Marooned: Will Texas A&M Really Leave Texas Behind? [OPINION]
What is America’s bitterest college football rivalry? That’s easy.
Auburn-Alabama? Ohio State-Michigan? Mere pillowfights compared to the one I’m thinking of, for no other reason than this: those schools would never, ever consider a scenario where they might not play one another again.
If you want real hatred and utter disgust for what each rival institution represents to the other, then from the hippy-lovin’, tree-huggin’, ganja-smokin’, hard-rockin’, artsy-fartsy big blue streets of Austin to the howdy-spoutin’, jackboot-wearin’, snuff-dippin’, country-music-playin’, every-damn-spot-on-campus-is-hallowed-ground red streets of College Station, there’s nothing that compares to Texas-Texas A&M.
And it has gone supernova. Forget DefCon 4, it’s moved to Kirk-Khan 1.
None of us fully comprehend how much of their own flesh these schools will tear from themselves in this process. But Texas A&M will file the divorce papers it drew up last summer and leave the Big XII for the SEC.
The SEC is putting the skids on the Ags joining their league — for now. But it will happen, and when it does, it will also likely kill the annual Texas-Texas A&M game, major college football’s third-oldest rivalry, played nearly every year since 1894.
It’s not just about “Show me the money”, either. To A&M it’s about “Show me some respect.” It’s a plea that is falling on deaf ears on the UT campus as that school is plotting a place in college sports occupied only by Notre Dame, regardless of who it steps on to do it.
It has never been this bad, but it’s never really been good, either, because both universities are such polar opposites; the most rancorous rivalry in all of college sports.
You might get more meanness from Alabama-Auburn, but I’d bet alums from both schools pull similar levers in a voting booth, shop in similar stores, live somewhat similar lives.
Not Texas-Texas A&M.
Another Republican Texas governor is about to run for President and the decidedly liberal University of Texas campus is nearly guilt-ridden that their state — their city — will have given both to national politics. Throw in that Gov. Rick Perry used to be an Aggie yell leader and, to UT students, he might as well have been the warden at Abu Ghraib.
Meanwhile, in the still-deep-fried climes of College Station, if you muttered the initials “LGBT” in line for lunch at A&M’s Memorial Student Center, you might get a couple of furtive glances. With your Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato and Gravy sandwich.
The campuses are just a little over two hours apart, but they couldn’t be more different.
You might get more people at Michigan-Ohio State, but real bitterness and discord? Meh.
Besides, any conference pretentious enough to name its new divisions Legends and Leaders has its button-down shirts stuffed too full to notice differences outside the colors of its school ties.
But a rivalry that threatens to boil over the edges of its college football cauldron and put out its own fire? Unheard of, until now.
Speaking of fire…
How deeply would the loss of this rivalry cut into each school’s identity?
If college football is rich with tradition, then the Texas Aggies are Carlos Slim Helu. And not just one of, but THE defining tradition of Texas A&M football is Aggie Bonfire, a giant stack of logs that takes months to build, then is set ablaze the night before the big game with the Horns to symbolize the Aggies’ “burning desire to beat t.u.”
It is considered such an honor to help build Bonfire that some A&M students have gone on academic probation for skipping classes just to make sure it gets done in time.
If A&M pulls the trigger on a move to the SEC, it effectively ends THE VERY REASON for Aggie Bonfire.
Both schools talk smack about the other in their own fight songs. How awkward will it be for Ags to join arm-in-arm to sing “Saw varsity’s horns off” knowing the real possibility exists that the schools may never play again.
Sure, they could make it a non-conference rivalry game — OU-Texas was exactly that for years before the Big XII brought them together.
But if you were Texas and thought the dust had settled from last year’s near meltdown, only to see Texas A&M get jealous, stir the pot and open the door for the best conference in college football to come recruit your backyard, would you want to keep playing the Aggies?
If you were Texas A&M and believed the whole re-think of the Big XII allowing Texas to have its own television network to the detriment of the rest of the conference was arrogant, perhaps even destructive to your own designs on the top rung of college football, would you want to play the Longhorns?
And it won’t stop there, either. The Aggies will start the college football carousel all over again.
For years after World War II, everyone thought the world’s nastiest rivalry was the United States and the Soviet Union.
The Berlin Airlift, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — each superpower tweaked the other. But as close as the two nations may have gotten to all-out nuclear war, neither side went that extra step.
They couldn’t. It was the threat of Mutually-Assured Destruction, a concept with — considering the stakes — the most spot-on acronym in human history.
Think about this: Texas and Texas A&M could be even more hardcore than Uncle Sam and the Russian Bear.
Because they’re going to push the button.