BASEBALL: Longtime Rice coach Graham says he won’t be retained

Published 9:46 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018

HOUSTON (AP) — Wayne Graham, the oldest coach in Division I baseball, says this will be his last season at Rice.

The 82-year-old Graham said Wednesday that athletic director Joe Karlgaard told him last week his contract, which expires after the season, wouldn’t be renewed.

The Owls are 16-23-2 with four weeks left in the regular season and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 years. They haven’t advanced past regionals since 2013 or played in the College World Series since 2008. They won the national championship in 2003.

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“I understand Coach Graham has made a statement regarding his contract, which expires at the end of the 2018 season,” Karlgaard said. “As is our practice, conversations regarding coaches’ contracts and tenure are conducted confidentially and professionally. We do not comment on these or other personnel matters, and I will continue to proceed in that fashion.”

Graham, who has won more than 1,100 games in 27 seasons at Rice, said he made the announcement himself because of speculation about his future.

“I thought it was affecting my team,” he said, “so let’s clear the air so we can move on and do what we need to do to get to the postseason.”

The Owls have won conference regular-season or tournament titles, or both, 21 of the last 22 years. They overcame a poor start in 2017 to win the Conference USA Tournament and finish 33-31. They lost a regional final to national runner-up LSU.

“I did not feel that was an unsuccessful season,” Graham said. “It was characterized to me [by Karlgaard] as being unsuccessful.”

Graham said his health is good and that he hopes to land at another school, possibly as a pitching coach.

“Obviously, people are considering my age, but I say my age equates to a lot of knowledge and experience,” he said. “I still like doing what I’m doing, and I’m still impassioned by it. I’m not retired.”

In addition to continuing in coaching, Graham said he would like to begin writing short stories and commentary on baseball.

“I may be just a blogger or Twitterer,” he said, laughing, “but I like to think whatever comments I make about baseball will be informed.”