Time for Aggies, Longhorns to grow up

Texas A&M and Texas last played each other in 2011. 

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

SMU shouldn’t share a conference with UConn and South Florida. Maryland and Nebraska shouldn’t be in the same league and neither should West Virginia and Texas Tech. 

Some things are just too unnatural, like a monkey and a seal sharing a downtown loft. 

College sports’ realignment renaissance has brought about bigger checks for most everyone involved and, well, that’s about it. 

Meanwhile, things that should happen … just don’t. It’s been a little more than three years since Texas and Texas A&M met in College Station for a thrilling "finale" to a rivalry that dates back more than a century. 

Since then, the rivalry has been reduced to an entertaining carousel of sniping and upturned noses reminiscent of a junior high lunchroom. 

"We’re booked through ’27," Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson said Sunday, when asked about the Aggies. "My phone’s not ringing every day."

The last time I heard something that pointlessly obnoxious and inaccurate, Forrest Gump was trying to find a seat on an elementary school bus. 

"Seats taken," the cruel kids said. 

Patterson’s quote came only days after Texas A&M lobbed its latest grenade in the direction of Austin’s "t-sips," a long-held deprecitive nickname for their rivals’ perceived love of the beverage and distaste for World War II. If you listen long enough, you’ll learn it was fought and won by the Corps of Cadets, who call Texas A&M home. 

"We asked them to play. I will say there is less enthusiasm among the Aggie network now than there was back then. We have new friends and we like playing LSU and we like playing these folks," A&M chancellor John Sharp said. "We’re hopeful that sometime in the future there will be a bowl game that we’re able to play in, you know, if [Texas] gets there. But the great thing about playing us is that you can get on real TV if you play us." 

That is, I guess, a poorly crafted shot at Texas’ Longhorn Network, which broadcasts only two games per year and has thus far been a net loss for everyone but the Longhorns, who shouldn’t (and won’t) apologize for collecting a $15 million check from ESPN for the network every year. 

The boiling, never-ending rivalry on par with any in college sports has reduced to a simmer, stuck in the purgatory of a seemingly permanent talking season. 

Hearing administrators and fans on both sides pretend they don’t want or need to play the other is all very childish and sad and by now, it’s become beyond tiresome. 

It’s also a hilarious, outstanding source of entertainment, but tiresome the same. 

Every time the debate surfaces, which is at least a handful of times each offseason since the Big 12 and Aggies’ ugly divorce, the focus rarely shifts outside of the Texan bubble containing Dallas, Houston, Austin and College Station. 

It ought to. 

The harm both programs are doing to college football doesn’t get nearly enough attention. The sport is thriving, sure, with a playoff that will only further endear the sport to its fans and recruit new ones. 

It’s still got nothing to fill the Lone Star Showdown-sized hole on Thanksgiving night and no amount of games against LSU, TCU, Texas Tech (or Notre Dame) is going to change that. 

Thanksgiving weekend, New Year’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday serve as the football’s three holy holidays, split evenly between college and the NFL. 

Without Texas and Texas A&M, college football forfeits that extra scoop of relevance on Thanksgiving night. 

It’s hard to quantify that value, but who would argue that college football is better if Alabama and Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan, Clemson and South Carolina or Texas and Oklahoma just decided to stop playing each other?

If college administrators can argue that Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams graduating and cashing in a chance to play at Oregon "just doesn’t feel right" then what the heck would they call Texas and Texas A&M taking their collective ball and going home? 

Administrators in the SEC and Big 12 ought to do their part to apply public and private pressure to both schools to renew one of their sport’s greatest rivalries. 

Not any of their business? If you’re in college football, it precisely is your "business." (Or non-profit, so I’m told.) 

Texas A&M and Texas playing again is only bad for oversized egos on both campus. It’s a bigger TV draw, a bigger cash draw and a bigger everything than any rivalry game or nonconference matchup (in Mexico City or elsewhere) either school could sign up to play. 

It’s also what’s best for college football. Steve Patterson has a lot of links to Texas but not many to college sports, having spent much of his career in professional sports. He’s a businessman first and unlike many of his colleagues, doesn’t seem like the type to consider himself tasked with guiding and protecting the world of college football. Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman doesn’t have much of an excuse, and as a man who spent nearly a decade as the AD at TCU, knows the importance of the rivalry in the state as well as the sport itself. 

Ask either side in this stalemate why the game isn’t being played and you’re unlikely to get an answer that doesn’t eventually boil down to, "Well, because they’re a bunch of jerks!" 

It’s bad for business on both sides and it’s bad for the state. 

Just don’t forget it’s bad for the entire world of college football, too. That’s not changing until both sides grow up. 

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