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The Rice athletics controversy:
The whole story....

'We're far from done'       Rally photos....look.gif (159 bytes)
E-mail, letter campaign
swayed day, AD says

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'I think it’s important, as much as possible, that we have a sense of what happened'

HOUSTON (May 31) – As an All-American high hurdler during his college days on South Main, Rice athletic director Bobby May was accustomed to clearing a large succession of obstacles in a hurry, but none were quite so formidable, nor quite so unanticipated, as the one he and his cohorts and supporters had to undertake in recent weeks.

If the truth be told, a serious challenge to the Institute’s 90-plus-year involvement in major college athletics was averted, perhaps narrowly, by the prompt and forceful response of a small army of emailers and letter writers energized by a determined group of alumni backers.

"Let me tell you something," the Rice AD told a group of gathered supporters last week. "The e-mail campaign that was launched, worked. Make no mistake about that."

"The Board was totally taken aback; it was knocked off balance by the efforts of those who took the time to write – not just because of the volume, but because of the quality and the logic of the response."

"The other side was overwhelmed, outworked, disarmed and outclassed. One Board member remarked that the work of the Friends of Rice Athletics, and those who wrote, was far better than that put forth by McKinsey."

In that, the old thinclad was referring to the major study by McKinsey & Co. commissioned by the Rice Board of Trustees, primarily as part of a regular, periodic examination of the school’s intercollegiate athletic programs, but also in response to a Rice faculty ‘study’ which recommended that football be abolished and athletics be de-emphasized on South Main. That’s ‘the other side’ which the Rice AD allowed was so overwhelmed, outworked, disarmed -- and outclassed.

The Board’s decision to continue full-bore 1A participation in all sports concluded a harrowing five weeks, it turned out, not only for Rice’s athletics administration, but also for a surprisingly large number of supporters who appeared out of the woodwork in response.

It’s a story than can now be related – and ought to be, Bobby said.

"I think it’s important, as much as possible, that we have a sense of what happened, why it happened, and where we need to go from here," he told assembled Owls. "Obviously this is just a point on a continuum. We have to move forward."

"We’ve accomplished a lot.  But we’re far from done. And there’s a lot ahead of us. There are still changes that are going to occur, over time, at Rice, and we have to be prepared for it, and we have to anticipate them, and we have to count on everybody to continue this work that has been admirably done so far."

The veteran Rice AD cited the efforts of a whole number of friends and alumni who were key to the success of the pro-athletics movement, but he started with mention of a couple of names which hardly came as a surprise. "Malcom Gillis and Bucky Allshouse are the people who carried the banner for us to the Board. We need to realize how important their contribution was."

Dr. Gillis, of course, is the outgoing University president whose ten-year term saw some 26 Rice team conference championships  -- the most during any comparable time in school history.  And Bucky Allshouse is former football letterman who's now a prominent Houston attorney and a senior member of the Rice Board of Trustees.

Thunder clouds came up almost from out of blue

Five weeks ago it became apparent that Rice athletics faced a serious threat, Bobby told his audience. What he perhaps charitably termed "inaccurate and misleading information"could have resulted in a Board of Trustees decision to end Rice’s Division 1A football program, he said – and the decision could have taken place as early as the May 1 Board meeting, scarcely before anyone outside the Board knew what was going on.

On April 20, four individuals – Gene Walker, Kyle Frazier, Bucky Allshouse and Bobby May – urgently met and agreed that  the combination of the vitriolic faculty report and whatever was contained in the  McKinsey study apparently was "really heading the Board down the wrong road," the Rice AD revealed.

It was clear that leaving matters up to the Board –  egged on by on-campus opponents of athletics – could have yielded disastrous consequences. Immediately, at that first, quick consult, assignments were handed out for the strategy and preliminary drafting work necessary to address the opposition to athletics that was said to be looming among several Board members, and arming Malcom Gillis and Bucky Allshouse for a presentation to the Board, providing arguments that it was believed were essential for the Board to receive a balanced assessment.

"We shared our thoughts with the board of the 'R' Association the next evening, and the 'R' Association immediately threw their support-- the full weight of their support -- behind the efforts to meet the threat head on, and they also agreed to provide funding for the effort," Bobby added.

A couple of urgently arranged lunches launched individual contacts with Board members, as a handful of those with built-in connections, now armed with information, managed to reach several on the Board on a one-on-one basis to let them know there were two sides to the story – and some pretty upset folks out there.

Meanwhile, that group with whom everyone’s now familiar, the Friends of Rice Athletics, was hastily launched. The hotel Le Colombe d’Or became the command center for the operation, courtesy of owner Steve Zimmerman.  Some dozen persons, including James Doyle, Wanna Hadnot, Kyle Frazier ( ex oficio the alumni association president), Gene Walker, Jane Jordan and Billy Hale were at a first meeting held at the hotel.

A followup gathering was held at Gene Walker’s office. At that meeting, Bobby said, former all- conference footballer N. D. Kalu stepped up and gave notice that he and a number of recent alumni who’d played football were prepared to join in the fray. These young men turned out to be a very visible, highly effective 'front end' to a lot of the publicity efforts that were in the process of being launched.

Also, at that meeting, Nancy Burch, the current Owl Club president, came on board with the full force of Rice’s primary athletics support organization.

Then a third meeting occurred back at the hotel on the 28th, Bobby said -- and that’s where the idea of the rally occurred.

"Julian Duncan, Derek Rutherford, Greg Gatlin, and a contingent from the faculty were there – and it was one of the better meetings of the whole campaign," Bobby said. Out of it came plans for a rally which was later held May 5 in a tent outside Reckling Park prior to the Rice-McNeese State baseball game.  That rally drew some 250 people, and received local television coverage.

E-mail campaign developed sua sponte

Meanwhile, an email campaign, by then, was getting under full swing. Earlier, on April 22, Bob Schlanger called this publication stating that he’d just spoken at length with Bobby May and was frankly shaken by the state of alarm indicated by the usually even-keeled Rice AD. That phone call resulted in a quick email to Kirwin Drouet, who, along with Chip Matthews and several others, last spring had organized what they’d termed an ‘informal discussion group’ to come up with ideas on promoting the Rice football program.

In short order, the group alerted its members that something was amiss with the Board, and the word spread quickly via mass email – ah, the wonders of the internet. A sympathetic faculty member (who shall forever remain unnamed) on April 23 provided a URL linking to an online PDF file of the Rice faculty report – the cover page of which urged faculty members to keep things confidential.

The stunning carelessness with which the report was researched and written immediately prompted a spate of responses to the Board, sent by email within hours after the faculty tome first became available to supporters.

By the time the Rice Board had convened for its annual retreat, the first weekend in May, individual members had received what were estimated at some 200 letters and emails decrying any attempt at de-emphasis, many containing some of the arguments that Bobby May was referencing with his ‘outclassed’ statement, above-mentioned.

Given the surprising level of adverse response, the Board’s weekend retreat was said to have resulted in a great deal of discussion – but no recommendation for action. One thing concrete that did come out of the weekend’s activities was the decision, however, to make the McKinsey report public and establish a 10-day commentary period whereby all interested parties, pro and con, might have the opportunity to respond to the report’s contentions.

Abetted by the Friend’s of Rice Athletics’ online links to a commentary form provided by the Board, that’s when the electronic fur really began to fly, with the final tally of comments submitted by the May 17 deadline estimated at some 2,000 -- almost all of them in full support of the athletics program.

Call it 'negative serendipity' -- or call it....

"You might wonder just why this all got started when it did," Bobby May remarked to the gathered 'key' supporters.

Well, call it ‘negative serendipity’ or call it something else, but there were a confluence of factors and a bit of unfortunate timing which combined to produce the need for Pearl-Harbor-like mobilization.

One might begin with the fact that longtime Rice president Malcom Gillis' term in office was ending in a matter of days – and it was said that the incoming university president, David Leebron, wanted all issues pertaining to athletics participation determined by the time he commenced work on July 1.

The date of the Board’s annual retreat was totally coincidental, but perhaps the same could not be said for the timing of certain Rice faculty members' steps to ‘go public’ with the substance of the faculty report. Things like final exams, graduation, and the ensuing exodus from the campus all might have combined to make the death of Rice football a little-publicized  fait accompli.

"The reason was, nobody really knew what was going on," Bobby said –referring to the Board’s intended actions and procedures – "and the intelligence that we got, from people that should have known, and didn’t know, led us to believe that we really had to act, and we had to do it quickly, or we were going to be having to try to fix something after it was already broken."

