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Rice Owls football
2023 Rice Owls football team
First season1912
Athletic directorTommy McCleland
Head coachMike Bloomgren
6th season, 22–46 (.324)
StadiumRice Stadium
(capacity: 47,000)
Year built1950
Field surfaceAstroTurf
LocationHouston, Texas
NCAA divisionDivision I FBS
ConferenceAmerican Athletic Conference
Past conferencesSouthwest
All-time record492–652–32 (.432)
Bowl record7–7 (.500)
Conference titles8 (1934, 1937, 1946, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1994, 2013)
Division titles2 (2008, 2013)
RivalriesSMU (rivalry)
Houston (rivalry)
Texas (rivalry)
Consensus All-Americans6
ColorsBlue and gray[1]
Fight songRice Fight
MascotSammy the Owl
Marching bandMarching Owl Band

The Rice Owls football program represents Rice University in the sport of American football. The team competes at the NCAA Division I FBS level and compete in the American Athletic Conference. Rice Stadium, built in 1950, hosts the Owls' home football games. Rice has the second-smallest undergraduate enrollment of any FBS member, ahead of only Tulsa.


Rice fielded its first football team in 1912, not long after opening its doors. Three years later, it joined the Southwest Conference as a charter member.

For the better part of half a century, Rice was a regional and national powerhouse. However, by the early 1960s, Rice found it increasingly difficult to field competitive teams. For most of its tenure in the SWC, it was one of only four private schools in the conference, and by far the smallest in terms of undergraduate enrollment. However, by the latter part of longtime coach Jess Neely's tenure, Rice found itself competing against schools ten times or more its size, and often had more freshmen than Rice had total undergraduates. From 1964 to 1991, Rice had only one overall winning season, and only finished as high as third in SWC play once.

Fred Goldsmith took over as head coach in 1989, and led the Owls to a 6-5 overall record and a tie for second place in 1992, their best finish in 28 years. However, a 61–34 loss to in-city rival Houston kept them out of their first bowl game in 31 years. Goldsmith left for Duke in 1993 and was succeeded by former Clemson coach Ken Hatfield, who tallied only three winning seasons in 12 years. While the Owls were bowl-eligible in those three years, they didn't receive bowl bids due to their small alumni and fan base.

Todd Graham became head coach in 2006, and led the Owls to their first bowl game in 35 years, the 2006 New Orleans Bowl. He left after only one year and was succeeded by David Bailiff, who took the Owls to three bowl games in 11 years, including their first 10-win seasons in half a century.

1954 Cotton Bowl Classic

The Owls played in the eighteenth Cotton Bowl Classic against the Crimson Tide of Alabama. The game featured one of the most famous plays in college football history[2] when Rice's Dickey Moegle (later Maegle) burst free on a sweep play, and on his way down the sideline, was tackled by Tommy Lewis, who had come off the Alabama sideline without his helmet to tackle Moegle. Referee Cliff Shaw saw Lewis come off the bench and gave the Owls the 95-yard touchdown. Rice would win the game 28–6, with the only Crimson Tide score coming from Lewis. The yardage added to Moegle's 265 yards rushing, a Cotton Bowl Classic record that would stand until Tony Temple's effort in 2008. This would be the Owls' last bowl win until the 2008 Texas Bowl, a win which also secured the Owls their first 10-win season since 1949.[3]

Kennedy Speech

President Kennedy speaks at Rice Stadium on the American space program, 12 September 1962

Rice Stadium also hosted a "We choose to go to the Moon" speech by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1962. In it, he used the Rice football team to challenge America to send a man to the Moon before 1970.

