10 questions for Coach Bloomgren

As the Rice Owls head into the 2018 football season, they will be led by a new head coach for the first time in 11 years. Mike Bloomgren comes to Rice from Stanford, where he was associate head coach and offensive coordinator. On Dec. 6, 2017, Bloomgren was named Rice’s 19th head coach since the program kicked off in 1912. Rice News (RN) sat down with Bloomgren at his new on-campus home, the Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center, and asked him 10 questions.

Editor’s note: This has been edited for length.

RN: How has the adjustment from Stanford to Houston gone for you and your family?

Bloomgren: The transition has been probably as easy as possible. After being at a place for seven years and not really used to moving anymore, it took a little bit of conversation, but getting here has been so great. The people have been welcoming. We’ve been engaged in the Rice community. We only live a few blocks from here (the campus), so my kids think about this beautiful campus as their backyard. In addition to that, they’re coming over all the time and being around our players, who I think are the best role models I think they can have, so I absolutely love it.

RN: What were the first few things on your to-do list after being announced as Rice’s head coach?

Bloomgren: The first thing was to get in front of this team and get a chance to talk to the guys who are returning — talk to them about the things that will be important and things that will change moving forward. But I also wanted to reassure them that they can trust me and they’ll be able to trust our staff. We really cast the vision on what things are going to look like going forward. The next most important thing is recruiting, and that’s recruiting great coaches, which I’m pleased to get the guys we have here, and I think they’re doing a phenomenal job with our student-athletes. And then of course with the early signing period, recruit that class and get those guys coming in here — the new blood coming in and that’s been amazing. And then also, we wanted to connect to the lettermen — the guys who built this place and have so much pride in this place. So I’ve been really happy with how those guys have given me opportunities to have meals with them or they’ve come around our facility. It’s been awesome and they’ve given us their time and support of our program.

RN: You’ve had some time to get to know this team. What is your analysis so far on the overall makeup and chemistry?

Bloomgren: They are a resilient group. If you think back to the last 365 days of the life that they’ve lived, from coming back from Australia (Rice played Stanford in the Allianz Bowl to kick off the 2017 season) to a hurricane, and everything else … the coaching changes, which are really hard, and dealing with a few things from this spring, these guys have really come together and bonded. They are doing what we ask, and they’re trying hard to do what we ask day in and day out.

RN: Rice plays at Hawaii in the third game of the year. While it’s not Australia, it’s still a unique challenge since it follows the Houston game. Did the team’s trip to Australia give you any tips on how to plan for this trip to Hawaii?

Bloomgren: I think having lived that trip to Australia, for all of us, will make this one that much easier, as it is half the distance, as we all know. The thing (is) that we’re going to look at it as is a business trip. And that’s what we’re always going to talk about when we go on the road; however, when we have an opportunity to give these kids a unique life experience, like going to Pearl Harbor, we’re absolutely going to take advantage of it.

RN: You open with two home games, against Prairie View A&M and then longtime foe Houston. What are your thoughts on your first two matchups?

Bloomgren: You know, we are only promised 13 opportunities. We work 330 days a year for 13 opportunities, so the thing we’re always going to get in the players’ minds is respect all and fear none. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do with those two matchups as well. Up until this week, all of our focus has been on the Rice Owls football team.

2018 Owls preseason football practice Scroll over the image to click through the Flickr gallery. All photos by Tommy LaVergne/Rice University.

RN: It was announced this week that your title had changed. You are now the Dunlevie Family Head Football Coach. This endowment is a first for Rice but not for college football or athletics overall. What are your thoughts on the Dunlevies endowing the position, and will we see more endowed coaching positions at Rice?

Bloomgren: I couldn’t be more excited. I am humbled and honored that Bruce and Elizabeth (Dunlevie) chose to endow this position. I know how much they love Rice University, and they’ve proven their commitment time and time again. With them having the faith and belief in me and the program means the world to us. Endowed coaching positions allow us to do more for the student-athletes within your athletic department. When I first got to Stanford, the only position endowed was the head football coaching position. When I left, both coordinators (offense and defense), the quarterbacks coach and the strength and conditioning coach were endowed positions, and I saw a marked improvement on how we were able to care for our student-athletes.

RN: Who and what are the things and people who have made the biggest impression upon you in your time at Rice and with the football team?

Bloomgren: There are four groups that have left a big impression on me. I think you have to start with our football players, then the faculty on this campus, the lettermen and the Texas high school coaches. The players are a joy to work with. They are exactly who I thought they’d be, and they’re buying in and doing everything we ask them to do. This faculty, from January on, have given up their Saturdays to help us recruit (during recruits’ on-campus visits) — to tell recruits and their families about their academic programs and this university. And I’m excited to be going forward with them working with our student-athletes this fall and continuing to support them. The next group is the lettermen, and those guys have been amazing, coming around and coming to practices and really seeing our vision and trying to support us, make us a premier Division I football program that we want to be. And, last but not least are those Texas high school football coaches. We are so fortunate to have 95 staffs come by and watch practice, talk ball with us, and many times they brought their recruits. When they bring those top recruits to campus and we can show them everything that Rice University can do for them on and off the field, that wins. We know we can’t build this thing without them, so we appreciate those guys.

Mike BloomgrenRN: What is the team’s mantra this year (if any), and what have you set as a goal with the student-athletes?

Bloomgren: Our mantra is “intellectual brutality.” It’s what we believe, and it’s what we’re trying to live every day in every way. And what that means is outsmart and outhit. We’re going to go to the line (offensive and defensive) with answers and we’re going to impose our will, play in and play out, and hopefully put it on film so when people watch us that Sunday before they play us, we’re that team no one wants to play. These guys (our players) know this is a process. We’re trying to get better every single day and make that incremental progress. We make no bones about it. We want to go to bowl games and win championships here.

RN: What is something you want people to know about the Rice football program?

Bloomgren: I think the changes about our building (Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center) is what we want to tell the world about. It is something that is obviously going to help us tell our story, our story about Rice football’s past and show people where we’re going to in the future. I absolutely think it helps with recruits, but it also helps with our current players, showing them that we are doing everything we can to become a (successful) Division I football program.

RN: We’ll leave the last question for you. What haven’t we asked you about but should have?

Bloomgren: If you look at the wall, the first thing you see front and center of the team meeting room is Rice football and “Set the Expectation.” “Set the Expectation” is a pledge that we signed with Brenda Tracy to make sure we are zero-tolerance for domestic violence and sexual abuse in our program. And more than that, we are going to be part of the solution. We are going to make our campus and community safe.


About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.