A fourth Friends meeting, held at the Colombe d’Or, was to discuss the information coming out of the Board retreat as much as could be ascertained. Richard Stabell, Rice’s long-time dean of admissions, armed with facts and figures, became involved, as did several other key pro-athletics faculty members,  former Will Rice College Master and golf coach Jim Castaneda, among them. And Rice sports administration was now in a full state of mobilization ('finally', some might have added), with the chief emphasis obviously involving the nature and measure of response to the now-public McKinsey report.

"The issue was now on the front burner – there was no question about that," Bobby said.

"And it was kind of funny, that all along this time frame, there were all sorts of twists connected with what was happening during that time frame," he added.

Dr. Gillis' farewell party yielded up cogent message

First, there was the farewell party for Malcom and Elizabeth Gillis held at the River Oaks Country Club on May 4. "The athletics discussion thread that ran through that whole evening was remarkeable," the Rice AD observed. "Malcom’s remarks, the video that was shown that included remarks of the Board members -- it was all so much about the significance, the importance of athletics at Rice. You just couldn’t ignore seeing that."

Four days later, the annual meeting of the Association of Rice Alumni was held on Commencement Day, Saturday, May 8. Former Rice football All-American and honor grad Courtney Hall made what May termed an ‘impassioned’ speech there.

But perhaps an even greater impact was demonstrated by the Commencement address given by Alberto Gonzales, a Rice alum who is now in the White House serving as legal advisor to President Bush. In his speech, Mr. Gonzales related his experience as a boy, hawking wares at Rice Stadium football games -- something that gave him the idea that maybe just somehow, some day, he, too, could go to Rice.

Too, that evening, at the ARA banquet, current president Kyle Frazier presided and roused the audience with his remarks. "And the individual speakers that came up after that – Carl Isgren, particularly, Judge Harold Moss, all made comments, totally unsolicited, about athletics, and what athletics had meant to them," Bobby noted.

Meanwhile, the Rice men’s and women’s track teams were busy winning their respective conference championships – the first time in school history that both a men’s and women’s program both came out as champs the same year. And of course, the Rice baseball squad won its conference championship for the ninth straight year.

"The print and the electronic media, all during this time frame, was very positive, for the most part," Bobby allowed. "And it was seriously positive about Rice’s athletic achievements, and things that were going on within our program – which sort of dovetailed with all the things that were then going on."

Combined effort resulted in knockout punch

The overall effort, as everyone knows, resulted in a knockout punch to the anti-athletics contingent, as the Rice Board of Trustees, in its decision rendered May 21 , came out squarely (and unanimously, it was reported) in support of  renewed commitment to major college athletics at Rice.

The long-time Rice AD, who’s faltered seldom if ever in his 16 years at the helm of Rice sports – just as, as a skinny, but lithe, black-haired kid, seldom nicked a hurdled during his own, decorated athletic career -- couldn’t help but stumble at the regard of such a favorable outcome, which might otherwise have turned out so negatively.

"We now need to translate this passionate reaction into action to enlarge our base of support, to broaden the circle of our support of Rice athletics," he haltingly told the crowd. "Going forward, we’ll be asking everyone to help deliver on what was promised, to foster the growth of Rice’s athletic program."

"It’s a great time for Rice University, for Rice athletics."

"We have so much to build on. We’ve made it to post-season this year in seven sports – men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s track and field, women’s track and field, men’s tennis, and women’s cross country...."

That litany, naturally, prompted a loud and sustained applause.

"To me, the message here is that athletics participation teaches a person many lessons that serve them well in life. To fight the good fight, to never give up, to push it to the limits, the commitment to...."

Here, however, is where the heel of the old, leather Adidas chocked smack against the last  hurdle in the stack, as the voice broke into choked-up silence.

Unable to continue, the old high hurdler nevertheless thus crossed the finish line, chalking up a win in just what might have been the biggest race of his life.

Editor's note:  The Rice AD made mention of numerous, other persons who were key players in the fight to save Rice athletics, but for sake of brevity (and in some cases, confidentiality) not every episode of the story was related herein.  We apologize to those indivdiuals who were instrumental in the cause, but who did not receive mention in this story.

Paul T. Hlavinka
Webletter Editor

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Seems as if the Old Girl will still have a tenant

Board comes down
in favor of athletics
Division 1A status safe, facilities
upgrade given 'high priority'

HOUSTON  (May 21) -- The Rice University Board of Trustees, after thorough study and discussion of the national and campus picture, has renewed its commitment to participation in Division I-A intercollegiate athletics.

“We unanimously have concluded that, in today’s world, Division I-A remains the best place for Rice,” said Board Chairman Bill Barnett.  “In doing so, we are resolved to maintain academic excellence as we pursue athletic excellence.”

After a final special meeting on Friday to conclude its review of athletics, the Board also expressed its sense that Rice should move toward an integrated admission process that reflects best practices at other highly selective institutions. This recognizes that some allowances must be made for necessary differences, such as the timing required by NCAA-mandated recruiting and signing dates for student-athletes.

 “Our admission process rightly considers each applicant as an individual person and as a person in whole, including exceptional qualities,” Barnett said.  “As it does for all other students with special talents, so it should do for athletes.”

The $10 million per year operating budget deficit being incurred by the athletic department is too high and will be reduced on a phased basis.

“There is a basis for optimism that we can accomplish deficit reduction,” Barnett said.  “Certainly, many supporters of athletics have declared their readiness to increase giving.  We also will be looking at all other ways to increase revenues and reduce costs.  The Board will be devoting attention this fall to how this will be accomplished.”

High priority should be given to building a student-faculty fitness and recreation center and convocation center, which also would serve as an improved venue for men’s and women’s basketball and other intercollegiate, club and intramural sports.  Conceptual planning will begin in the near future.

“Even apart from intercollegiate athletics, this has been on our to-do list for a long time,” Barnett said.  “Our Admission Office reports that availability of first–class recreation facilities is the one area where prospective students consistently rate us behind our peers.  This review brought to the forefront such a facility – perhaps in a single building, perhaps not – which also would serve other academic needs and our intramural and club sports, and give several of our intercollegiate athletic programs their best chance of success as we enter Conference USA.”

Barnett added:  “The Board commended the athletic director, coaches and student–athletes who uphold an honorable tradition at Rice of demonstrated success in both academics and athletics.  Additionally, we are gratified that the Rice Athletic Department has operated a program never tainted by NCAA sanctions.”

The 25-member Board of Trustees this year took up a review of the athletic program, as it does from time to time with all aspects of the university, from building maintenance to academic programs.  The business school, for example, underwent a comprehensive review in 1996, and Rice did a campus master plan update last year.

To obtain the broadest possible grasp of intercollegiate athletics in 2004, the Board commissioned McKinsey & Co., a top management-consulting firm, to do research onall aspects of Rice’s athletic program, including budgets, academic and athletic success rates, and of the changing national picture.  The Board directed that the report discuss all possible options, and the pros and cons of each, without making recommendations.

“The Board is grateful for the excellent work done by McKinsey,” Barnett said

The Trustees studied the report and many other materials, sought input from all sectors of the Rice community, held lengthy discussions, and narrowed their focus to four issues:  the appropriate level of competition for Rice; ensuring the student in “student-athlete”; the athletics financial deficit and facilities.  The Board then made the McKinsey report public on the university website and invited comment from students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university before Friday’s special Board meeting.

--Rice News Services

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Owl fans chuckle as Raymorris Barnes tells anti-
sports profs, 'Thanks for stopping by'

Owl fans rally
Undergrad, alumni
student-athletes call
for common sense

HOUSTON (May 5) – Some 250 supporters of Rice athletics rallied before the baseball game with McNeese State Wednesday evening, in an event which, despite its impromptu nature, had attendees walking away with a renewed sense of purpose.

The rally, publicized by email and word of mouth with only a couple of days advance notice, was emceed by recent Rice graduate and four-year football letterman Julian Duncan.

"It’s gratifying to see the kind of enthusiasm that’s presented here," Julian told the cheering, clapping crowd, "but we all know we have to work hard to communicate to the Board and the administration just how important athletics is at Rice."

"Rice’s tradition of great athletics despite its small enrollment and high academic standards – that makes Rice what it is," Julian concluded.