"But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."[4]

Conference affiliations

Head coaches

Name Seasons Overall Pct. Bowls
Philip Arbuckle 1912–1917,1919–1923 51–25–8 .655
John E. Anderson 1918 1–5–1 .214
John Heisman 1924–1927 14–18–3 .443
Claude Rothgeb 1928 2–7 .222
Jack Meagher 1929–1933 26–26 .500
Jimmy Kitts 1934–1939 33–29–4 .530 1–0
Jess Neely 1940–1966 144–124–10 .536 3–3
Bo Hagan 1967–1970 12–27–1 .313
Bill Peterson 1971 3–7–1 .318
Al Conover 1972–1975 14–28–2† .341
Homer Rice 1976–1977 4–18 .182
Ray Alborn 1978–1983 13–53 .197
Watson Brown 1984–1985 4–18 .182
Jerry Berndt 1986–1988 6–27 .182
Fred Goldsmith 1989–1993 23–31–1 .427
Ken Hatfield 1994–2005 55–78–1 .414
Todd Graham 2006 7–6 .538 0–1
David Bailiff 2007–2017 57–80 .416 3–1
Mike Bloomgren 2018–present 22–46 .324 0-2

† 15–27–2 overall per NCAA due to 1975 forfeit win over Mississippi State.[5]


Conference championships

Rice has won eight conference championships, five outright and three shared.

Year Conference Coach Overall record Conference record
1934 Southwest Conference Jimmy Kitts 9–1–1 5–1
1937 Southwest Conference Jimmy Kitts 6–3–2 4–1–1
1946 Southwest Conference Jess Neely 9–2 5–1
1949 Southwest Conference Jess Neely 10–1 6–0
1953 Southwest Conference Jess Neely 9–2 5–1
1957 Southwest Conference Jess Neely 7–4 5–1
1994 Southwest Conference Ken Hatfield 5–6 4–3
2013 Conference USA David Bailiff 10–4 7–1

† Co-championship

Division championships

Rice has won two division championships.

Year Division Coach Opponent CG result
2008 C-USA West David Bailiff N/A lost tiebreaker to Tulsa
2013 C-USA West David Bailiff Marshall W 41–24

† Co-championship

Bowl games

Rice has participated in 14 bowl games, garnering a record of 7–7.

Season Coach Bowl Opponent Result
1937 Jimmy Kitts Cotton Bowl Classic Colorado W 28–14
1946 Jess Neely Orange Bowl Tennessee W 8–0
1949 Jess Neely Cotton Bowl Classic North Carolina W 27–13
1953 Jess Neely Cotton Bowl Classic Alabama W 28–6
1957 Jess Neely Cotton Bowl Classic Navy L 7–20
1960 Jess Neely Sugar Bowl Ole Miss L 6–14
1961 Jess Neely Bluebonnet Bowl Kansas L 7–33
2006 Todd Graham New Orleans Bowl Troy L 17–41
2008 David Bailiff Texas Bowl Western Michigan W 38–14
2012 David Bailiff Armed Forces Bowl Air Force W 33–14
2013 David Bailiff Liberty Bowl Mississippi State L 7–44
2014 David Bailiff Hawaii Bowl Fresno State W 30–6
2022 Mike Bloomgren LendingTree Bowl Southern Miss L 24–38
2023 Mike Bloomgren First Responder Bowl Texas State L 21–45


Rice Stadium as of April 2016

Rice Stadium was built in 1950, and has been the home of Owls football ever since. It hosted the NFL Super Bowl in January 1974. It replaced the old Rice Field (now Rice Track/Soccer Stadium) to increase seating. Total seating capacity in the current stadium was reduced from 70,000 to 47,000 before the 2006 season. The endzone seating benches were removed and covered with tarps, and all of the wooden bleachers were replaced with new, metal seating benches in 2006, as well. The stadium is also undergoing further renovations.



See also: Battle for the Mayor's Cup

Rice and SMU were members of the same conference from 1918 through 2012, and have played each other 90 times as of 2012 with SMU leading the series 48–41–1. The rivalry is because Rice and SMU were two of four private schools in the Southwest Conference (Baylor and TCU were the others). Rice and SMU were also the two smallest schools in the conference, were located in the two largest cities of any teams in the conference (Houston and Dallas, respectively), and have historically been considered the two best private universities in Texas.

SMU leads the series 48–41–1 as of 2017.[6]


See also: Bayou Bucket Classic

Rice participates in a crosstown rivalry with Houston. UH and Rice play annually for the Bayou Bucket, a weathered bucket found by former Rice guard Fred Curry at an antique shop. Curry had it designed into a trophy for $310. The two universities are separated by five miles in Houston. Despite being in separate conferences, the two teams still play as non-conference foes as future schedules allow.

