December 01, 2005
Ken Hatfield resigns at Rice
In case you missed it, Rice head football coach Ken Hatfield resigned on Tuesday - more specifically, he agreed to a buyout of the remaining years on his contract. There's more on this today, as both his legacy at Rice and the search for his successor get covered. Before that, columnists Richard Justice and John Lopez paid their annual attention to Rice, as the dissatisfaction from two awful seasons and nonexistent home crowds became harder to ignore.
Justice and Lopez do a pretty good job of laying out the issues that Rice's administration faces, and how the decisions they make will impact the incoming coach as well as the existing ones in other programs on South Main. The one thing I'd take issue with is Lopez's assertion that a commitment to a solid, competitive football program at Rice would necessarily involve relaxing academic standards. I don't recall anyone claiming that those standards had been lowered back in 1996-97 when Rice posted consecutive 7-4 seasons, or in 2001 when the Owls finished 8-4. It's possible to excel in both areas. Hard to do, to be sure, but not impossible. I've always thought the key is to embrace and exploit the fact that Rice is a niche school, especially in the Division I-A world. Where else is the athlete who wants to get a topnotch private school education while still competing against the UTs of the world going to go? I don't doubt Hatfield has done that out on the recruiting trail - Rice's graduation rates have certainly testified to his ability to bring in players who can handle the courseload. It's time for the powers that be to give the next coach the resources he'll need to build on that.
The model that Rice fans seem to be hoping for, as evidenced in discussion board threads like this one is Tulsa, another small school that has gone through some dark days on the field but is now going to play for the Conference USA championship. That seems like a realistic goal to me.
I don't know what the administration is going to do. Rice has proven that it can be a force in atheletics, from the 2003 national champion baseball team to the fledgling women's soccer team that made it to the NCAA tournament this year. Both basketball programs have been successful lately despite playing in a laughable facility. Seems to me that their choice is to encourage and foster excellence, or to be indifferent to it even when it happens anyway. I know which path I'd take. As a fan, I can only hope they see it that way, too.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 01, 2005 to Other sports
My alma mater, Notre Dame, consistently graduates 96% of its football players with non-bullshit degrees while breaking the top ten on a pretty regular basis.
If Rice relaxes its academic standards for football, the alumni and student body should call for some heads to roll.
Yep - I would rather see Rice have *gasp* no football than relax the standards any further.
>Where else is the athlete who wants to get a >topnotch private school education while still >competing against the UTs of the world going to go?
Well, Notre Dame has already been mentioned. Northwestern and Stanford also spring quickly to mind. It's a niche, granted, but certainly not an empty one.
Well, count me as a skeptic that Rice football will ever again draw a crowd. There are too many competing sports choices in Houston. The examples given above are much larger schools, or in smaller venues where they can command community attention.
The idea that Rice needs a stadium with enough room for 70 thousand is absurd. It fits more than Rice has ever fielded, student-wise, and then some, I believe.
When I was there I really enjoyed the spirit of the games even though we had some terrible seasons. I think it makes no sense to expect to compete with UT and UCLA. I never thought of those schools as natural rivals to Rice. I think it is also ridiculous to expect to draw crowds. It's too bad the stadium is so big because it makes the crowd seem even tiner than it is.
So what is the deal here?
Is it that academically top-notch students just don't gravitate toward sports, and so there is only a tiny supply of them, for which these schools must compete?
Or, is it that the emphasis placed on these sports are total B.S., and that any school which spends more on sports than it spends in a given year on, say, improving the library or building a new classroom or lab or two, is total B.S.?
Before you come at me about how important it is that Rice gets a new coach or fires the old worthless B.S. artist, you better start telling me how my taxpayer investment in Rice or any other over-rated B.S. university or college campus desreves the money we ae pouring in to it.
And when it comes to that, baby, football ain't jack.
"Or, is it that the emphasis placed on these sports are total B.S., and that any school which spends more on sports than it spends in a given year on, say, improving the library or building a new classroom or lab or two, is total B.S.?
"Before you come at me about how important it is that Rice gets a new coach or fires the old worthless B.S. artist, you better start telling me how my taxpayer investment in Rice or any other over-rated B.S. university or college campus desreves the money we ae pouring in to it."
As an alumnus and a current graduate student of Rice, I wouldn't mind seeing the football program quietly go. But to suggest that Rice is somehow skimping on academic capital expenditure in proportion to its football spending is absurd--right now, Rice is building an addition to the library, and has for the past few few years generally spent lavishly on capital improvements that benefit academics instead of athletics.
In any case, Rice is a private university and therefore receives very litle of your taxpayer money (some research grants, some student loans and grants, but nothing like what a state college gets).
The idea that Rice could be a niche player in football like Stanford and Northwestern ignores the fact that Rice is tiny--only about 3000 students compared with STanford's 14,000 and Northwestern's 18,000. It's said that all of Rice's current students and living alumni can't fill the stadium. Certainly the number of people at the homecoming game was pretty pathetic.
It's for these and other reasons that I've reluctantly concluded that Rice would be better off without a football team.