In a tent pitched  behind the third-base side of Reckling Park, several current and recently-graduated Rice student-athletes took the mike to deliver a few words, as did a sprinkling of available coaches and administrators.

The general thrust of the speakers tended toward a call for mere common sense in the evalulation of the role major college athletics has played, historically, within the university.  But there was also an expression of relief, even gratitude, at the outpouring of sentiment firmly in favor of improving the status quo, that had been sent the way of the Rice Board of Trustees within the previous few days.

In the end,  the show was positively stolen by a current member of Rice’s football team, safety/ cornerback Raymorris Barnes.

"Athletics are a part of Rice," Raymorris told the crowd, "and to remove them now or to drastically alter the way that the programs operate would be detrimental to the tradition and honor that Rice receives worldwide."

"Our campus is tolerant of almost any type of minority interest group,   as long as there is a mutual, civil respect between all members of our community, " quipped the Rice senior, who's graduating Saturday but will attend grad school and come back this fall for a final year of elligibility on the field as an Owl.   "We civilly acknowledge those who oppose athletics at Rice University and we say, ‘thanks for stopping by.’

"But because of everyone here, we stand here today with a louder voice to say we want athletics at Rice, and we want athletics to reach higher goals in every area that Rice competes in."

It falls in the category of rumor mill, but the word sweeping around the rally tent had it that one Board member divulged that he had, at last count, received over 1,000 emails in support of Rice athletics within the past week. That kind of number tended to hearten the attendees – even if it turns out to be slightly exaggerated.

The karma spilled out into the newly renovated grandstand at Reckling Park, as a larger-than-usual crowd of 3,297 saw the Owls up their record to 16 out of the last 17 with a 4-0 shutout win over McNeese State.



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Paul T. Hlavinka photo

'I am a student-athlete and I am proud to be here'

Here is the complete text of Raymorris Barnes’ remarks at Wednesday’s rally. Clip and save!

"Being a student, let alone an athlete, at Rice University has its ups and downs. We are given the pride and satisfaction to say that we are the 2003 national champions in collegiate baseball -- and the University of Texas is not. We have Western Athletic Conference and Southwest Conference titles that can be hung from here to Duncan Hall and back, and maybe if football can add in a few titles here and there we may be able to stretch to the Medical Center -- but that is not the point of this speech."

"For me, being a student at Rice University means a lot more than being an athlete at Rice. First, it takes a special kind of student to get admitted under any type of circumstances to attend this university. After all, it isn’t strictly "academ" smarts that help prospective students attend Rice University, but it is the overall character of that particular person that Rice reviews and deems acceptable to attend college here."

"It is also a special kind of student who wakes up each day to receive rigorous, but much appreciated teaching from our faculty members and yet press on diligently in the class while praying for a curve on a test. Students at Rice love a challenge because we feel that no matter the problem, we can find a solution to the problem."

"Well, today we are here to show support for a solution to a problem that has existed too long here at our beloved university. Today, students and student-athletes, family, friends, and supporters, join together to show our support for Rice athletics at Rice University."

"Athletics are a part of Rice and to remove them now or to drastically alter the way that the programs operate would be detrimental to the tradition and honor that Rice receives worldwide."

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Raymorris Barnes in post-game TV interview after last year's home win over Nevada

"I am proud to say that I am a part of the institution where one of its professors is responsible for the bucky ball (regardless of the new findings that have been released in the media about its potential dangers!) Yet, I am also proud to say that I am from a school who has had Olympians and conference champions in all sports dating back to 1926 when the men’s cross country team became Southwest Conference Champions for the first time."

"I am your fellow classmate, your supporter, and your friend. I am also your representative when I take the field at Reliant Stadium or the Naval Academy. I am your liaison to the rest of the world when they get a national glance at Rice University."

"We take pride in honor, dignity, and respect no matter the situation, which is why today we have come here to diligently urge our supporters to become vocal and show their concerns for athletics at Rice. Because we are Rice students, we are here today to peacefully touch and agree upon this topic, without whooping and hollering and acting ignorant because of a few negative vocal members of our community."

"As a student at Rice, I have learned that within a community not everyone will see eye to eye. Our campus is tolerant of almost any type of minority interest group as long as there is a mutual civil respect between all members of our community. We civilly acknowledge those who oppose athletics at Rice University and we say ‘thanks for stopping by.’ But because of everyone here, we stand here today with a louder voice to say we want athletics at Rice, and we want athletics to reach higher goals in every area that Rice competes in."

"I am a student athlete and I am proud to be here. I take the field each Saturday during the fall semester to show the rest of the world that you can be intelligent and excel in athletics at the same time."

"I don’t take the field only for my family, teammates, and coaches, but I take the field for the students who spent all night Friday night studying at the library for chem lec test. I take the field in honor of the music majors preparing to perform a recital in front of prestigious guests. I take the field to hold up the banner for those students who belabor day in and day out for orgo and orgo lab preparing to become the future leaders and doctors in our nation."

"Not only am I taking the field each Saturday, but I am joined by 90 teammates, some who travel, and some who don’t, who proudly say we are proud to be Rice Owls; not only on the football and soccer fields, but upon the track and cross country fields, the swimming pool, the basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts, the golf course, and the baseball diamond. Fresno, Hawaii, Boise State, you may call me a ‘nerd’ or a ‘geek,’ but I am proud to be an Owl geek or nerd -- not a Stanford Cardinal geek or nerd; not a Duke Blue Devil geek or nerd -- but a Rice Owl student who attends one of the most prestigious and honorable universities on the face of the earth."

"When all is said and done here today, the 300 plus student and student athletes, managers, and trainers that represent Rice University year in and year out, will continue to give 110 per cent on the field, and in the classroom because the lessons we have and will continue to learn here at Rice, will help us give 110 per cent in life, no matter what obstacles we may face."

More photos of Wednesday's rally....

Ad hoc support group to form
Alumni leap onto
Rice faculty report

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Full house in the 50s -- can we get there again?

HOUSTON (April 28) – While a number of Rice alumni are in the midst of assembling a grass-roots organization to attempt  dialogue with the Board of Trustees over the future of Rice athletics, an even greater number of alums and other supporters  are taking matters into their own hands in the compo- sition and transmission of letters of concern to the Board.

Many of those letters are considerably lengthy, carrying out extensively reasoned arguments dotted with specific footnoting and cites of both documentary and anecdotal evidence. The general consensus: a 2003 report commissioned by the Faculty Council was fostered by a biased predisposition, was poorly and misleadingly researched, and was written to substantiate foregone conclusions. In other words, it comprised extremely shoddy scholarship, especially given the supposedly lofty academic bona fides of its authors.

The report, in short, can be said to exhibit all the characteristics of a dead mackerel in the moonlight – at a distance, it shines, but up close, it stinks.

Certain sympathetic faculty members have pointed out that the whole controversy has erupted in large part because of the Board's taking the Faculty Council report and running with it --despite its obvious flaws and biases.  It has become public knowledge that the  report was harshly criticized by many faculty members – initially at the faculty meeting of November 11, 2003, and again at their meeting of April 6, 2004. Yet, the question continues, why, despite such dubious pedigree, is the report nonetheless still being used, on campus and in the local media, as reason to question Rice’s continuation in Division I-A athletics?

The chief antagonists are said by sympathetic faculty members to lie within a very small but very vocal group of faculty who are bent on denigrating Rice’s athletic programs, no matter how successful and laudable they might be. This group, led by history professor Tom Haskell, is said to have been relentless in its attacks, but its criticism has been veiled by a seemingly innocuous call for frequent evaluations of the athletics program and a relatively muted level of criticism, never mind how condescending, among senior faculty members such as retiring Sociology professor Chandler Davidson.

Dr. Davidson wrote a cover letter introducing the faculty report, and noted therein that, in his 37 years of work on the Rice faculty, "the number of student athletes I knew who were not likeable kids, admirable kids, even, was small."

"I think it’s true that anyone who presumes to write or speak in even a mildly critical vein about intercollegiate athletics at Rice risks getting a bum rap, i.e., risks being called "anti-athlete," he went on to say.

"None of us has it in for athletes. On the contrary, part of our concern about admitting athletes who are far less academically able than the general run of Rice students is about the damage they may suffer while here."

Never mind the fact that, in the most recent study, Rice student-athletes' overall graduation rate of 91 per cent exceeded that of the student body generally.

