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Rice football coach eager to add ‘duckmaster’ to his resume

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Winning his second Conference USA Coach of the Year award Wednesday was an honor for Rice coach David Bailiff, but he’s looking forward to a different leadership role when the Owls hit Memphis later this month for the Liberty Bowl.

During a lighthearted moment at Thursday’s Liberty Bowl news conference, Bailiff recounted his first experience with the famous ducks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. The duck march to the Peabody fountains have been a tradition since the 1940s.

Bailiff was an assistant coach for TCU in 2002. The Horned Frogs faced Colorado State that season in the Liberty Bowl. Liberty Bowl Executive Director Steve Ehrhart took Bailiff to the Peabody for the march.

“I got to watch the ducks come out of the elevator,” Bailiff said. “I didn’t have my camera ready. I didn’t realize they were Olympic ducks that were that fast.”

Bailiff then recounted what Ehrhart told him at the time.

“He looked at me that day – and because he never thought I would do it – he said ‘if you are ever a head coach and come to the Liberty Bowl, I’m going to make you a duckmaster,’” Bailiff said as he laughed. “We’ve done it Steve. I’m looking forward to being a duckmaster.”

For the record, the duckmaster position is held by Anthony Petrina. He feeds, trains and cares for the duck, and may not need the assistance of a college football coach.

Even if Bailiff doesn’t get to play duckmaster for a day, he can fall back on his Coach of the Year award voted on by fellow Conference USA coaches. Bailiff guided the Owls to a 10-3 record and its first outright conference title since 1957. Rice’s is going to consecutive bowl games for the second time in school history.

Rice plays Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. Kickoff is 3 p.m. CST Dec. 31.

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