A&M’s departure from conference ends historic rivalry

Trey Scott

Just days before the 2011 season officially begins, the Longhorns have already suffered a tremendous loss.

Texas A&M is officially leaving, having sent a letter of withdrawal to Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe on Wednesday. Conference prestige and the state’s best rivalry will follow the Aggies out the door, gone for good.

Texas has never relied on other schools to help it stand. Not with a reputation as the preeminent public school in the state, a rich tradition of athletic success and a $300 million network to call its own. But the loss of the Aggies will hurt the Longhorns more than they think. Right now, it’s “good riddance” and “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

They’ll miss each other in a year.

Sounds absurd to think that now. These schools have never much liked one another. Texas views the Aggies as farm boys with a Napoleon complex. Texas A&M thinks of the “tea sips” as arrogant and snobby.

Both sides are probably right, and that’s why the Aggies are leaving. They’re fed up of being stuck under Texas’ thumb and worried about the potential impact of the Longhorn Network. The Longhorns probably should have compromised some aspect of the network — the plan to show high school games and highlights, especially — to preserve the strength of the Big 12. Texas A&M probably should have been a bit more patient to see the true ramifications of the network.

Either way, the landscape of college football (and this state) is never going to be the same. Get ready to a Turkey Day game against (best-case) Notre Dame or (worst-case) Baylor. The Longhorns won’t want to play the
Aggies once they’re in the Southeastern Conference, for a few years at least. Say goodbye to the 12th man, the yell leaders, to Reveille. As much as we denigrate all of Texas A&M’s school spirit, it’s special. You can’t get it anywhere else.

This famous rivalry lasted 117 years and is going to end because one rich school was fed up with another richer school. Bobby Layne and Bear Bryant just rolled over in their graves. Money does more than talk.

For now, it’s easy to point out that Texas A&M doesn’t have much of a chance at winning consistently in the SEC. The Aggies haven’t won a game against an opponent from that conference since 1995. But this isn’t a shortsighted decision.

“As I have indicated throughout this process, we are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs,” Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin wrote in the withdrawal letter.

“This is a 100-year decision that we have addressed carefully and methodically.”

Texas shouldn’t criticize a school for doing what it thinks is for its best interest, despite the disagreement of some — ahem, the Longhorn Network.

Rather, they should start worrying about the state of the Big 12 now, a conference whose prestige is quickly dwindling after losing three schools in the past year. There are two perennial powers now — Texas and Oklahoma.

“As we stated last summer, we are strong supporters and members of the Big 12 conference. Recent events have not altered our confidence in the league,” said Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds in a statement.

So competition should be a bit lighter but at what cost? The Big 12 should soon be one of the weaker BCS conferences thanks to Texas A&M’s upheaval.

Maybe the Aggies are more important than they thought.