Graham has no plans to retire if not offered new contract by Rice

- 82-year-old Wayne Graham, Rice's baseball coach since 1991, is in the final year of his contract and has no plans to walk away from the game if his deal is not renewed at the end of the season.

"I don't really have any plans to retire, if they retire me here," Graham said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. My first choice would always be Rice, but if they retire me here I'll be open for suggestion.

Graham wants to continue working beyond this season.

"Yeah, I like coaching," Graham said.

Graham said he and Rice officials have had conversations about his future with the Owls.

"It's kind of privileged right now, but we've had some discussions, yes," Graham said."

Graham, who won the College World Series with Rice in 2003, points out his future with the Owls may be in his hands.

"I think if we finish strong you never know what'll happen. Maybe it's up to me. I'll see what we can do," Graham said. "If we win and get in a regional, you never know what'll happen."

The Rice Owls have been to the NCAA Tournament 23 consecutive years, the third-longest active streak in the nation behind Florida State and Cal-State Fullerton.

They would appear to have their work cut out for them to keep that streak intact.

The Owls are tied for ninth in the Conference USA Baseball standings, but only 1.5 games out of fourth place.

The top eight advance to the postseason tournament.

"You'd like to continue (the streak)," Graham said. "I don't actually spend a lot of time thinking about anything but the next game. Yeah, I'd like to continue that. It's unusual to say the least."

This weekend Rice hosts first-place Florida Atlantic University.

"Huge, we've got to beat these guys," Graham said. They're beatable.

"I think our team is getting better all the time. We've got a lot of guys improving. We've had a couple guys coming back from injury."

And injuries have been a problem for the Owls, with eight players getting hurt, five of them impact players according to Graham.

Two of those impact players have returned in pitcher Dane Acker and designated hitter Andrew Dunlap.

Rice made a great run late last season, winning the C-USA postseason tournament and advancing to the regionals.

Graham believes this year's Owls can do something similar.

"They're good enough to do that," Graham said. "Our pitching has come around. I think our team is an improving team that would be a factor if we can get in a regional."

Along with winning the College World Series in 2003 and that remarkable streak of 23 consecutive years in the NCAA Tournament, Graham's Owls have won or shared the conference regular season or postseason tournament title 21 of the past 22 years.

His overall record at Rice is 1163-518-1.

That tie came Sunday at Middle Tennessee.

Graham may be 82, but he looks forward to adding to his career record as long as he can contribute to his team and the game.

"As long as I'm healthy," Graham said. "As long as your healthy, your brain's working well. It's healthy to work, and that's the reason why I work.

"It's healthy to work."
 

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