Let me start by saying that I am not here to troll. The title of this column is not some smart-ass, cynical plea for someone else, anyone else, to get Kurt Roper the hell out of Columbia.
I genuinely think Rice should hire Kurt Roper. He may not be the sexiest name in the country, but let’s be honest. Rice isn’t even the sexiest name in Houston.
There are a lot of reasons this move makes sense. Let’s start with the fact that Roper is a Rice alum. I know the days of “Mama calling you home” are over in college football. Money has a funny way of loosening those emotional ties that bind. But Roper being an alum isn’t good for Roper. It’s good for Rice.
Rice’s football history is...well, bad. During the period that Roper split time as a quarterback and DB in Houston, the team compiled a combined record of 19-24-1, and look, that’s not a terrible four year stretch by Rice standards.
There is nothing about Rice football to sell. Sure, you’re in Texas, where there are plenty of great players that won’t have roster spots at any of the state’s P5 schools, but you also have academic restrictions.
Rice needs a “member of the family.” It needs someone that can be passionate about the program and keep the boosters around as they suffer through another 4-8 or 5-7 season and someone to sell kids on not only his vision, but what a degree from Rice and a career at Rice means for your future.
Speaking of academic restrictions, where did Roper breakout? He was David Cutcliffe’s offensive co-ordinator at Duke (more on this in a minute). Roper knows how to deal with academic restrictions. He knows how to sell recruiting restrictions to parents of recruits that are more than slightly more intelligent than their peers.
Now, let’s talk about the downside of those academic restrictions. First, it just sucks to be the only school in your conference that holds itself to an academic standard (just as Vandy). Also, Joe Karlgaard is Rice’s athletic director. Do you know where he worked before Rice? Stanford. You know who has done a pretty good job of dealing with academic restrictions while still fielding a consistently competitive team? Stanford. It may be safe to say that Roper’s name falls below both Stanford co-ordinators in this search.
Kurt Roper’s connection to David Cutcliffe is nothing to sneeze at though, because it isn’t just that the two worked together at Duke. Cutcliffe is largely responsible for who Kurt Roper is as a coach. Roper was one of Cutcliffe’s graduate assistants at Tennessee. He was Cutcliffe’s quarterbacks coach at Ole Miss. He followed when Cutcliffe returned as Tennessee’s offensive co-ordinator and then made the move with Cut from Knoxville to Durham.
Roper has hands-on knowledge when it comes to turning an historically bad football team from an elite academic institution into something respectable. And Roper would be in a better position taking over Rice than Cutcliffe was when he took overt Duke. After all, Rice is currently trying to prove it is the worst team in all of college football in a Kentucky courtroom.
Let’s end this argument kinda where it began. You know why Kurt Roper is a great fit for Rice? Because it can land Kurt Roper. You know why Rice is a great fit for Kurt Roper? Because he can land Rice. This is like a pair of threes staring at each other across a bar, each trying to convince themselves that they can land a seven.
You’re a three! Go for the other three! The seven will just be using you to get eights to notice them anyway.