Updated: Jan. 19, 2007, 3:08 PM ET

Rice hires Texas State's Bailiff as head coach

HOUSTON -- One of David Bailiff's top priorities as the new Rice coach is gaining the Owls' trust.

Bailiff, coach at Division I-AA Texas State the past three seasons, was introduced Friday and talked about many of the things Todd Graham did at the same podium a year ago.

Graham stunned the Owls by bolting for Tulsa last week, just three days after signing a contract extension to stay at Rice, which he led to its first bowl game in 45 years.

The jilted Owls are understandably skeptical about their new coach's commitment, but Bailiff promised to fulfill his five-year contract.

"I'm a man of my word. I'm not a job-hopper," Bailiff said. "Trust is doing what you say you're going to do. We'll start with that."

Several Owls attended Bailiff's news conference and were ready to believe in him.

"This guy will be more grateful for the job," said defensive lineman George Chukwu, who will be a senior next season. "When coach Graham came in here, he came in telling us that Tulsa wanted him to be the head coach later on in his career, and he wanted to come to Rice. Obviously, that wasn't the real story."

Quarterback Chase Clement, who will be a junior next season, said the Owls were anxious to get a new coach after Graham's sudden departure and the stressful week that followed.

"The team has come together," Clement said. "We would've been behind anybody who came in here. I said last week that whoever wants to be part of a winner, bring him on. That's the mentality of everyone as we get back into it."

Bailiff said he wants to meet with each player and reassure them that he would stick around awhile.

"We're going to get close to these guys, and they're going to know that everything I do is in their best interest," he said.

Earlier this week, Chukwu talked with some of Bailiff's players at Texas State and came away convinced that Bailiff was the right person for the job.

"They all had good things to say about him," Chukwu said. "He's going to be committed to Rice University. That's a big step."

Rice chased other high-profile candidates, including former Miami coach Larry Coker, but athletic director Chris Del Conte said after others convinced him that Bailiff was a winner -- and trustworthy.

"When you look at how things happened, I wanted to find a guy who's proven on the field and has a proven track record with kids," said Del Conte. "When I talked to high school coaches, other college coaches, his name kept popping up.

"I said, 'You know, I'm not going to make the big splash, I'm going to what is the right fit.' And he's the perfect fit."

Bailiff said he wasn't interested in the job last year, when Graham was hired, because he hadn't fulfilled his contract with Texas State.

"I would not have felt good about leaving," said Bailiff. "I feel like I kept my word."

Bailiff, a 48-year-old San Antonio native, guided the Bobcats to a 21-15 record in three seasons, including an 11-3 mark and a trip to the Division I-AA semifinals in 2005. He was TCU's defensive coordinator before that, guiding the nation's top-ranked unit in 2002.

He'll scrap the 3-3-5 defensive scheme Graham implemented and install the 4-2-5 system that worked with the Horned Frogs.

In his only season with Rice, Graham introduced a spread offense that produced a 1,000-yard rusher, passer and receiver for the first time in school history. Rice went 7-6, losing 41-17 to Troy in the New Orleans Bowl.

Bailiff said he'll keep Graham's offensive scheme, which is similar to what he ran at Texas State.

"My job is to continue the momentum and then increase the momentum of what happened here last year," Bailiff said. "That momentum was started by one man, but it's going to take all of us to keep this rolling."

The Bobcats won their first Southland Conference championship in 2005 and reached the Division I-AA semifinals, finishing 11-3. They went 5-6 in 2006.

An offensive lineman at Texas State from 1977-80 -- when the school was known as Southwest Texas -- Bailiff returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant in 1988 and became the defensive line coach the following year. He moved to New Mexico in 1992, where he was the defensive line coach under current Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione.

Bailiff was hired as Texas State's defensive coordinator in 1997, then went to TCU in 2001. After a year as defensive line coach, Bailiff became the defensive coordinator.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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