The annual Bayou Bucket Classic, a college football matchup between the Rice Owls and Houston Cougars, will be played at Reliant Stadium on Sept. 29 at 2:30 p.m. CT. The Texans will host the cross-town rivalry for the second time, having done so previously in 2004.
Texans president Jamey Rootes believes holding the Bayou Bucket game at the Texans' home venue raises the stature of Houston's premier college football rivalry and elevates the Houston-Rice tradition to the next level.
"Reliant Stadium is one of the best sports venues on the planet, and we are working hard to build a strong crowd and create a festive and family-friendly gameday atmosphere," Rootes said.
The Bayou Bucket is one of two college football matchups in the country, along with USC vs. UCLA, featuring major universities from the same city. According to Rootes, hosting the rivalry game reinforces the prominence of athletics in the city of Houston.
"We want to support the game of football at all levels, from pee wee to the pros and every step in between," he said. "Our goal is to deliver an experience that the fans, teams, administrators and alumni will cherish for a lifetime. "
Rootes is hopeful that this relationship will bring great value to Rice and Houston as both programs begin exciting new projects.
Houston is building a 40,000-seat football stadium at the current Robertson Stadium site. The Cougars will break ground on the $100 million venture at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Five miles away, Rice is constructing a $44.5 million football facility adjacent to Rice Stadium. The 80,000-square-foot facility will accommodate training and locker rooms, a sports medicine center and staff offices. The project also will include the renovation of restrooms and ticket booths inside the stadium.
Next July, Houston will leave Conference USA and become one of five new football programs to join the Big East conference. That created uncertainty about the future of the Bayou Bucket, but it was announced in April that the classic will continue through the 2013 season at Reliant Stadium.
"The Houston-Rice game is meaningful for our city, campuses and alumni, and we are pleased our football student-athletes will be able to enjoy this great intra-city rivalry," Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades said to the Houston Chronicle in April.
Rice athletic director Rick Greenspan shared Rhoades' sentiments, telling the Chronicle, "It has always been our goal to do everything that we can to maintain the Bayou Bucket series. It's obvious how much this game means to the players on both teams and we need to continue to make sure that future generations of Owls and Cougars will have the same opportunity to win the Bucket."
Texans rookie quarterback Case Keenum, a member of the practice squad who set the NCAA's career passing mark at Houston, knows first-hand the significance of the Bayou Bucket for both teams' seasons.
"There's a lot of tradition," Keenum said. "It's been going back and forth. It really doesn't matter what's happened before during the season. It seems like every year, it's two teams that go out there and battle and get after it."
Houston leads the all-time series 27-11, but Rice looks to defend its title as the victor of the only previous meeting held at Reliant.
"It's awesome; I wish we did that during my time at UH," Keenum said of playing the game at Reliant. "I think both teams will have good showings as far as fan support. If I'm able to, I'm going to be here, too."
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