Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard
“This is an exciting day for us. Nine days ago, we began our search for a head football coach. We were looking the right fit. Someone who understood and lived the university values of responsibility, integrity, community and excellence. We also wanted someone who would excel at coaching and developing young men as football players and scholars. Who had won when others said it couldn’t be done. Someone who was willing to think differently and creatively and embrace the unconventional wisdom of a championship football program filled with serious students who would challenge themselves to reach their full potential in life.
“We identified several possible matches. We quickly reached out to a small group of our top candidates. The interest in our job was terrific. Not bound by conference, experience or geography. We had several candidates who could do this job and told us they would take it and run with it. But one rose about the rest. He’s an extraordinary fit for this university and our football program because he embodies all of those qualities that I mentioned a moment ago.
“Let me introduce you to the 19th head football coach, Mike Bloomgren.”
Head Football Coach Mike Bloomgren
“The first thing I should do is thank y’all for coming out today. This is incredible. Like Joe just mentioned, this is a very special day for our family. There’s a lot of excitement that our family feels. We feel a lot of love from this university already. I don’t know that I can give you words to express how I feel to be here today. How grateful I am to be handed the reigns of the football program at Rice University. I’m beyond excited and ready for this job.
“I’ve got to thank President (David) Leebron for taking the time to spend with Lara and I to make us realize his vision for the role that athletics plays at a great university like Rice. I also have to thank Joe Karlgaard who believes in me, and the search committee who chose me. I feel like this is an unbelievable fit for myself and for Rice University. It is so important to us, as we’ve gone down the line with this.
“I’ve got to thank (Stanford Head Coach) David Shaw, my boss for the past seven years. He’s been incredible. He gave me an opportunity to go from being an offensive line coach and run game coordinator to become his offensive coordinator. Then a year later become his Associate Head Coach (and) be able to go down the road to all the meetings with him and stand in for him. And all the lessons he taught me on and off the field. I just can’t thank him enough.
“You get to the people who are here, who traveled a little distance. My lovely wife Lara and my sons Tyler and Parker. Also, joining us today is one of my old bosses and his wife, Dennis Franchione and his wife Kim.
“It’s hard. You probably hear the emotion in my voice. That’s something you’re always going to get with me; is emotion and passion. When I talk about the people who have helped me along the way. People like Coach Fran who hired me twice and helped me every step of the way.
“I’ll never forget my first position coaching job. Coming out of the GA role at Alabama, I interviewed at a place called Catawba College. The head coach told me later that Dennis Franchione grabbed him and said, ‘You better hire him and you better play him everything you can.’ Everything they could was $25,000 plus the opportunity to teach.
“I want to give (Lara), who has been with me through every move. The best thing that I can say about her is that she has supported my poor coaching habit. What that meant for us was that on that move to North Carolina she worked in the laundry room in a psyche ward. I think that’s a pretty selfless act right there. I appreciate her more than I can ever express.
“Just to tell you a little bit about my path, my path started about 15 miles down the road. I went to Spring Shadows Elementary. The first team sport I ever played was baseball at Spring Branch All-American Little League. I was a baseball player. I moved to Tallahassee, Fla., at the age of 10 and fell in love with this game of football. I really fell in love with it because of my high school football coach, a guy named Mike Hagan, who would take me and throw me into a locker if I wasn’t doing the right thing. He was absolutely the father figure I needed at that time. I made a decision during high school that I was going to become a football coach. I thought that I was going to be a high school football coach so I could do the same thing for kids that he did for me. That was my goal. I never envisioned doing anything else.
“At that time, he GA’d for Coach (Bobby) Bowden at West Virginia. He went across the way and I asked Coach Bowden if I could work there. For a kid in Tallahassee, Fla., at that time, my high school practice field was 100 yards from Florida State’s practice field. So, we would get done with two-a-days, have a break in the day and I would go watch Charlie Ward or Warrick Dunn. I don’t know if it was possible to not become eaten up with football. I certainly did. I had the chance to go work and then the chance to go to Alabama and work for Coach Fran. A couple other stops along the way. Catawba College, Delta State.
“Then I took my wife from Cleveland, Miss., to New York where I had the chance to work with the (New York) Jets for four years. That’s another great story. You talk about the sacrifices that your family has to make, make you who you are. We had just had or son and they offered us a job. They said, ‘You can come work in the National Football League and we’ll give you $45,000 to live on Long Island. And we won’t give you benefits. So, we turned the job down. They called back an hour later and said, ‘Okay. We’ll give you $45,000 and benefits. And we moved up there. Sometimes you look back, and I want to ask (my wife), ‘Why?’ “But, we always bet on ourselves and I’m so thankful that she let me do that. I feel like I got my PHD in football up there. And then David Shaw hired me at Stanford seven years ago. It’s really been an incredible ride.
“I cannot wait to start this new chapter. I had an opportunity to meet with the team today. I think they felt how excited I was. I almost jumped in the crowd a couple of times and found myself walking at them. I calmed myself down and I had to remind them that we can’t start spring ball for three months and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. But, I simply can’t wait to get started. That’s my biggest message to them.
“A couple points of emphasis that I need to make sure that people understand what I think this job, what I think this program should be. I think that at Stanford, we did a good job of always talking about raising the bar and how the price always increases year in and year out. I think that’s one thing we have to do right now within this program. We have to raise the bar. We have to raise the standard. And the standard of excellence on and off the field is something that we are going to try to pursue in everything we do. Excellence is not something that you can do in one phase of your life. It has to go across all of your life. That’s something that we are really going to try to make sure that these kids understand.
“We’re going to have fun. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to realize that we’re playing a game but we’re going to work really hard at it and make sure that we’re making the progress that we need to make. We told them that there is a path (and) there is a process to everything we want to do. Initially here, we’re going to ask them to give us a little bit of rope. Give us a little bit of trust and let us earn it as we go. But, trust me and what I’m doing for this program and trust the process.
“I think we want to be the model program for great students who excel in the classroom and win championship football. You can’t take that lightly because those things often don’t go hand in hand in Division I. But, I have seen first-hand how those things can. Work together and even cry together. And that is exactly what we need to do at Rice University.
“Other things that I thought, as we talked to the players, that I thought were really cool is to see their response and see as I talked to them and told them, ‘The thing that you have to understand is that there is an absolute clear slate for you. Where you’re at in the program right now, the coaches will watch the film and they are going to hear about you. I want them to see the evaluation. I don’t want them to hear the evaluation about the players. I want them to watch with their eyes to see what those guys have done. The way we’re going to evaluate these guys and who gets on the field next fall is by what they do from this day forward. So everything is a clean slate.”
“The other things that they need to know is that we are adopting them. They are not anybody else’s players. They are our players. They have to understand; they have to know and they have to feel that we absolutely want what’s best for them and we are going forward with their best interests at heart. Again, as I talked about earlier, I ask that they extend a little bit of trust so we can get to work and get this thing rolling.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be here and be a part of this program and this university. I’m just so excited.”