June 30, 2012
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LUBBOCK, Tex. - With an enthusiastic group of Owl fans on-hand to cheer him on, Rice head coach Wayne Graham was part of a star-studded group inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame on its "Night of Champions" Saturday in Lubbock, Tex.
Graham joined fellow 2012 Hall of Fame inductees Lou Brock, a Major League Hall of Famer who was a collegiate star at Southern University from 1958-60; Ed Cheff, who won 16 NAIA national championships coaching at Lewis Clark State from 1977-2010; Nomar Garciaparra, a three-time All-America selection at Georgia Tech who went on to make six all-star games during a 14-year major league career; Tim Jorgensen, a two-time Division III National Player of the Year and All-American at Wisconsin-Oshkosh; Brad Wilkerson, a three-time All-America selection and 1998 National Player of the Year from the University of Florida; and the late Frank Sancet, who coached at Arizona for 23 seasons where he led the Wildcats to the College World Series ten times.
A host of individual award winners for the 2012 college season, including both pitchers and position players, were also recognized during the Night of Champions. All were met with warm appreciation and applause for their success and contributions to college baseball. All, with the exception of one special honoree.
"It was a wonderful night for college baseball, and I am very thankful for this honor," said coach Graham. "It is tremendous to be associated with the other members of this Hall of Fame class.
"I'm thankful for my wife and family, who made many sacrifices, and of course the work and skill of many talented players and assistant coaches.
"I also want to thank the fans and administrators," Graham added. "I think every one was able to hear them tonight."
The Rice fans' attachment to their head coach is understandable. Under Graham Rice played in the 1994-95-96 Southwest Conference tournaments (winning the final league title in `96 - held in Lubbock), 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. Graham 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. He was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 1998, `99, `02 and the Co-Coach of the Year in `03.
Graham 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 his leadership (1997, `99, `02, `03, `06, `07, `08). Graham has led the Owls to No. 1 rankings for seven weeks during the 1999 season, for six weeks during the `01 campaign, two weeks in `02, six weeks in 2003, three weeks in 2004, 12 weeks in 2006 and five weeks in `07.
Prior to Rice 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.
After leading the Owls to a 41-19 overall record and the Conference USA regular season championship in 2012, Graham earned the C-USA Coach of the Year award for the fifth time. His Owls have won or shared a total of 17 consecutive 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. The 2003 NCAA bid culminated with the Owls' first national championship. Graham's all-time record at Rice is 953-380 (.715).