Outgoing Rice president Malcolm Gillis, in his August 1, 2003 letter to the faculty, was generally critical of the Haskell-Davidson report, taking exception to several of its conclusions based on the lack of any statistically significant evidence to support them. In addition, members of the Rice Economics and Kinesiology faculties raised a ruckus over the report’s implication that their respective departments were "academic shelters" for Rice’s student-athletes – a conclusion for which Professor Davidson publicly apologized, citing, once again, a lack of any significant sustaining evidence.

In an April 24 Chronicle article, Board member Terry Koonce, who is chair of the subcommittee on athletics, appeared to throw at least cool, if not cold, water on the report by telling the reporter that the "Trustees will consider the full range of possibilities ... but the abolition of Rice sports isn't 'practical.’

But the most on-target shots taken at the Board’s report likely have been taken by a number of alumni themselves, in their missives communicated to the Trustees’ membership.

While we at the Webletter are not privy to data regarding the total number of letters sent to the Board, nor have we any clue as to the contents of the McKinsey & Co. report nor the state of any internal Board deliberations, we nevertheless have been provided with a fair sample of the letters which have gone to the Board within the past few days. Herewith, we submit to our readers, in digest form, a number of arguments which have been set forth by some of these writers.

You may wish to read them over, go back and read the faculty report – and then draw your own conclusions regarding which group possesses the most cogent, persuasive, and well-reasoned arguments.

--Paul T. Hlavinka
  Webletter Editor

Arguments like these swayed the day

De-emphasis of intercollegiate athletics would reduce the Real Enterprise Value of the University and possibly even subject the Board to litigation

Rice’s participation in athletics at the highest levels of competition (Division 1-A) is an integral a part of the Real Enterprise Value (REV) of the university. I think I am in pretty good company too since President John F. Kennedy chose to describe Rice to the world in terms of the school’s integration of highest academic standards and athletic competition in his famous "Why does Rice play Texas" speech. For over forty years Rice has prided itself on being the smallest university playing Division 1-A football. This niche has served Rice well in the past and is a contributing factor in maintaining Rice as one of the best bargain educations in America. We share this niche with other highly regarded institutions including Northwestern University, Duke University, Vanderbilt University and Stanford University. Remove the athletics side of the REV and the total enterprise value decreases. If your actions as a Board causes Rice’s REV to decrease by more than the cost savings of moving out of Division 1-A, then the Board has failed in its fiduciary responsibilities to its constituents (Rice’s alumni and current students, faculty and staff).

I realize that it is costly to compete in Division 1-A athletics for universities today and in this day of ever tightening budgets, it is easy for Board members to be seduced by the Siren Song of cutting costs to solve budgetary constraints. As both competition (pro franchises) and costs increased over the last thirty years, Rice chose to minimize its sports outlays and only cover operating costs at a bare minimum. Rice as an institution has not made a significant financial investment in the basic sports property, plant and equipment at the school since it built Rice Stadium and Autry court in 1950 (the Cox Fitness Center and Reckling Park were gifts from alumni, not direct investments of university-endowed funds for such infrastructure). The results of such a short-sighted policy were as predictable as a business not reinvesting its depreciation and depletion reserves into new plant and equipment—the school’s facilities fell into significant disrepair, which hurt recruiting, which hurt results on the field of play, which resulted in the big SWC schools "divorcing" us, which resulted in the big WAC schools "divorcing" us, which resulted in ever decreasing revenues to offset costs. The only way to reverse this death spiral is to spend your way out of it and renew Rice’s commitment to Division 1-A athletics. This financial and emotional commitment to Division 1-A athletics will encourage alumni and friends of Rice to increase their contributions to the school, will improve recruiting and corresponding performance on the field of play, and will increase revenues to more than cover the costs incurred. In my opinion, anything short of this commitment by the Board to athletics as an integral part of the university will cause significant diminution in the value of my degrees from Rice. In this day of stratospheric litigation and microscopic examination of corporate/institutional governance (e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley), being wrong on this vote is a recipe for disaster for the educational institution and perhaps even the Board members personally

On Thursday, I received my invitation to the donors’ reception for the Rice: The Next Century Campaign. With the next century in mind, I believe that making the financial and emotional commitment for Rice to participate in the highest levels of athletics is as difficult a feat for Rice as going to the moon was for our country in the last century. Our country’s leaders surely could have saved billions of dollars back then but they had the foresight to know that the intangibles benefits of getting there first greatly exceeded the costs. I hope that this Board will have similar foresight in this most difficult hour and make the right decisions "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…" (J.F.K. speech)

--Kirwin Drouet

Any cost-benefit analysis which leaves out upgrading athletics and athletic facilities as an option is essentially flawed

I believe that the process has omitted, whether intentionally or not, the one option that makes the most sense, namely, restoring Rice's commitment to athletics to the level which existed from the 1940's to the early 1960's, best symbolized by the construction of Rice Stadium. I will call this the Stanford/Duke option, because those are two institutions very simliar to Rice who have both embarked very clearly on that course, and benefitted greatly from having done so.

I know that certain individuals associated with the university in various capacities have for years trotted out statements to the effect that "Chicago dropped football, and they along with MIT and Caltech don't play Division 1 athletics, and it hasn't hurt them." I would counter with the equally correct observation that Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt--all more or less similiarly situated--have continued to play division 1 football, and each has made a commitment to athletic excellence in one or more sports that far exceeds the commitment which exists at Rice, and their decisions haven't hurt them either.

In fact I would venture that it goes far past "haven't hurt". I daresay that Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt would each point out that they realize substantial and measurable net benefits from continued participation at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics. With that in mind, my question is, "What benefits have Chicago, MIT, and CalTech derived from non-participation in major athletics?"

I believe that any objective cost/benefit analysis of our baseball team's national championship (or for that matter, any of the several national championships won by Stanford or Duke in recent years) would demonstrate clearly and convincingly: (1) that Rice can compete at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics if the proper support is provided,  (2) that such competitiveness can be maintained without compromising academics, and  (3) that the benefits, both quantifiable and non-quantifiable, substantially outweigh any costs and clearly justify the commitment required.

It is my personal--and professional--opinon that any anlysis of alternatives regarding athletics which does not give the Stanford/Duke approach at least equal consideration with the other alternatives listed above is seriously flawed, lacks objectivity, and will produce an inapprpriate result. If this alternative is not under consideration because it has not been presented appropriately to the Board (and I truly fear that this is the case), then regardless of the reason for such omission, I think it would be most inappropriate for the Board to take any action regarding athletics before giving the Stanford/Duke option an equal hearing with any other options being considered.

--Chip Matthews

Rice athletes are doing their jobs on the field and in the classroom, and most of the faculty is, in fact, either supportive of, or, at worst, ambivalent about their presence

What we hear is that the Rice faculty does not support athletics, but the accurate statement is that a small but vocal group of the faculty is critical of the program, possibly those with psyches irreversibly damaged by their own lack of success in sports. The majority of the faculty is either supportive or ambivalent. This can be said of virtually every university that competes in intercollegiate athletics, including the University of Texas. The difference is that little attention is paid to dissidents at other schools.

There are many of us who believe that it is in the best interests of the university that Rice continues to compete at the Division I-A level and it is time for our voices to be heard. Rice athletes are doing their jobs, on the field and in the classroom. They want to continue to compete with Stanford and Duke. While Williams and Amherst are fine schools, they're not Rice.

All this being said, we also believe it is reasonable for the board to expect a higher standard of performance and accountability from the Rice Athletic Department. There is room for improvement both on the field in some sports and in the day-to-day operations of the department. The consensus is that improved marketing will increase attendance, most importantly in football, and bring added revenues. The move to Conference USA will greatly reduce travel costs and there may well be other ways to control expenditures and better allocate funds.

The bottom line is we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. This baby is part of our family and we want to keep the family together. Without athletics there are no Owls and we are the Owls.

--Nancy Burch

The "Stanford/Duke Option" is far more appropriate to Rice's circumstances than the "MIT/CalTech Option", and thus Rice should place greater emphasize intercollegiate athletics

As a partner overseeing a national intellectual property litigation practice for one of the largest law firms in the country, I have many anecdotal stories about the reputation of Rice on a national and international scale and what the general public bases their perceptions on. Simply put, because of Rice's participation in NCAA D1A athletics, persons who would otherwise have never even heard of Rice know that Rice is a very prestigious, relatively small, academically rigorous university. Statements of that type are frequently followed by expressions of amazement that Rice competes as well as is does given the inherent barriers those qualities bring and admiration that Rice continues to compete at the highest levels without bending the rules. Simply put, Rice is viewed as a peer with Stanford rather than University of Miami (Florida) because Rice has historically been true to the goal of excelling both academically and athletically without taking any shortcuts. That reputation is hard and well earned and should not be discarded without overwhelmingly exceptional reasons.

