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The Rice University athletic teams are known as the Rice Owls. The name comes from the owls in Rice's crest.
Rice participates in NCAA Division I athletics and is part of Conference USA. Rice was a member of the Southwest Conference until its breakup in 1996. Rice then joined the Western Athletic Conference before joining C-USA on July 1, 2005. Rice is the fifth-smallest school competing in NCAA Division I FBS football measured by undergraduate enrollment, just above the University of Tulsa's 2,756 and the three FBS United States service academies's approximate 4,500. Rice's major sports rivalry is with the University of Texas at Austin, and cross-town University of Houston is another rival. The Owls play at an on-campus football facility, Rice Stadium, which was the site of Super Bowl VIII and a speech by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1962 in which he challenged the nation to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. Rice Stadium opened in 1950 with a capacity of 70,000 seats. After improvements in 2006, the stadium is currently configured to seat 47,000 for football but can be readily reconfigured to its original capacity of 70,000, more than the total number of Rice alumni, living and deceased. The Owls began playing football in 1919 as a member of the Southwest Conference. Until 1950, when Rice Stadium was completed, they played at Rice Field, the site of which is now Rice Track/Soccer Stadium. During its first 40 years, Rice's football program was a regional and national powerhouse. By the early 1960s, the program found it difficult to compete against schools that were ten times its size or more. In 2006, the football team played in the New Orleans Bowl, the first time the team had gone to a bowl game since 1961, ending the second-longest bowl drought in the country at the time.