FROM RICE ATHLETICS
Only a few hours before the No. 4-ranked Rice baseball team takes the field against the University of Texas in Friday’s final game of the College Classic Tournament downtown at Minute Maid Park, Owls head coach Wayne Graham was announced as one of seven to be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.
Graham will officially join the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas, June 29-30.
The Owls’ head coach is already a member of three other halls of fame. Currently in his 21st year at the helm of the Rice program, and his 32nd as a collegiate head coach, Graham has already been inducted into the Junior College Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Col. (1995), the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in Fort Worth (2003) and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco (2005).
At Rice, Graham has led the Owls to an NCAA Regional for each of the last 17 years. Not only has the baseball program won at least 40 games in each of the last 17 seasons, Rice has won or shared 16-consecutive conference championships (including regular season and/or conference tournament titles). Rice has maintained the nation’s best composite Division I baseball win-percentage (.742) since 1999, a comprehensive 13-year span that marks the first year the NCAA adopted its current 64-team/super-regional format for the NCAA Tournament.
Graham has been named the National Coach of the Year four times. The head coaches in Conference USA selected him as the Keith LeClair Coach of the Year four times since joining the league in 2006. Graham was named the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1998, ’99 and ’02 and the Co-Coach of the Year in ’03. The Austin American-Statesman named him the Southwest Conference Coach of the Year in 1996, the year Rice won the league in its last season of existence.
“It’s a unique event and I appreciate the honor very much,” Graham said. “At a time like this you think about who helped get you there. The players have performed well to allow me to have some success, but also my wife and family, who have had to make a lot of sacrifices to make it possible for this to happen. I’m very grateful for everyone who has been involved.
“It’s a great honor to be associated with the other members of this College Baseball Hall of Fame class,” he added. “They are great baseball people with a love and talent for the game.”
Graham owns 921 career wins at Rice, but including his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships, his career victories climb to 1,496. His overall collegiate record is 1,496-474 in a 31-year career that began in 1981. Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan said Graham’s induction is well-deserved.
“Wayne Graham’s accomplishments throughout his career are obviously worthy of a place in the College Baseball Hall of Fame,” Greenspan said. “His accomplishments at San Jacinto were legendary on their own merits, and in his 21 seasons at Rice, he has created an exemplary program that has been dominant on the field and in the classroom.”
A National Board Member of the College Baseball Foundation, Greenspan noted that Graham’s legacy continues to grow. “The 2012 Rice Owls are again among the best teams in the nation, adding yet another chapter to an amazing career,” he said.
Graham has long been an example of coaching excellence, but he’s far from finished. His current 2012 Owl squad is in fact undefeated on the young season (9-0) and already ascended to No. 4 in the national rankings. His upcoming games this weekend at the Houston College Classic are some of the team’s most anticipated games of the season as Rice takes on Texas (7 p.m. March 2), Texas Tech (7 p.m. March 3) and Tennessee (6 p.m. March 4) at Minute Maid Park.
In addition to Graham, the 2012 inductees include Lou Brock, a Major League Hall of Famer who was a collegiate star at Southern University in 1958-60; Ed Cheff, who won 16 NAIA national championships coaching at Lewis Clark State from 1977 to 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 10 times.