Totally Serious Opponent Report - Liberty Bowl Edition
by James Carskadon Follow @jamescarskadon
So what is there to know about Rice? The average college football fan probably can't name a single person on their roster, despite the fact that they are C-USA champions. Their coach, David Bailiff, has spent nearly three decades coaching in the state of Texas. In my mind, everyone who is in Texas this long has a 'Texas Forever' banner in their office. However, outside of Texas, he still fits Rice's somewhat anonymous football image. If he approached me wearing a Rice hat and said, "Hi, I'm David," I would not have the slightest clue that he was the head football coach.
Such is life in a crowded Texas football marketplace. When the Southwest Conference disbanded in 1995, Rice was left out of what is now the Big 12 and relegated to the WAC (RIP #Waction). Their biggest rivals, SMU and Houston, faced similar problems. The BCS era that followed proved to be a boon to major conferences in both money and school exposure, but for those who were once members of a major conference, gaining relevance proved difficult. Rice tarped over some of its football stadium in 2006, reducing capacity from 70,000 to 47,000. Like most things in Texas, Rice Stadium peaked in the 60s and 70s. The stadium was one place where President John F. Kennedy challenged the United States to go to the moon in 1962. It also hosted the 1974 Super Bowl. Strangely, as irrelevant as Rice feels, 15 years ago their stadium held 30,000 more people than Mississippi State's own Davis-Wade Stadium.
The university itself was founded in cold blood. William Marsh Rice, a Texas businessman, left an endowment in his will to found the university in Houston after his death. However, in 1900, his lawyer in New York City had Rice's butler murder him in his sleep, and forged a fake will leaving his fortune to the lawyer. This scheme would later be revealed, and the lawyer was charged with murder in 1901, but he was pardoned in 1912. So the university was one scheme away from not having the endowment it needed to get started. Most of us may will not have giant fortunes to leave behind upon our death, but wouldn't it make sense to just go ahead and give the money while you're alive and see your college being built? It's what I would have done, but for whatever reason, Rice decide to wait and it almost cost Texas a private university. Now, 101 years later, the university has become a well-respected institution, and has a football team that's damn excited to go to the Liberty Bowl.
Rice University took a weird path to get to where it will be when the Owls run out of the tunnel in the Liberty Bowl. Murders, bygone eras, and some occasional proud moments. Turns out Rice is more than a grain school.