I believe that the process has omitted, whether intentionally or not, the one option that makes the most sense, namely, restoring Rice's commitment to athletics to the level which existed from the 1940's to the early 1960's, best symbolized by the construction of Rice Stadium. I will call this the Stanford/Duke option, because those are two institutions very similar to Rice who have both embarked very clearly on that course, and benefitted greatly from having done so. I know that certain individuals associated with the university in various capacities have for years trotted out statements to the effect that "Chicago dropped football, and they along with MIT and Caltech don't play Division 1 athletics, and it hasn't hurt them." I would counter with the equally correct observation that Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt--all more or less similarly situated--have continued to play division 1 football, and each has made a commitment to athletic excellence in one or more sports that far exceeds the commitment which exists at Rice, and their decisions haven't hurt them either.

In fact I would venture that it goes far past "haven't hurt". I daresay that Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt would each point out that they realize substantial and measurable net benefits from continued participation at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics. With that in mind, my question is, "What benefits have Chicago, MIT, and CalTech derived from non-participation in major athletics?"

I believe that any objective cost/benefit analysis of our baseball team's national championship (or for that matter, any of the several national championships won by Stanford or Duke in recent years) would demonstrate clearly and convincingly: (1) that Rice can compete at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics if the proper support is provided,  (2) that such competitiveness can be maintained without compromising academics, and  (3) that the benefits, both quantifiable and non-quantifiable, substantially outweigh any costs and clearly justify the commitment required.

It is my personal--and professional--opinion that any anlysis of alternatives regarding athletics which does not give the Stanford/Duke approach at least equal consideration with the other alternatives listed above is seriously flawed, lacks objectivity, and will produce an inappropriate result 

--Kent Rowald

The Faculty Report makes elementary mistakes in its accounting analysis

The Faculty Report gives lip service to a cost benefit analysis, starting at page 6, but then focuses solely on the increase in "the cumulative net costs" (measured in gross dollars). In fact, the report downplays that "the net cost of athletics described in Table 1 have remained pretty much unchanged as a percentage of the university budget and as a percentage of the university operating cost, and have actually decreased as a percentage of the market value of the endowment," instead describing the athletic budget by noting "that in constant dollars the cost of athletics has greatly increased" and calling that "a troubling phenomenon in light of the growing needs of other sectors of the university". Id. The report then goes on to lambaste the athletic budget by noting "[t]he total increase between 1996 and 2001 was 96 percent, an average of 16 percent annually." Such a simplistic approach to measuring the cost of athletics would never pass muster in the business world. In fact, I doubt that it would even receive a passing grade in the Managerial Studies and Economics curriculums that the faculty report gratuitously labels as academic shelters.

--Kent Rowald

The effects of  Rice's prospective move to CUSA and the recent baseball national championship were not considered in the faculty report 

I think the following statements must be considered in any discussions in this area:

1. Rice's recent successes on the athletic fields have, and should continue to have, a positive impact on the revenue stream for our programs.

2. The upcoming move to CUSA will reduce costs and should also increase revenue as we play against schools that are closer to Houston and are more easily accessible by bus as well as air. Revenue from conference media contracts should also increase.

3. The success of our baseball program, both on the field and in attendance, has demonstrated that if our facilities are first rate, we can generate revenue and market beyond the hedges. The facilities that 'house' our basketball and football programs are both over 50 years old and in need of substantial renovation or replacement. This has handicapped the efforts of our athletic department to compete financially in the current marketplace. It is has been unacceptable, in my opinion, for the university to neglect Rice Stadium and Autry Court for so long.

This is not to say that I, or any Rice alumni, view the athletic department as a profit center or that it is a primary mission of the athletic department to make money for the university. I do believe that whatever deficits we currently are facing can be reduced and managed more effectively WITH PROPER SUPPORT FROM THE UNIVERSITY. Our baseball program has demonstrated that you can generate revenue by spending money. The university may currently support the athletic department financially, but the perception, real or imagined, is that at some levels the support is half-hearted or grudgingly given.

TCU averaged over 34,000 in football attendance this year. As recently as 1997, Rice averaged over 38,000 for our home games, and this was post-SWC. TCU has made a commitment to their athletic infrastructure and their athletic department as a whole that we can and should make on South Main. One perceived difference between the two schools is the level of support provided by the school administrations.

In closing, I just offer that I believe that it would do a great disservice to the University and its alumni, and inflict harm on our image outside the hedges, if the Trustees were to recommend or take any action that would reduce or eliminate the level of competition at which Rice competes in athletics. Instead, I would encourage the Trustees to consider infrastructure improvements, specifically for Rice Stadium and Autry Court, that would enable Rice to continue to compete with, and exceed the success of, our peers at Stanford, Duke, Tulane, Tulsa, SMU and TCU. Rice should consider Stanford and Duke as a model for athletic success, not Trinity.

Our athletes in baseball, football, basketball, tennis, track and other sports have earned and deserve that support.

--Rick Gerlach

The report mis-states athletic budget trends and fails to provide meaningful cost-benefit analyses

The neglected, yet most pertinent fact is that the breakup of the Southwest Conference and Rice's subsequent joining of the Western Athletic Conference occurred at the precise time chosen for the statistical review and caused a decrease in revenues and increase in expenditures for athletics, resulting in a small increase in the percentage of university operating costs associated with athletics. The report not only ignores this obvious cause and effect, but it also overlooks Rice's impending move to Conference USA and the anticipated increase in revenues and decrease in expenditures for athletics occasioned by that move. Moreover, while the report focuses on the "great increase" in gross dollars expended on athletics ostensibly at the expense of "other sectors of the university," it ignores that the gross dollars on the other sectors of the university necessarily also had a "great increase" or the percentages which are denigrated would have changed. Additionally, the comparison in the report is between years where the accounting methodologies differed! See Note 2 of Table 1 to the Report. Finally, the report simply fails to acknowledge that the athletic budget in gross dollars was static from 1992 through 1996 when, for universities in general, "financial aid outlays increased at an average rate of 14.6% per year." Rice: The Next Century, Report of the Strategic Planning Committee, Spring 1997, note 8, http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~provweb/plan/references.html . Simply put, the financial comparisons and conclusions drawn by the Faculty Report do not pass even the most basic scrutiny that they should receive in a business decision context.

Not only does the Faculty Report provide a cost analysis that does not bear up under scrutiny, but the benefit analysis is even more woefully inadequate. The report acknowledges at page 6 that "Athletic competition within and between schools can foster school spirit and institutional identity. Sometimes it puts an otherwise undistinguished school on the map. Sometimes it fosters a rise in applications for admission". The report then drops this entire thought, apparently placing little or no value on the school spirit and institutional identity athletics fosters. The report also ignores that athletics can and do put distinguished schools such as Rice on the map (or at least at the forefront of the public's consciousness) as well as otherwise undistinguished schools. Then the report dismisses the potential rise in applications for admissions because "there is no appreciable correlation of winning football seasons (football being the most externally visible of our sports until quite recently) with the rise in applicants for admission since the early 1970's". Report at 6, ftnt 20. That is disingenuous when you also consider that Rice's football team has had a winning football season only 5 times since the early 1970's. Moreover, such a hypothesis could easily have been tested against baseball success at Rice, but was not.

--Kent Rowald

The report ignores a consistent upward trend in grade point averages and graduation rates of student athletes 

The report relates to the lower GPA's of athletes as a whole when compared to the student body as a whole. Report at 15. Given the extraordinary demands on their time due to their participation in intercollegiate athletics (see discussion at pages 8 and 18 of the report), that is not surprising. What is surprising is that the same report then claims that certain majors are havens to hide marginal students simply because many athletes choose those majors. The report seeks to have it both ways, complaining of lower GPA's and alleging that certain majors are "shelters". However, the report then candidly notes that although the overall GPA's may have been lower, "the annual graduation rates of Rice athletes have been much higher than those of most athletes in Division I-A. Indeed Rice athletes entering in 1995 were …higher than the graduation rate for the entire Rice student body entering that same year. It is also true that between 1984 and 1995, the graduation rate of the entering class of athletes has been rising absolutely and in comparison to the entire student body." Report at 16.

