Fifth in a series examining incoming members of the AAC
Moving day in the American Athletic Conference is coming up on July 1. That’s when Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston leave the AAC for the Big 12.
Programs that will join the American from Conference USA with the new fiscal year include Alabama-Birmingham, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice and Texas-San Antonio.
East Carolina has competed in a league framework with UAB, FAU and Rice when the Pirates were in C-USA.
The departing programs have been on something of a farewell tour in 2022-23. Houston will be playing at ECU on Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPN2) for the final time in a regular-season basketball matchup. It will be the first time that the Pirates have hosted a No. 1 team in the Associated Press men’s poll.
The hoops visit from the Cougars will be one element of a huge weekend for ECU, ranked No. 11 by D1Baseball.
The Diamond Bucs have a weekend series with No. 12 North Carolina. Games are scheduled in Greenville on Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. The final contest in the series in Chapel Hill is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.
Both of the games at Clark-LeClair Stadium are slated for ESPN+. The third game will be on the ACC Network.
Know the foe: Rice Owls
As part of a continuing series, View from the East is taking a look at the incoming programs in the AAC.
The full name of the institution in Houston, now referred to as Rice, was the William M. Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art from 1912 to 1960.
Rice is one of the smallest schools in Division I with an undergraduate enrollment of just over 4,000.
Rice had over 27,000 applicants in 2019 with an acceptance rate of only 8.7 percent. That’s pretty exclusive.
Rice Stadium has some impressive history. It hosted President John F. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech on Sept. 12, 1962.
The Houston Cougars played at Rice Stadium from 1951 to 1964. It was home to the Houston Oilers of the American Football League from 1965 to 1967 before the franchise moved to the Astrodome.
The Bluebonnet Bowl was played at Rice Stadium from 1959 to 1967 and returned to the venue in 1985 and 1986.
On January 13, 1974, the venue hosted Super Bowl VIII with Miami defeating Minnesota, 24-7, before a crowd of 68,142.
Texas Tech practiced at Rice Stadium before playing ECU in the galleryfurniture.com Bowl at the Astrodome in 2000. The Red Raiders were coached by Mike Leach. Former Pirate player and coach Ruffin McNeill was on Leach’s staff. Kliff Kingsbury was the TT quarterback. ECU won, that game, 40-27, on Dec. 27.
The stadium has a capacity of 70,000 but end zone seats are usually covered, which restricts current attendance to around 47,000.
Football series history
ECU and Rice played four times between 2005 and 2010. The series is tied 2-2 with the home team winning each game. The Pirates won the initial meeting in 2005 in Greenville, 41-28.
The host Owls managed an 18-17 victory in 2006.
ECU romped at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, 49-13, on the way to the C-USA championship in 2009 in Skip Holtz’s last season as coach of the Pirates.
The Owls outscored ECU, 62-38, with 15,262 on hand in Houston in Ruffin McNeill’s first campaign at his alma mater.
Current gridiron Owls
Rice is coming off a 5-8 season in 2022 that included a 3-5 record in C-USA. The Owls closed the year with three losses.
Mike Bloomgren has coached Rice since 2018. He was previously on the staff at Stanford for seven seasons. He has ties to North Carolina as offensive coordinator at Catawba from 2002 to 2004. He worked with the offense of the New York Jets from 2007 to 2010.
Quarterback T.J. McMahon is on the 2023 spring roster as a senior after throwing for 2,102 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2022.
2023 vs. ECU
East Carolina’s first AAC game next season will be at Rice on Sept. 30. The Owls start league play the previous week at South Florida.
That matchup will be followed by an open date for the Pirates.
Here is the recently announced 2023 schedule for ECU: Sept. 2, at Michigan; Sept. 9, Marshall; Sept. 16, Appalachian State; Sept. 23, Gardner-Webb; Sept. 30, at Rice; Oct. 12, Southern Methodist; Oct. 21, Charlotte; Oct. 28, at Texas San Antonio; Nov. 4, Tulane; Nov. 11, at Florida Atlantic; Nov. 18, at Navy and Nov. 24 or 25, Tulsa.
The top two teams in the AAC standings play for the league championship on Dec. 2 at the higher-seeded team.
The Owls slipped to 17-11 overall and 8-9 in C-USA with an 85-57 loss at UAB on Thursday night.
Scott Pera is in his sixth season as coach.
Junior guard Quincy Olivari is the team’s top scorer at 19.9 points per game.
Tudor Fieldhouse is Rice’s home arena. The multi-purpose facility opened in 1950 and has a capacity of 5,208.
Rice leads the series with the Pirates, 5-4.
Rice, coached by Bryan Kirby, is 2-2 this season going into a series Friday and Saturday at Stanford.
The Owls were 17-39 last year with a 9-21 mark in C-USA.
Rice won the College World Series in 2003 under coach Wayne Graham for the university’s first national title in a team sport.
The Owls lead the series with ECU, 24-9.
The late Howard Hughes, who became an eccentric recluse after becoming notoriously wealthy in endeavors that included aviation, finance and movie production, is listed among famous Rice alumni.
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