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Observations and Aspirations at the Six-Month Mark

Friends and Supporters of Rice Athletics,

Thank you so much for the warm welcome Jill, Charlie, and I have received since our arrival in Houston last fall. Your outreach and kindness has helped us develop a deep affinity for the community we now call home. We are grateful for all of your support.

Thank you as well to our Owl Club donors. As we look toward the future, your support of Rice Athletics will be critical in helping us realize our potential. I'm thankful for what you do to help our student-athletes and coaches reach for success in all aspects of their lives.

Now that we're nearing the end of our spring season, I wanted to share with you some of my observations and aspirations for Rice Athletics. I've deliberately taken time to learn as much as I can about Rice, what strengthens us, and where we need change. I'm very excited about what I've found.

First, let me say that David Leebron is a fantastic president and partner. He cares deeply about the fortunes of our athletics program, and he wants to win. He understands our challenges and has been very supportive of our efforts to improve. I'm delighted to work with him. We strategize together, we share some laughs, and we enjoy watching our students perform at a high level.

Under David's leadership, Rice University fully supports our efforts to be successful, and they continue to step up in new ways. Counting the full cost of a grant-in-aid for our student-athletes, Rice underwrites nearly two-thirds of our total operating budget. I think it's important to recognize this, since we paid back the full cost of scholarships to the university at my previous institution. Rice has also provided the funding for a new artificial turf in Rice Stadium and helped us with compensation packages for our conference championship football staff. What Rice University contributes to the athletics program in the way of tuition, operational support, and enhancements is astounding, and we should be grateful for it.

For our programs to grow and prosper into the future, we need to generate more support from the surrounding communities. We must sell more tickets and recruit new donors to the Owl Club. Our current ticket and donation revenue streams will need to generate three times our current rate for us to have the resources we need to be competitive in 2020 and beyond. We will commit to funding the positions and technology to make that happen beginning next year. 

I believe we have reached a period of relative stability regarding conference realignment. The Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, and SEC have each brokered agreements with their member institutions regarding the grant of media rights. These rights agreements stretch 10 years or more, meaning that institutions from these conferences have given their first, second, and sometimes third-tier media rights to the conference for the next decade. Such grants typically preclude institutions from moving to a different conference, since their rights are owned by their current conference. We've also seen these five conferences move to a model of equal revenue-sharing, such that any new members would need to bring a pro-rata share to the existing contract.

For Rice, conference affiliation isn't the primary goal anyway. Our aspiration is to win conference championships and finish in the top 25 in each of our 16 varsity sports. While staying true to the values of Rice University, we will pursue any opportunities that enhance our ability to be a national caliber athletics program. For us to be great, and to do so with some degree of consistency and sustainability, we have to invest in areas where we can grow revenues and then be very careful about where we allocate the incremental resources we generate.

I'm very bullish on the future of Rice Athletics. We can and will win. We have a supportive president who values the merits of a successful athletics program. We have coaches and staff who are committed to teaching the values of leadership, teamwork, perseverance, and hard work. We have a talented and motivated group of student-athletes. And we have an enthusiastic community of friends, fans, and alumni who care deeply about the university and success of Rice Athletics. I'm honored to serve as your director of athletics, and I look forward to partnering with you to ensure a successful and sustainable future for our Rice Owls!

Best regards,

Joe Karlgaard

 

 

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