Rice fired head coach David Bailiff on Monday morning.
Rice fired head coach David Bailiff on Monday morning.
Photo by John Royal

Rice Fires David Bailiff, Begins Search for New Head Coach

The Rice Owls fired head coach David Bailiff on Monday morning. This was expected from this last point last season when Bailiff was brought back for another season despite a 3-9 record. But Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard made it clear last year that he wanted the Owls to win football games, and win the team did not.

Bailiff coached 11 years at Rice with a record of 78-95 (1-11 this season). The Owls won one C-USA title during his tenure and went to four bowl games, winning three. But the Owls spent the rest of the time losing games, and when Rice lost games, the Owls tended to get blown out and look bad in losing.

“David Bailiff has represented Rice terrifically in his 11 years at the helm of our football program,” Karlgaard said on Monday. “Our student athletes graduated at a high rate. They take on difficult academic majors. They compete their hearts out. They did so even in the midst of a 1-11 season. But that being said, we have high aspirations for our program competitively. After three consecutive losing seasons, it was just time for us to try something new. So that’s led us to today.”

Karlgaard believes that it is possible to build a winning football team at Rice, and he believes that the success can be sustained. His goal is for Rice to go to bowl games and to consistently compete for a conference title.

“We’ve got an unbelievable brand first and foremost,” he said. “There just aren’t many institutions that can offer the academic profile that we can along with highly competitive athletic opportunities.”

But it’s that brand that makes coaching at Rice such a difficult proposition. The academic standards are high, which means that it can be difficult to bring in top recruits to the program. It can be difficult to schedule practices between classes. And there are no easy majors at Rice for players to disappear into in order to keep eligibility.

Karlgard states that he has engaged Turnkey Search, a national search firm, to aid in him in finding a new head coach. Turnkey, says Karlgard, will primarily handle the vetting of candidates while he will be the one making the ultimate choice.

There were several names linked to the job as soon as it came open, including several assistant coaches at Stanford where Karlgaard had been an assistant athletic director before taking the Rice job. And a Stanford connection would make sense because of that connection and because of Stanford’s ability to put together a wining program in a major conference while maintaining high academic standards.

“Most of what I’ve seen so far is just pure speculation,” Karlgaard said. “There’s going to be a lot made of my background and where I’ve been, and I think it’s logical for people to assume that I will have contact with those candidates. But I would not put any stock in that. If you look at who I’ve hired in my time here — I didn’t known Mike Rhoades before I started the interview process for men’s basketball. I didn’t know Tina Langley before I hired her as the women’s basketball coach.”

Karlgaard did state that he wanted someone with prior head coaching experience, but that he also looking for someone who will come to Rice and apply a different mindset to the way that things have been done.

“It’s a challenging but imminently rewarding opportunity,” Karlgaard said. “If you can make Rice a consistent winner — I think that’s a feather in anybody’s cap. It’s not an impossible job. I think our success in recent past — from 2012 to 2014 with three straight bowl games, a conference championship sandwiched in between, shows that we can do that here. We’re just looking for that consistently.”

The names linked to the job include Mike Bloomgren and Lance Anderson, the offensive and defensive coordinators at Stanford, Ivin Jasper, the offensive coordinator at Navy, former Rice player and current South Carolina offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. Joseph Duarte with the Chronicle linked UCF offensive coordinator Troy Walters to the job. And there is also a report that current Purdue assistant and former UH head coach Tony Levine may also be under consideration.

Of that group, only Levine has head coaching experience. But if Karlgaard wants innovation, then Navy’s Jasper would be the best candidate, especially if he brings with him the triple option offense. Jasper, coming from a military academy, would also be experienced with dealing with high academic standards and a stress on academics over sports.

I have been told by some influential Rice alumni that the school is going after former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak does have head coaching experience, and he’s a pretty good offensive mind, but he has no college experience, and one would wonder if Kubiak, who has had health issues while coaching the Texans and the Denver Broncos, is up even up for the job?

Karlgaard hopes to have a decision made soon. He stresses that the search will not be rushed, but due to the early signing date in mid-December, he does hope to get someone in place to stop the school from losing too many recruits.

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