Rather than laud this clear improvement in performance and the increased emphasis placed on academics by the athletic department, the report speculates (without any support) that the "shelters" of Managerial Studies, Kinesiology and Economics are the driving force. However, the report ignores that Managerial Studies is now (unlike when I was a student) only available as part of a double major. The report also notes that 17% of athletes are Economics majors, while 13% of all students majored in economics majors. Report at 17, ftnt. 43. Not only is that a minimal variance from the student populace as a whole, it is equally plausible that athletes anticipate going into business after graduation at a greater rate than nonathletes, making it expected that they would be Economics majors at a higher rate, especially when you consider that Rice has no undergraduate business major. Likewise, it is not unexpected that athletes would be interested in sports-related academic courses such as those found in Kinesiology at a higher rate than non-athletes; people generally gravitate to areas that interest them! Finally, as noted above, the chairs of these respective departments deny that these are "shelter" majors and Chandler Davidson, the author of that section of the faculty report, admits that the conclusions are unsupported and apologizes for them. Moreover, because of recently introduced NCAA changes relating to limits on recruiting replacements for athletes who become academically ineligible, it is likely that, to the extent that any coaches were considering marginal students (which is not supported by the evidence provided), those coaches now have an even greater incentive to insure that their recruits are academically capable. Simply put, Rice athletes are competing and succeeding academically better now than at perhaps any other time in the recent past. That should be applauded, not denigrated!

--Kent Rowald

Athletics - versus - academics is not a zero-sum game

I think back to a quote from Bill Hobby a few years ago, something like, "A dollar spent on athletics is a dollar lost to biology." I guess that sounds convincing, and it's certainly what the vocal faculty minority is telling the board, but it's just plain wrong. The concept works as far as biology (or any other academic department) is concerned, because their revenues are fixed based on the number of students and tuition rates, and spending money to maintain a lab isn't going to increase revenues. At the other end of the spectrum, the university endowment includes timber and oil and gas interests. Does the timber company wait for an alum to give them a saw before they go cut down a tree, or do the oil and gas folks wait for some alum to give them a well before they drill one? Of course not, they have to spend money on those things in order to make money. Athletics has some aspects of both. There are a lot of places where spending a dollar on athletics may generate two or three or more dollars of revenue, so that "A dollar spent on athletics produces two dollars for biology."

--Chip Matthews

Intercollegiate athletics provides name recognition for Rice in the general public -- the baseball national champion was a huge plus, in that regard

Ask anyone you know to name some outstanding academic schools, excluding the Ivy League, which enjoys a special niche that is unavailable to us or anyone else. The universities most likely to be named are Stanford, Duke, Rice, Vanderbilt, and perhaps Tulane or Notre Dame. Granted, MIT, Cal Tech and the University of Chicago are fine schools but their national visibility does not match that of those schools with Division I-A athletic programs.

Rice's national championship in baseball last year resulted in an amazing level of positive attention directed at the school. Those of us who had the good fortune to be in Omaha during the College World Series know that Rice was the talk of the town. You could not step into a restaurant or a shop without being asked questions about the school, many from people who knew little or nothing about it. All were delighted to learn that not one, but two outstanding academic institutions were playing for the championship.

The interest level continued long past Omaha. Luggage tags bearing the Rice Owl logo or a Rice baseball cap brought questions from strangers not only throughout the U.S. but even in foreign cities. Estimates of earned media value of the coverage of the baseball championship averaged $100 million. That figure represents what the school would need to spend in paid advertising for equivalent audience reach. Those audiences include potential students, present and future employers, alumni, and friends with no other direct connection to the school, people we might not have reached but for our baseball team.

--Nancy Burch

The data on student-athlete campus life participation supports positive, not negative, conclusions

 Regarding campus life, the Faculty Report is again replete with unsubstantiated innuendo and conclusions that are not supported by the facts presented. Initially, the report discusses participation in undergraduate activities based upon a poll of college masters and reports that, "a majority (58%) of all athletes in the nine colleges were judged to participate at below-average rates." Report at 21. Statistically, 50% would be expected to be "below-average" if there were no other factors involved. When you then add the time constraints noted at page 18 of the report and the "degree of anti-athlete prejudice at Rice" noted at page 28 of the report, it is surprising to me that only 58% participate at below-average rates! That 42% participate at above average rates despite the additional constraints introduced by their intercollegiate athletic participation speaks well for the student-athletes and their efforts to be integrated.

--Kent Rowald

The review of living arrangements of Rice baseball players is misstated and ignores basic realities

The report also makes much of an allegation that baseball players are encouraged by the coaching staff to live off campus. See Report at 21, 29. However, Head Baseball Coach Wayne Graham reportedly told the Thresher that he encourages his players to live on campus if financially possible. That is certainly consistent with the realities imposed by NCAA rules and Rice's self-imposed rules. Simply put, the NCAA allows 11.7 scholarships for the entire baseball team comprised of a 25-30 man roster. My understanding is that Rice, unlike virtually every other university in the NCAA, prevents baseball players (and any other so-called equivalency sport athlete, i.e. those where partial scholarships are awarded) from accepting any type of need-based aid, i.e. Pell Grants, etc.. The net result is that the baseball team is comprised of kids on partial baseball scholarships who are prevented by Rice rules from getting help through other NCAA allowed avenues and are thus paying a substantial amount of the cost of attending Rice, perhaps exceeding that of the average Rice non-athlete. Simply put, if you are on partial scholarship to play baseball and live on campus at Rice, your costs are far higher than if you get a place off campus with a bunch of your teammates. Basic economics thus drives the complained of results, which are further exacerbated by Rice's unilateral refusal to allow additional help that the NCAA regulations allow.

--Kent Rowald

 The report assumes that big-time athletics is considered unnecessary by the Rice community and the city of Houston -- despite evidence to the contrary

Regarding athletics within the larger Rice culture, the report states, "No one, surely, would argue that big-time athletics is considered a necessity for Rice by our student body, our alumni, our faculty or, in all probability, Houston's business leaders," report at 27, but does not answer the question: necessary for what? If the answer to that question is to keep Rice in the news and maintain its prestige as a nationally known university, I think it is necessary. If the answer is to be a top flight research institute, I do not think it is necessary. Moreover, while the Faculty Report indicates that "there is nothing we are aware of that indicates the student body or Rice alumni as a whole would feel disappointed if we left Division I-A" (report at 28), that statement needs to be juxtaposed against the results of the Student Association General Elections held in February, 2004, wherein the survey on athletics found that 69 percent of students strongly agreed with the statement that they "would be very disappointed if Rice lost its varsity athletics program altogether." and 60% said DIII athletics would not be a substitute. Clearly, while there may not be the rabid buzz around the Rice campus that there is at some large state schools regarding "big games" (see faculty report at 28), D1A athletics is important to a substantial majority of the Rice student body. I suspect that among alumni, that importance would rate even higher. Moreover, I suspect that a majority of Rice alumni would recognize that doing everything reasonably possible to be successful at the D1A level, i.e. taking the steps that can be taken without sacrificing the academic integrity of the university or violating NCAA regulations, results in rewards (both tangible and intangible) that far exceed the costs.

In its zeal to promote a drop from D1A athletics to DIII, the report concludes that "the strongest reason for moving to a lower level of athletic competition" is that it would allow "Rice (to) compete against schools that are similar to Rice in size, character, and quality -- schools like those of the University Athletic Association (Johns Hopkins, Chicago, Rochester, Washington University of St. Louis, Emory, etc.)." Report at 30. I would suggest that rather than being the strongest reason for moving, it is the strongest reason for NOT moving. While Johns Hopkins, Chicago, et al are all fine universities, they are dissimilar to Rice in character largely (albeit not entirely) because they do not have D1A athletics. I would much rather Rice be compared to Stanford, Duke, Northwestern and Vanderbilt, who are far closer to Rice, in my opinion, in terms of character and quality.

As in the oft-quoted statement by John F. Kennedy at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962, "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." Notably, the Faculty Report unequivocally states, "If this question were posed on the campus or in the surrounding community of Ohio State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, or even Stanford, the answer would be immediate and obvious: leaving Division I-A unless dictated by the imminent threat of economic catastrophe would be unthinkable." Report at 27. The answer at Rice should be equally immediate and obvious and the same.

