UH, Rice face off once again
The UH men’s basketball team takes the court Saturday night at Hofheinz Pavilion and will attempt to avenge last month’s loss to their cross-town rivals, the Rice Owls.
Webster’s dictionary defines a rival as “one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess.”
In the literal sense, there is a rivalry — but when one constantly dominates the other in a specific field, and vice versa, it’s more of a healthy competition.
UH boasts a greater athletic tradition than Rice, while the Owls can lay claim to the academics of an elite research university.
“It is perfectly natural for two great universities in the same city to be rivals,” said Welcome Wilson Sr., UH alumnus and former chair of the UH Board of Regents. “I always considered it a friendly rivalry, but I have not been a student for over 60 years.”
The “friendly rivalry” can be traced back to the 1940s after requests by UH officials to engage Rice on the football field were denied.
“In spite of the many requests of our athletic director (at the time) Harry Fouke, and Jess Neely, the athletic director of Rice, Rice refused to play the University of Houston during the 1940s and 1950s,” Wilson said.
Football is considered the focal point of the competition, and UH can claim dominance in that aspect. The Cougars have a 24-9 record against Rice in the Bayou Bucket game since the teams’ first meeting in 1971, when UH joined the now-defunct Southwest Conference of which Rice had been a member of since 1915.
There was a break in the annual game from 1996-1998 when both teams were in different conferences.
The Cougars can lay claim to four conference championships (’76, ’79, ’84 and ‘96) and two outright (’78 and 2006), while Rice has to share only one with the Cougars in the conference from ’94.
Junior quarterback Crawford Jones said the game against Rice is important to him due to the notion that “the kids who couldn’t get into Rice went to (UH) — when that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Jones said.
“I would say it’s our biggest rivalry by far,” he said. “We prepare hard every week but there always seems to be a little extra when we play Rice. We use it as a constant reminder during practice to go a little harder and finish the play, because you never know which play will decide a game.”
The UH basketball program boasts NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Elvin Hayes, trumping Rice’s basketball program.
Rice’s baseball program, however, which is highlighted by former Houston Astros All-Star Lance Berkman, has the advantage over UH by leading the Silver Glove series since 1948 with a 77-68 record.
Some may say that Rice’s sports department doesn’t mean as much to them as research and academics, but if a score is being kept, UH has reached and obtained its goal more often than Rice.
“Personally, I have never felt that UH and Rice compete, except in athletics,” Wilson said. “Rice has a different mission.”
Wilson said Rice graduates a relatively small number of students total, and two-thirds of them leave the state after graduation.
UH graduates 7,500 students each year and 75 percent stay in Texas.
“Our universities have different missions, and I believe that each carries out their mission very well,” Wilson said.