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The Transition

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Regarding the triangle of research involving the hiring of David Bailiff in Jan. of 2007, I finished last. At the time I believed that I had made enough phone calls, thoroughly scoured the Internet, and spent the requisite hours analyzing the finalists that my sufficient bead on Bailiff allowed me to question Chris Del Conte's wisdom in naming Bailiff the successor to Todd Graham. What I undervalued was Bailiff's close ties to the Texas High School Coaches Association, and how that carefully crafted relationship would help him bolster the Owls' talent.

As it turns out, Bailiff exceeded my research too. He left no stone unturned while investigating his future boss, and the results of his countless inquiries left him at peace accepting the offer.

"I did my due diligence also on him before I took this job," Bailiff said. "I called everywhere he had been. Not knowing him, in this profession you want to make sure you feel good about who you're going to work for, and I had the same message from every person I talked to. He was a hard worker, dynamic, a fundraiser, and great to be around. You couldn't find a negative, and that's hard to find in this day and age where you can't find a negative said about a person that's been in the athletic world. He had managed to pulled that off at his different stops."

To watch CDC and Bailiff work in unison was to gain an appreciation for their similar passions. CDC hired Bailiff in part because Bailiff has a vision for elevating Rice football to heights unvisited in generations and keeping it there, and Bailiff gleefully accepted the challenge of laboring under CDC because of the initiatives CDC had in place when Bailiff interviewed on South Main. CDC and Bailiff had been working behind the scenes for several months on the most significant shared goal of their intersecting tenures, the proposed end zone facility at Historic Rice Stadium, before CDC accepted an offer from TCU to be its athletics director.

Donors had been contacted, architects consulted, and trips scouting other facilities made before CDC resigned. Whereas CDC kept artist renderings in his office at Youngkin Center, Bailiff has blueprints on an ottoman in his office at HRS. They were unquestionably on the same page in realizing Rice's need for a facilities upgrade, and they were well on their way to seeing those dreams realized. Now that CDC has relocated his fundraising skills to TCU, what happens next? Rice football can not afford to delay seeing this project through to fruition.

"I had a great visit with the president (David Leebron), and he's in it," Bailiff said of the much-needed facility upgrade. "Chris had shared the vision of not only football but the entire athletic department enough to where President Leebron is excited about the direction of athletics. He's committed to finding somebody that will keep moving that way and build the facilities and take care of these student-athletes the way they deserve to be taken care of."

CDC was fond of saying that it was his job to provide his coaches with everything they needed to compete, that way there could be no excuses for poor performances. That philosophy served as the driving force behind Tudor Fieldhouse, the new track being installed at the Soccer/Track Stadium, and the ongoing effort to build a support facility for Rice tennis. CDC got very little out of the Gibbs Recreation Center, but he insisted that women's swimming coach Seth Huston got what he desired from its construction - a 50-meter competition pool. And while the renovations at HRS could be considered minor, they were necessary, and they paved the way for the substantial improvements CDC and Bailiff were working on developing.

Some forget that CDC hired Bailiff, who led the football program to its first postseason victory in decades, Ben Braun, a respected coach with a national profile who has rejuvenated men's basketball, and Elizabeth Schmidt, an ideal fit for women's tennis. All three of those hires were home runs, yet CDC will be remembered for changing the look of Rice's athletic facilities. To stand at the edge of the parking lot fronting the Shepherd School of Music and take inventory of what currently sits on the right side of College Way/Loop Road is an exercise in admiration.

"What he did here was so good we'll feel the effects for five years, at least," Owls baseball coach Wayne Graham said. "Maybe more.

"When I needed money to maintain Reckling (Park) he came up with the money through a donation. He's the guy who got the donation. You've got to have facilities; you can't compete without facilities. You can't be the least bit bitter when a guy has done so much to help you."

The OG, only half-jokingly, called yesterday 'Black Wednesday' for, like Bailiff, he not only lost a boss he respected, he lost a confidant and a trusted friend. In CDC both men had an athletic director who worked tirelessly to advance their program's goals, and the truth of the matter is that such relationships are not a given in intercollegiate athletics. The onus will be on Leebron and his presumed search committee to find an AD who is as good of a fit at Rice as CDC was.

"It's somebody that I knew was with me every step of the way," Bailiff said. "I relied on him and bounced ideas off him, and he bounced them off me on building Rice and building an athletic department and trying to keep momentum. So I will miss him not only as a friend, not only as an athletic director, but (as someone) who I would seek his counsel and he would seek mine."

Said The OG: "If I were at TCU, he would have been my No. 1 candidate."

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Any info on a time line for the process, candidates of note, selection committee?

Owl-88: President Leebron is meeting with the troops tomorrow, but I don't know if he will answer questions in that setting. As for the time line keep this in mind: CDC will be around through the first week of Nov., and with David Sayler serving as the interim AD, I don't think the process will be fast-tracked. That's just my opinion, however. - MK

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