Texas-Texas A&M rivalry won't continue next season
This Thanksgiving one of college football's oldest and most storied rivalries will be put on indefinite hold when Texas and Texas A&M meet for the last time as Big 12 foes.
The Aggies wanted to continue the series when they left for the Southeastern Conference in July, but the Longhorns told the Aggies that their non-conference schedule is full through 2018.
These schools, separated by just 105 miles, first met in 1894 and have played every year since 1915. It is usually the last regular-season game for both teams and is an event that people in the state and beyond watch as a holiday tradition.
Former A&M star defensive end-linebacker Von Miller, the second overall pick in this year's NFL draft by Denver, was at Kyle Field on Saturday as an honorary captain for the Aggies' game against Baylor. He lamented the loss of the game against Texas as he stood on the field waiting to watch the Aggies play the Bears.
''I think it's a big loss for college football in general,'' he said. ''That was one of the games that a lot of people look forward to watching on Thanksgiving, and it's just unfortunate.''
Scores of key moments from the football histories of both schools are tied to the game.
Former Texas A&M coach Paul ''Bear'' Bryant's 1954 team, which survived his grueling camp in Junction, Texas, played the Longhorns. Texas A&M's only Heisman Trophy winner, John David Crow, was a member of the first Aggie team to beat Texas at Memorial Stadium in 1956. It was against the Aggies in 1998 that the Longhorns' Ricky Williams broke the Division I-A career rushing record in a 26-24 win.
Earl Campbell, who also won the Heisman, had the best game of his Texas career against the Aggies when he ran for 222 yards and three touchdowns, and scored on a 60-yard pass in a 57-28 win by the Longhorns in 1977.
Some, like Texas A&M sophomore Travis Straub, are mad at the Longhorns for not accommodating Texas A&M. Straub is already looking ahead to this year's game against Texas, and he wore a shirt with the date of the game emblazoned on the back in large, maroon block letters on Saturday.
''I just think they need to get over their pride because they can be pretty arrogant sometimes,'' Straub said. ''It's their loss, not ours.''
But Texas graduate Anne Finley said it really isn't the Longhorns' fault.
''I blame A&M,'' Finley said before Texas played Oklahoma State on Saturday. ''They're the ones leaving.''
Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, who led the charge for the Aggies to move to the SEC, has been vocal about his desire to continue playing Texas throughout the conference realignment process.
''We're able to accommodate them anytime they want to make that happen,'' he said of the rivalry. ''It's their choice, obviously, if they don't want to do that, and I have to respect that choice, but it will be a loss to both of us and the state of Texas.''
Loftin pointed out that most states have key instate rivalry games that take place each season despite conference boundaries.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds emailed Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne late last week to tell him the Longhorns couldn't fit A&M into their schedule through 2018.
''What we have right now is a full schedule, but if any future options are available, the decision will not be made by just one person,'' Dodds said in a statement.
Loftin hopes they can renew the rivalry when Texas has room on its schedule.
''It's open at any time,'' Loftin said. ''There's no doubt in our minds to accommodate this kind of game at any time now or in the future.''
One Longhorns fan thinks a new team could take the place of A&M as the team's archrival.
''Down the road we'll probably play the Aggies off and on like we do Arkansas, but it won't be the same,'' said J.B. Chimene, a Texas alumnus and Austin resident who was taking his son Coby to the game against Oklahoma State. ''I think we'll pick up some other rivalry for this century.''
One bright spot for some fans of this game is that if the teams eventually meet again, it will likely add to the intensity of the matchup.
''We've been playing those guys over 100 years, so hopefully we'll get to get back at it again. When we do, it will be a huge game,'' Miller said.
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno and AP freelancer Will Anderson contributed to this story from Austin, Texas.