Yesterday, the Rice football team won its first outright conference championship since 1957! The Owls are now 10-3 on the season with the opportunity to achieve the first 11-win season in school history if they can win in the Liberty Bowl this New Year’s Eve. That won’t be easy as they will be playing against an SEC opponent, but it’s such an exciting opportunity!
More important than Rice’s winning record is that they’ve been winning the “right” way. Rice wins awards every year for the high academic standards it sets for its student-athletes and for its student-athlete graduation rate. Rice players are not in the news for sexual assault or NCAA violations. When David Bailiff became Head Football Coach six years ago, some of his first initiatives were aimed at engaging the players with the rest of the university and with the community – largely through service (such as helping freshmen move their heavy furniture on move-in day and holding Football 101 clinics for international students).
In short, Rice is winning with smart, good-hearted young men. That isn’t wishful thinking from a proud alum; that is empirical evidence from having taught several football players and other student-athletes in my Rice entrepreneurship course over the last couple of years. There are probably exceptions to that generalization and there have been times when they have lost their composure on the field but, by and large, I am proud not so much of the fact that Rice has been winning, but much more so by how they’ve been winning.