibility of the athletic programs.“What brought me here was the academic profile first and foremost and the fact that Rice has a long and very storied history of competing at a high level in Division 1 athletics,” Karlgaard said. “Those two things together coupled with the idea that athletics is a little undervalued and that we could be a bit better than we are now — all of those things in equal amounts drew me to the program.”Karlgaard released a new “Vision for Rice Athletics” this past summer. Upon being hired from Stanford where he was an assistant athletic director, Karlgaard came to Rice as the university’s new athletic director in September 2013. Since coming to Rice, Karlgaard has made his goals for the program publicly clear. In his “Vision for Rice Athletics,” Karlgaard listed four principles that he hopes will drive the future of Rice Athletics. First, Karlgaard said he wants Rice to have athletic competitiveness. That is, all 16 varsity sports should compete for conference championships and national Top 25 rankings. Second, there should be an emphasis on academic success. According to Karlgaard, Rice student-athletes should graduate at or above the Rice average percentage.The third principle is life education and achievement. According to Karlgaard, this will work to prepare student-athletes for life after collegiate athletics.The fourth and final component of the Vision is what Karlgaard refers to as “Rice Values.” This will consist of having the athletic department’s goals remain consistent with the goals of the university and the “Vision for the Second Century” outlined by President David Leebron.According to Karlgaard, he has spent his first year acquainting himself with Rice students, student-athletes, alumni and fans to gauge interest and get ideas on how to move the athletic department forward. Karlgaard said while he had goals coming into Rice, he wants to make sure his actions reflect the interests of the Rice community.“I had one overarching original goal, and that was to make the place better,” Karlgaard said. “But I didn’t quite have a feel of how to do that and what would be important to our community and people in the surrounding community.”According to Karlgaard, his plan on gauging the interest of the Rice community has lasted longer than he originally anticipated.“I thought I’d spend 90 days going around talking to people, finding out what was important to them, testing things then synthesizing that information,” Karlgaard said. “It turns out, it took way longer than 90 days. I wanted to make sure I got it as right as I could get it.”According to Karlgaard, talking to people in the Rice community has increased belief in the future of athletics.“I think there’s a healthy sense of optimism around Rice,” Karlgaard said. “People believe in the vision we have for Rice athletics, and people believe things can get better.”With Karlgaard’s Vision in place, the Rice athletic department will be looking to conduct fundraising and employ new economic strategies to help programs succeed. Karlgaard said his goals include generating revenue, which will in turn help programs achieve athletic success.“My main goals include putting new facilities and endowments in place, selling more tickets, arming coaches with the tools they need to be successful and developing better relationships with our students athletes,” Karlgaard said.With such a small student body and alumni base, Karlgaard said raising funds for athletics can be a challenge. However, Karlgaard said he embraces the challenge and believes he can achieve his goals.“I think it’s challenging to try and fund what we do given our size,” Karlgaard said. “If you’re at a large state institution, you’re the beneficiary of tax dollars and student fees. However, when we’re out raising money from our alumni, we only have around 45,000 living alumni. In order to raise enough funds, we have to think about how we sell Rice athletics to other people in the Houston community. The funding issue is not insurmountable, but it’s challenging.”Despite the challenges of fundraising, Karlgaard has extensive experience in the field. At Stanford, Karlgaard was responsible for balancing a $90 million annual budget and led the Athletics Department’s efforts in raising $52 million in 2012, the greatest single-year increase in the school’s fundraising history.One of Karlgaard’s primary concerns for the near future is the renovation of Rice Stadium, a 64-year old facility that has not had improvements in decades. The plan for renovation includes a $30 million dollar project that calls for a new North end zone facility that will replace the otherwise empty endzone and scoreboard on that side of the field, in addition to other minor improvements. The design calls for a 60,000 square foot facility in the end zone that will attract recruits and fans.Karlgaard said the fundraising for the project is almost complete.“We are 85 to 90 percent through fundraising with this,” Karlgaard said. “We just have a few verbal commitments we need to button up.”Other tangible accomplishments during Karlgaard’s tenure include the hiring of new men’s basketball Head Coach Mike Rhoades from Virginia Commonwealth University and generating a new five-year contract for head football coach David Bailiff. Rice has also claimed six conference titles during Karlgaard’s tenure. Last academic year, Rice won five conference titles, a school record. This year, Rice has already claimed a conference title in soccer after winning the Conference USA Tournament. According to Karlgaard, the end goal is to have athletic programs that are competitive on the local and national stages. Karlgaard said he believes that goal is attainable in the near future.“Everyone has a chance to win the conference,” Karlgaard said. “We won five conference titles last year and I think we have a chance to win five more. We are a relevant player on the national level; we want to be in a conversation with our peer institutions both regionally and academically.”