--Kent Rowald

The faculty historically has presented its periodic review of athletics in a way that suggests a clear bias

The periodic review of athletics has, at least since the 1984 study, been trumpeted to the press by Faculty Council representatives as a study to determine whether Rice should continue to compete in athletics, suggesting a clear bias against athletics generally. A content neutral statement along the lines of, "We have begun our periodic review of Rice athletics, which occurs about every 10 years and is part of our on-going mission to insure that athletics and academics are properly balanced within the University." could be issued. If it is believed that possible options need to be discussed publicly, then it would be appropriate to add, "We will consider all of the University's options, from increasing the current levels of financial commitment for athletics to insure continued competitiveness at the highest levels to dropping athletics altogether if the costs outweigh the overall benefits of maintaining the athletics program." Not only would this more accurately reflect what the studies are at least facially supposed to be about, this would avoid the negative press and the negative effects that the previous Faculty Counsel statements have inflicted on the athletic department in terms of recruiting, ticket sales and community outreach efforts on the surrounding community's perception of Rice as a whole. As an academic institution, Rice should strive to be intellectually honest, even when dealing with athletics! When we do so, it is "immediate and obvious: leaving Division I-A unless dictated by imminent threat of economic catastrophe would be unthinkable." Moreover, failing to support athletics at the level needed to provide a reasonable opportunity for success is equally unthinkable.

--Kent Rowald

And to sum it all up... 

For the sake of brevity, and at the expense of being "un"-politically correct, I am reminded of the words from one of the songs of that former West Texas Philosopher, Waylon Jennings,..."there ain’t no right way to do the wrong thing."

--James Limmer

Links to more Rice athletics-related coverage...

Hatfield in Washington, defends recruit policy
(ESPN.com -- May 25)
Rice revamps recruits' rules

(Houston Chronicle -- May 25)

Sweeps week special: Recruits entertained at strip clubs

(KHOU.com -- May 24)
Rice to keep athletic program
(Houston Chronicle -- May 22)

Warning shot prompts Rice backers to dig deep
(Houston Chronicle -- May 22)

Trustees reject program cutbacks
(Houston Chronicle -- May 21)

Rice to maintain Division 1A athletics programs
(KHOU.com -- May 21)

Rice smallest school in top tier of NCAA division 1A
(ESPN.com -- May 21)
Rice, like Tulane, debating pros, cons of football
(New Orleans Times-Picayune -- May 21)

Rice Board needs to hear both sides
(Houston Chronicle -- May 19

Pursuit of excellence must include athletics
(Joyce Hardy in the West U. Examiner -- May 19)

U. of Chicago student journalist wants Rice in league
(The Chicago Maroon -- May 11)

Athletics part of fabric that makes Rice special
(West U. Examiner -- May 12)

Vandy athletic department restructures again
(The Nashville Tennessean -- May 15)

Drastic change to Rice's model program would be folly
(Houston Chronicle -- May 16)
Coach Hatfield speaks at SFA graduation
(SFA news release)

Rice athletics set to emerge stronger, more committed
(Owlzone discussion thread)

Rice brain versus brawn debate returns
(San Antonio Express-News -- May 9)

Kalu, other former Owls from SA defend Rice athletics
(San Antonio Express-News -- May 9)

Is Trinity really all that analogous to Rice?
Houston Chronicle:  John Lopez -- May 8)

How 'similar' schools set academic standards for athletes
(Owlzone discussion thread)
Rice needs our help, not just our concerns
(Houston Chronicle:  John Lopez -- May 7)

Rice fans rally to save football
(News 24 Houston -- May 6)
Rice trustees favor staying in Division 1
(San Francisco Chronicle -- May 5)
Brito's position anti-'diversity'
(Houston Chronicle -- May 5)
What McKinsey report was this Chronicle reporter reading?
(Houston Chronicle -- May 5)
Rice releases study on future of athletics
(KHOU-TV.com -- May 4)
Anti-sports prof:   Div. 1 football at Rice 'an absurdity'
(Houston Chronicle -- May 3)
Cutting back on athletics last thing Rice should do
(Houston Chronicle -- May 2)
Alum:   Athletics keeps Rice flying high
(Houston Chronicle -- May 2)

Prof:  Deep-six the Rice football program
(Houston Chronicle -- May 2)

"Rice is great the way it is"
(Houston Chronicle -- May 2)

Graham lashes out at faculty report
(Houston Chronicle -- April 29)
On defense for Rice athletics
(Houston Chronicle -- April 28)

'I've already written and mailed my letters'
(West U. Examiner -- April 28)

Report upsets alumni
(KTRK TV -- April 27)

To Arms!

Herewith we include addresses, e-mail addresses, and, where available, fax numbers for members of the Rice Board of Trustees, as well as a posting of the Rice Faculty Report on Athletics, and some sample letters and other documentation to help organize your thoughts.  Remember, your missives need to be received by Board members no later than April 29th!

Basic contact information:

Rice University Board of Trustees
c/o Constance Burke, Assistant to the Board
Board of Trustees Staff
411 Allen Center
Houston, Texas 77251-1892
Phone (713) 348-4780
Fax (713) 348-5927


OR, directly to Bill Barnett, the chairman of the board, at his Baker Botts office....

Rice University Board of Trustees
c/o Mr. E. William Barnett, Chairman '55
Baker Botts LLP
3000 One Shell Plaza
910 Louisiana
Houston, TX 77002-4995

FAX: 713-229-2737

EMAIL: ewbarnett@bakerbotts.com

Links to Faculty Report pdf files, etc.

Click here for the Rice Faculty report (pdf file)
Click here for schedule attachment to the Rice Faculty report (pdf)
Click here  to go to a group of sample letters

Individual Board members' addresses, e-mail addresses...

MR. E. WILLIAM BARNETT, Chairman, Rice University Board of TrusteesP.O. Box 1892 Houston, Texas 77251(713) 621-4996 ewbarnett@bakerbotts.com
MR. J. D. BUCKY ALLSHOUSE 1200 Smith, Suite 2340 Houston, Texas 77002(713) 951-0002 jdbucky@swbell.net
MRS. SUSANNE MORRIS GLASSCOCK, 3507 Inwood, Houston TX 77019 smg@houston.rr.com
MR. D. KENT ANDERSON 12 East Rivercrest Drive Houston, Texas 77042-2514(713) 780-1200 dka@freedomhillfarm.com
MR. K. TERRY KOONCE 3015 Cole Avenue #230 Dallas, Texas 75204 baandktkoonce@aol.com
MS. TEVEIA ROSE BARNES 10 Owlswood RoadTiburon, California 94920-1548 teveiabarnes@sbcglobal.net
MS. CINDY J. LINDSAY, 132 Wildcat LaneBoulder, Colorado 80304 cindy.lindsay@alumni.rice.edu
MR. ALFREDO BRENER, 2995 Lazy LaneHouston, Texas 77019 abre@brecoholdings.com
MR. MICHAEL R. LYNCH 534 East 52nd Street #8ANew York, New York 10022 michael.r.lynch@gs.com
MR. ROBERT T. BROCKMAN, 5353 Memorial DriveHouston, Texas 77024(713) 862 –7039bobbrockman@universalcomputersys.com
MR. ROBERT R. MAXFIELD 15261 BellecourtSaratoga, California 95070-6406 maxfield@Leland.Stanford.edu
MR. ALBERT Y. CHAO 3970 Inverness DriveHouston, Texas 77019-1004 achao@westlakegroup.com
MR. BURTON J. MCMURTRY 7 Coalmine ViewPortola Valley, California 94028-8016(415) 851-8976 bmcmurtry@TVIM.com
MR. JAMES "JIM" W. CROWNOVER, 1528 Kirby Drive Houston, Texas 77019-3302 jim_crownover@mckinsey.com
MR. STEVEN L. MILLER, SLM Discovery Ventures, Inc. 501 Crawford Houston, Texas 77002 (713) 228-3013 steve.miller@slmdv.com
DR. EDWARD A. DOMINGUEZ, 1034 Clinic Drive Tyler, Texas 75701(903) 592-4474 eadoming@alumni.rice.edu
MR. W. BERNARD PIEPER, 402 W. Friar Tuck Houston, Texas 77024-5710(713) 961-3737 bpieper1@houston.rr.com
MR. BRUCE W. DUNLEVIE 80 Santiago Drive Atherton, California 94027 bdunlevie@benchmark.com
MRS. KAREN HESS ROGERS 5309 Bordley Drive Houston, Texas 77056-2323(713) 960-8600khrogers_68@yahoo.com
MR. JAMES A. ELKINS, III 3335 Inwood Houston, Texas 77019 jelkins@houstontrust.com
MR. MARC SHAPIRO J.P. Morgan Chase & Co P.O. Box 2558 Houston,Texas 77252 marc.shapiro@chase.com
MS. LYNN LAVERTY ELSENHANS, 3666 Chevy Chase Houston, Texas 77019-3010 lynn.elsenhans@shell.com MR. WILLIAM N. SICK, 565 Sheridan Road Winnetka, IL 60093-2344 wsick@sigcap.com
MS. KAREN OSTRUM GEORGE, 2328 Rice Boulevard Houston, Texas 77005-2622 kog@alumni.rice.edu
MR. L. E. SIMMONS, 2923 Del Monte Houston, Texas 77019 lsimmons@scfpartners.com  (first letter is a lower-case "L")

Board of Trustees Considering De-Emphasizing Rice Athletics! 

