It’s peak offseason when reporters ask someone from Texas A&M or Texas the one simple question: do you want the rivalry to resume?
Texas head coach Tom Herman voiced his opinion at Big 12 Media Days in Arlington.
“I’d love to see the rivalry renewed,” Herman said. “I think it’s great for college football. I think it’s great for Texas. There’s plenty of other inner-state rivals that are in different conferences that find a way to play each other — Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, Iowa-Iowa State — the list goes on and on.”
Just hours later, Jimbo Fisher opened the floor for questions during his appearance at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama. The first question, in response to Herman’s comments: Are you interested in playing Texas in football?
“Yeah, if it’s beneficial to Texas A&M,” Fisher said. “If it’s something that benefits Texas A&M, we’ll definitely be interested in that and make those judgements as they come.”
If A&M says it’s going to do what’s in its best interest, but the Aggies aren’t scheduling Texas, then they must feel booking games with the Longhorns isn’t in their best interest, as of now. Still, A&M quarterback Kellen Mond voiced his support in renewing the rivalry with the Aggies’ longtime foes from Austin.
“I think it would be good for sports and I think it would be good for the state of Texas as a whole,” Mond said at SEC Media Days. “Obviously I have no control over the schedule, but I definitely feel like it would kind of bring that rivalry back and bring competition to the state of Texas, not only on the field, but in recruiting, too.”
Why wouldn’t Mond be in support of the game? It’s one of college football’s greatest and long standing rivalries. Players have missed out on being apart of this game for almost a decade now. There’s been chances to play the game, in the regular season and in bowl games, yet it hasn’t happened.
When scheduling decisions are needed to be made though, the Aggies aren’t making the Horns a top priority.
Why should they?
In 2019, A&M is playing the potential top-3 preseason teams – Clemson, Alabama and Georgia. Throw in LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State to the slate and the Aggies already have half a schedule ranked in the top-15.
Sure, Texas will likely be a preseason top-10 contender. Herman has the Horns heading in the right direction again as Sam Ehlinger is emerging as one of Austin’s greatest quarterbacks. Yet, the Aggies don’t feel an inkling to have Texas as one of their 12 games. A&M is paying Jimbo Fisher $75 million to win championships and the Aggies must feel their current and future slates are strong enough to get there, if they win, without having to give the Longhorns any attention.
A&M already had a chance to put Texas back on its schedule, too, when Chris Del Conte called Scott Woodward about a home-and-home in 2022-2023, but the Aggies declined. Woodward essentially said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Instead, Texas booked a home-and-home with Alabama, who the Aggies play every season now.
It’s clear why the Aggies aren’t budging, too — Texas needs the game more than A&M does. Herman’s explanation on wanting the game to return proves so.
“We don’t play a historic rival at home anymore. Ever,” Herman said. “We have to drive to Dallas to play our lone remaining historic rival [Oklahoma]. And then for our players, I much rather know every other year our longest non-conference road game is going to be two hours down the road instead of getting on a plane to Los Angeles to play a night game in Pacific Time, or flying to Columbus, Ohio or Gainesville, Florida.”
Without A&M on the schedule, Texas’ home slate suffers. Sure the Horns host LSU in week two this season, but what other games are intriguing of national quality? Oklahoma State? Texas Tech? Neither are going to be conference contenders.
Texas will bring Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Georgia to town in the coming years, but what happens when Texas must make the return trips as part of home-and-home deals? Games against Baylor and TCU are only so exciting.
A&M, on the other hand, seems content with its future home schedules.
In even years, the Aggies have a Power 5 non-conference game and LSU at home. In odd years, Alabama and Auburn come to Kyle Field. The Aggies welcome East powers Florida and Georgia to College Station in 2022 and 2024, respectively. Trips to Colorado, Miami and Notre Dame help give A&M more national exposure, car rides to Austin don’t.
The argument is made that the Aggies could schedule two Power 5 opponents in non-conference play, such as SEC foes Florida and South Carolina often do, but it’s not necessary for A&M to bolster its schedule.
Having the Horns on Thanksgiving Weekend was a traditional A&M game for decades. Now the Aggies have LSU on the final weekend, and the game seems to be fixated on that date. Throw in the increasing tension between the Aggies-Tigers, and a new rivalry is being forged, one that could soon have conference and national implications.
Wouldn’t the Aggies want a chance to close the season with a game that could soon be played for titles instead of a date in Austin for bragging rights?
Former Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds once told the Daily Texan, “They left. They’re the ones that decided not to play us. We get to decide when we play again. I think that’s fair.”
It sounds like Texas is ready to reinstate the rivalry again, but the Horns have forgotten one key piece: It takes two to make a deal, and the Aggies seem content in their independence.
It’s clear if nobody in Austin – in the Texas athletics department, nor state legislature – can strike or force a deal, the power rests in College Station and A&M is reaping the benefits of looking at the new horizon in the East, or Southeast, rather than continuing to stir up old dust in the West.