Rice has been a dominant presence in college baseball for the past 20 years. Just how dominant they have been may come as a bit of a surprise.College baseball expanded its playoff format in 1999, upping the total to 64 teams and a Super Regional round to determine who gets a shot at Omaha glory. Since that format changed, Rice has put up winning season after winning season, finding themselves in the hunt every year.
Playing in Conference USA and a state overstuffed with top notch baseball programs, the Owl's remarkable run often gets overshadowed. Looking at some of Rice’s numbers over the Super Regional era, however, it’s easy to see that they shouldn’t be. While it hasn't gotten out to the start anticipated, dropping out of the Top 25 after an early season sweep by red-hot Stanford, Rice is looking to get back on track and add to some of the most eye-popping numbers in college baseball history.
The Owls have reeled off 870 wins since the 64-team format began in 1999. That’s second most in Division I, trailing only Florida State’s ridiculous 922 wins. Rice doesn’t lose much either, tallying 357 over that span. The Owl's .709 winning percentage is also second-best to only Florida State.
The 1999 team tallied the most wins of the run, going 59-15 that season. It began a run of 16-straight 40-plus win seasons, with a 56 and 57-win campaign in the mix. It’s not simply the ability to win that is remarkable, but the consistency in which the Owls have done it.
Rice has been a postseason staple for over two decades. Dating back to 1995, Rice has made the tournament 23-straight seasons. That means every year of the 64-team, Super Regional era has seen a Rice Owl team partake in the postseason. It’s the third-longest streak in the nation trailing Florida State (40) and Cal State Fullerton (26).
Since 1999, Rice has appeared in 10 Super Regionals, the last one coming in 2013. It had a nice run of three-straight Super Regional appearances from 2001-03 but trumped that with five-straight appearances from 2005-09.
The Owls have made it out of the Super Regionals and to Omaha six times. Rice made its second College World Series in program history after that big ’99 season. The last time Rice was in the CWS was in 2008, concluding a run of three straight years in Omaha. Of course, none was sweeter than 2003, when Rice won the national championship.
Wayne Graham is in his 27th season leading the Owls. He’s accumulated 1,152 wins over that time, placing him 44th all-time. Keep in mind, all but two head coaches in front of him coached for more than 30 seasons.
Graham has won 21 conference titles in the past 22 seasons, spanning three different conferences (Southwest Conference, Western Athletic Conference, and C-USA). He has more conference titles than he has ever had home losses in any single season.
Right before the format changed, Southern California defeated Arizona State for the national championship. Southern California scored the most runs in a deciding game in CWS history that year, winning 21-14.
Five years later, Rice hoisted their lone title. They did so by defeating Stanford 14-2 in the deciding game. That’s the second most runs scored in a deciding game in CWS history and most of the Super Regional era.
The Owls reeled off 30-straight games in 2003 on their way to their national championship. Rice came ever so close of catching the two teams tied with the record, but it’s the connection to those said teams that are somewhat eerie.
Texas originally set the mark, opening the 1977 season with 34-straight wins. Its streak came to an end at the hands of Rice in a 14-inning marathon victory for the Owls. Twenty-two years later, Florida Atlantic tied the mark, winning 34 in a row. The Florida Atlantic mascot? Yup, they’re the Owls, too.