            A study of Rice Athletics has been going on the past several months.  The study was conducted by the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company.  The Rice University Board now has the study and in the May board meeting will make recommendations determining the future of Rice Athletics.  There are several options for the board to consider:

1.      Do away with complete athletic program

2.      Drop Football

3.      Drop Athletic program from Division I-A to Division III

4.      Leave program as is

It has come to our attention that the Rice University Board is seriously considering option 2 or 3.  From the University boards standpoint it is strictly a financial decision for on the field and in the classroom we are doing fine.

We are asking all Rice fans to take a stand at this time!  The board must be made aware of the tradition and importance of football and D-IA Athletics to Rice since its inception.  Our game plan is as follows:

1.      Write a letter or email to all board members

2.      Inside address Chairman E. William Barnett and then mail copy (CC) to all others

3.      Letters must get to board by April 29th.  The board goes on a retreat May 1st to discuss options.  Begin those letters today!

4.      Obviously write how you feel about this situation and below are some suggestions you might include:

      What the athletic program means to you and your family

      How it drives your involvement as an alumnis

      How it contributed to your experience as a student

      Your contribution of time and money will end immediately

              5.  There is a sample letter included. 

We now have a chance to help determine the future of Rice Athletics! THE BALL IS IN OUR COURT!  Let the Rice University Board know TODAY your feelings on Rice Athletics!  If you have any questions and/or comments please contact me by e-mail at gwalker@hal-pc.org or by phone @ (713) 468-1313 ext. 105 or (713) 464-1304 or fax (713) 932-1929.  Look forward to talking to you and MAIL THOSE LETTERS TODAY! 

Go Owls
Gene Walker 66’
For the Stakeholders Group
P.S.  Pass this information on to any other Rice Fan.

Sample letter follows:

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to express my concern that the Board of Trustees is considering a major change in their support for the Division I Athletic Program at Rice University. It has come to my attention that the board is considering the following options:

Obliterate the entire athletic program
Drop the Football program
Drop the Athletic program from Division I to Division III
Leave program as is, and make improvements where necessary

I believe that Rice should retain their membership in Division 1-A in all sports and should use the recent success of the Baseball championship to attract interested alumni, the community and prospective students and donors to the great successes of Rice University.

With respect to the options the board is considering, the only viable option is your continued support for Division 1-A status for Athletics. Options 1, 2 and 3 are all options that would so severely damage athletics at Rice. Eventually, without Division 1-A status all others sports at Rice will cease to thrive or continue.

On a national level, Rice’s success on the field, coupled with success in the classroom, is gaining recognition. In 2002, Rice was ranked #1 in graduation rates for NCAA athletes. That same year, Rice’s overall athletic program was ranked 45th nationally by Sports Illustrated. Stanford, the inventor of this model and ranked 2nd by Sports Illustrated, has leveraged its success into becoming a haven for academically focused student athletes, as well as international student athletes. There is no reason Rice cannot achieve similar success for this region of the country.

We believe the Rice Athletic Program is stronger than ever. Not because of wins and losses, but due to public perception, graduation rates, and the continued function it serves within our University. Student athletes like musicians, scholars, and researchers, offer diversity to our student body. Rice competes at the highest level in music, is a leader in world and public policy, and scientific research. Why should we not compete at the highest level of athletics?

It is my opinion that the more appropriate question at this juncture is how can we better support our Division I athletic program. What can we do as alumni and administrators to give our coaches and student athletes the resources it takes to bring their vision to reality? Rice, with its reputation, unique college experience, and seemingly perfect campus, will always be positioned for greatness, whether in music, research or athletics. I wonder how high our athletic programs could go if we provided adequate support.

Rice has rewriting the definition of student athlete, and we are doing it the right way… the Rice way. I for one would like to see this continue on the highest stage. Thank you for your time and attention.


Alumni Name Here

Cc:          Malcolm Gillis
                Rice Board of Trustees


April 26, 2004

To:        All Members of the Owl Club

As some of you may be aware, several months ago the Rice University Board of Trustees commissioned the consulting firm of McKinsey to do a study of Rice athletics. Next weekend the board will meet in a two-day session to discuss the data contained in the study and possibly to decide whether to change Rice’s level of participation in intercollegiate athletics.

While rumors as to the outcome are circulating wildly, absolutely nothing is confirmed at this point. However, it seems important that those of us who support Rice’s continued commitment to a Division I-A program communicate our feelings to the board.

Many individuals already have written letters voicing their belief that to be a top-tier academic university, we also must field teams that compete at the highest level. For those of you who agree but have not yet written, I urge you to do so immediately. Points that you may want to include are:

  • Athletics brings Rice much national visibility and attracts friends who have no other connection to the university.
  • Football is a major rallying point that draws alumni back to the campus and keeps them involved with the school.
  • Rice athletes represent our university extremely well and as alumni go on to great success in the business world.
  • A top athletics program is a conduit for attracting corporate support for the university.
  • Schools like Rice and Stanford demonstrate that excellence on the field and in the classroom can mutually coexist.

These are just suggestions for your consideration. What is important is that you convey your support for Rice athletics to those who will decide its future. For your convenience, a list of the trustees with contact information is attached. Letters may be sent either by regular or e-mail.

Let’s go Owls,
Nancy Burch
Owl Club President


I think back to a quote from Bill Hobby a few years ago, something like, "A dollar spent on athletics is a dollar lost to biology." I guess that sounds convincing, and it's certainly what the vocal  faculty minority is telling the board, but it's just  plain wrong. The concept works as far as biology  (or any other academic department) is concerned, because their revenues are fixed based on the number  of students and tuition rates, and spending money to  maintain a lab isn't going to increase revenues. At the other end of the spectrum, the university  endowment includes timber and oil and gas  interests. Does the timber company wait for an alum  to give them a saw before they go cut down a tree,  or do the oil and gas folks wait for some  alum to give them a well before they drill one? Of  course not, they have to spend money on those things  in order to make money. Athletics has some aspects  of both. There are a lot of places where spending a  dollar on athletics may generate two or three or more dollars of revenue, so that "A dollar spent on  athletics produces two dollars for biology."

"It’s Time To Walk the TALK!"

          Your emails and letters worked!  Our DEFENSE was strong!  But now it’s time to go on OFFENSE and show the RICE BOARD we really are serious about keeping RICE ATHLETICS!  Board members have stated they want to see if the email and letter writers will really step up to the plate when it counts.  We will answer their call again, with FOOTBALL SEASON TICKET SALES and PURCHASES. 

Our first OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN follows:

 1.                  Organizational meeting for FOOTBALL SEASON TICKET SALES and PURCHASES will be Thursday, July 8th in the “R” Room at 7:00PM

2.                  Bring any and all friends, family and anyone that will help execute our first OFFENSIVE PLAN – Bring a new OWL friend!

3.                  This will be a fun evening with coaches, players and many OWL friends. 

4.                  RSVP to ckimmel@rice.edu

Your emails and letters worked!  Our DEFENSE was strong!  But now it’s time to go on OFFENSE and show the RICE BOARD we really are serious about keeping RICE ATHLETICS!  Board members have stated they want to see if the email and letter writers will really step up to the plate when it counts.  We will answer their call again, with FOOTBALL SEASON TICKET SALES and PURCHASES.

We know many of you reading this email are not in Houston and are unable to attend this meeting.  Please continue to purchase your season tickets as always and we will have our next OFFENSIVE PLAN  for you soon.  Stay tuned.

Go Owls!

--Gene Walker

  "R" Association '66

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