June 4, 2012
Rice head baseball coach Wayne Graham, who will be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame later this month, will continue to build on his remarkable legacy for the next six years, thanks to a contract extension announced by the school on Monday.
Graham, 76, who just completed his 21st season as the leader of one of the nation's most consistent programs, had an additional five years added to his current contract, which has one year remaining. The Owls just completed competing in their 18th consecutive NCAA Baseball Championship, the fourth longest active streak among Division 1 programs.
"Wayne Graham is the model for what every program in the country hopes to find when searching for a head coach," Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan said. "He is passionate about the game, but equally passionate about the mission of collegiate athletics. He sets high expectations for every young man who comes to Rice, both on the field and in the classroom. The men who have accepted that challenge honor him every day, be it in baseball or in the business world. He is an essential part of the mission of Rice Athletics."
"This act of faith by David Leebron and Rick Greenspan means a great deal to me,' Graham said. "It is innervating, invigorating, inspiring and exciting and propels me into the next phase of my career. Coaching at the unique university that is Rice is a rare and wonderful privilege that I and my wife are forever grateful for."
Graham earned his fifth Conference USA Coach of the Year award while guiding the Owls to a 41-19 overall record and the conference regular season championship. The Owls were a fixture in the Top 10 rankings and were as high as No. 4 in the nation. His Owls have won or shared a total of 17-straight conference titles (including the regular season and/or conference tournament) spanning Rice's membership in three different leagues. In addition to 18-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, he has guided Rice to 18-straight seasons with at least 40 wins.
Earlier in season the Owls' head coach was tabbed for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame, which will take place on June 30 in Lubbock, Texas.
Under Graham, the Owls clinched another NCAA postseason bid in 2012, extending their streak of 18 consecutive years of participating in the NCAA championships which began in 1995.
The 2003 bid culminated with the Owls' first national championship. Rice played in the 1994-95-96 Southwest Conference tournaments (winning the final league title in `96), won the 1997-98-99 WAC tournaments, shared the 2000 WAC title with San Jose State before winning the 2001-02-03-04-05 titles outright. He won (or shared) C-USA regular season crowns in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09 and `11. Graham was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 1998, `99, `02 and the Co-Coach of the Year in `03.
He was named the Keith LeClair C-USA Coach of the Year in `06, his first year in the league, and again in `07, `08, `10 and `12. Rice has seven appearances in the NCAA College World Series under Graham (1997, `99, `02, `03, `06, `07, `08). Graham has led the Owls to number-one rankings for seven weeks during the 1999 season, for six weeks during the `01 campaign, two weeks in `02, six weeks in 2003 (the last of which established some staying power), three weeks in 2004, 12 weeks in 2006 and five weeks in `07.
Graham's San Jacinto Gators dominated the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., in the 1980s, winning five national titles in six years (1985-86-87, 89-90). The Austin American-Statesman named Graham its SWC Coach of the Year in `95 after he led the Owls to their first NCAA tournament appearance. Collegiate Baseball was especially cognizant of Graham's efforts at San Jac. He was named the newspaper's Coach of the Decade for all levels in the 1980s after winning those five junior college national titles, and CB tabbed him the NJCAA Coach of the Century. He was named the 2007 Division I college Coach of the Year by FieldTurf.
Graham is one of the few current collegiate coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964).