Let UT play A&M… without the Lege’s help

Chad Markey

I think I speak on behalf of most of the UT and A&M communities when I say that I grieve the end of one of the greatest football rivalries in American history. Regardless of your opinion on the traditional contest, the annual Thanksgiving football game played between the two schools was truly ingrained in Texan culture and athleticism. It led to a healthy competition that physically brought communities together and created a substantial influx of money into Austin and College Station every year.

On Jan. 28, state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, a Texas A&M graduate, filed a bill, H.B. 778, that would mandate an annual out-of-conference football game between the respective universities. Though the idea of having the schools play each other once again is not necessarily bad, the proposed law itself is poorly designed. In the text of the bill, which is only slightly over a page long, Guillen states that whichever team refuses to play in the game will not be able to award “athletic scholarship[s], grant[s], or similar financial assistance funded with state money” during the following academic year. If the bill were to pass, those provisions would take effect Sept. 1.

Guillen’s proposed punishments for the teams unwilling to play a UT-A&M game are disappointing because not only do they completely limit the bill’s chances of passing, but they also cast doubt about its author’s grasp of simple logic and logistics.

UT’s out-of-conference schedule is completely booked until 2020 and A&M’s until the end of 2014. If H.B. 778 were to come into effect September 2013, both schools would be hit with fines and penalties. UT would have to cancel one out-of-conference game for each of the next seven years, thus paying the respective teams alimony for rescheduling inconvenience and for breaking media contracts. The same would go for Texas A&M. The bill does not address whether the state would reimburse UT and A&M for fines and penalties, but that prospect seems doubtful.

If H.B. 778 were to pass, the question of its constitutionality might arise. Does the state even have authority to manipulate the scheduling of National Collegiate Athletic Association games? On which legal clause can they claim control of this situation? Another point of interest is whether the state has any right to govern NCAA scholarships. They are often the product of an interstate activity, over which state governments have little authority. It may even result in student-athletes suing the state.

 Obviously, a strong demand for this game and tradition to continue persists. People want to see the two schools play each other again. I think the same goes for the powers that be within the NCAA. There is a lot of money that can be made from this rivalry and history proves it. So in reality, we don’t really need legislation for this rivalry to continue — fate will eventually bring it about.

When Rep. Guillen was asked specifically why he filed the bill, he responded, “This game is as much a Texas tradition as cowboy boots and barbecue. The purpose of the bill is to put the eyes of Texas upon our two greatest universities to restore this sacred Texas tradition.” So, obviously, Rep. Guillen cares about his constituents and their appreciation of Texas football culture. But, there are other ways of going about achieving Guillen’s goals, and dubious legislation is not one of them. I hope prudence saves the day and that this bill does not even make it past committee. It would do more harm than good.

Markey is an RTF sophomore from Houston.