Nothing fixes the problems of a football program like winning; and with winning comes bowl games. Rice football delivered on both this season, climbing out of a 1-5 hole to win 6 games and gain bowl eligibility.
The resulting windfall gives Head Coach David Bailiff's program the boost it no doubt needs to continue progress towards not only winning games, but winning championships.
Here's a list of the benefits, tangible and otherwise.
Additional Practices - teams that don't go to bowl games don't practice for 3 months between the end of the regular season in November and the beginning of spring practices in March. Teams that do get at least 15 additional practices for bowl preparation. This amounts to an extra spring practice. Obviously huge for the development of young players and those that are next in line to start for the following season. With depth always an issue, the Owls gain the opportunity to find and develop more in bowl practices. With additional preparation time freshmen that have spent time on the scout team during the season get meaningful reps and coaching over the several weeks of bowl practices.
Financial Gain - while the $600,000 payout isn't nearly as big as the multi-million dollar BCS paychecks, any payout is a good one for small budget programs like Rice.
Recruiting - though this year's class is full the Owls can really get a head start on next year's class with bowl game discussions and bowl practice invitations to 2014 recruits. Obviously bowl teams also gain the added publicity of appearing on national television - expanding the team's recognition amongst recruits.
Fundraising and Alumni Support - nobody wants to donate to programs that are showing progress. Studies have shown that a team that increases their win total by 5 games may enjoy increases in alumni donations by as much as 28%.
So with their backs to the wall the Rice team not only helped themselves in the short term this season - and in doing so they may have gotten the program over the proverbial "hump" that separates competitive teams and perennial bowl teams. With 19 of 22 starters back for 2013 the odds are better than ever for this program to put back-to-back bowl seasons together for the first time in over a half-century.
Through recruiting the talent has slowly stockpiled, lacking has been execution.
But before looking ahead, the Owls first plan on enjoying their trip to the Armed Forces Bowl.
Bret Simons - OSW Staff