Houston leads the series 33–12 as of 2023.[7]


See also: Rice–Texas football rivalry

A game between Rice and Texas in 2006

Rice and Texas have maintained a largely one-sided rivalry beginning in the early days of the Southwest Conference. Texas' 28 consecutive victories from 1966 to 1993 represents the sixth longest single-opponent winning streak in college football history. In 1994, in a nationally televised ESPN game, Rice scored a major upset win over Texas, but since then Texas has resumed series dominance. Despite the dissolution of the Southwest Conference, Texas and Rice still play on a "near annual" basis, allowing the Longhorns to keep a high profile in the state's largest city and the fourth largest city in the United States.

Texas leads the series 72–21–1 as of the conclusion of the 2017 season.[8]

College Football Hall of Fame

See also: College Football Hall of Fame

Eight former Rice players and coaches have been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.[9]

Name Position Career Induction Notes
John Heisman Coach 1892–1927 1954 Inducted for his career as a coach at Oberlin, Akron, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Pennsylvania, Washington & Jefferson, Rice
Weldon Humble G 1941–1943, 1946 1961 He was a consensus All- America choice. Like most athletes of his time, Weldon was required to suspend his career for military service during World War II.
James "Froggy" Williams End 1946–1949 1965 A consensus All-American and was also selected to the Cotton Bowl's All-Decade team for the 1950s
Jess Neely Coach 1924–1966 1971 Inducted for his career as a coach at Rhodes, Clemson, Rice
Bill Wallace HB 1932, 1934–1935 1978 Wallace was Rice's initial first team All-America selection
Dick Maegle HB 1952–1954 1979 He was consensus All-America and academic All-America in 1954
Buddy Dial End 1956–1958 1993 Team's co-captain, Most Valuable Player, and was consensus All-America
Tommy Kramer QB 1972–1976 2012 Senior Bowl MVP and 1976 George Martin Award winner


As of 2017, the following 18 players have been named All-America[10] with 6 selection being consensus.[11]

Name Position Year
Bill Wallace B 1934
H.J. Nichols G 1944
Weldon Humble G 1946
Froggy Williams E 1949
Joe Watson C 1949
Bill Howton E 1951
John Hudson T 1953
Kosse Johnson B 1953
Dicky Maegle HB 1954
King Hill QB 1957
Buddy Dial E 1958
Malcolm Walker C 1964
Tommy Kramer QB 1976
Steve Kidd P 1985
Trevor Cobb HB 1991,† 1992
Charles Torello OG 1997
Jarett Dillard WR 2006, 2008
Kyle Martens P 2010

† Consensus selection

Other notable players

Future non-conference opponents

Announced schedules as of July 24, 2023.[12]

2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 2033 2034 2035
vs Sam Houston at Louisiana vs Houston Christian vs Lamar vs Northwestern vs San Jose State at Northwestern vs Boise State at Boise State
vs Texas Southern vs Prairie View A&M at Houston vs Houston at LSU at San Jose State
at Houston vs Houston
at UConn


  1. ^ Rice Athletics Branding Guidelines, Rules, & Regulations (PDF). August 19, 2019. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  2. ^ Dickey Moegle in the 1954 Cotton Bowl Classic. Article. Retrieved on December 29, 2008.
  3. ^ "Rice rolls Western Michigan for first bowl win since '54". Associated Press. 2008-12-30. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  4. ^ "John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium". Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Al Conover Coaching Record". College Football at
  6. ^ "Winsipedia - Rice Owls vs. SMU Mustangs football series history". Winsipedia.
  7. ^ "Winsipedia - Houston Cougars vs. Rice Owls football series history". Winsipedia.
  8. ^ "Winsipedia - Rice Owls vs. Texas Longhorns football series history". Winsipedia.
  9. ^ "Inductees - Football Players & Coaches - College Football Hall of Fame".
  10. ^ "2017 Media Guide" (PDF). Rice Athletics. p. 177. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  11. ^ "2017 FOOTBALL AWARD WINNERS" (PDF). NCAA. p. 25. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  12. ^ "Rice Owls Football Future Schedules". Retrieved August 11, 2022.