Monday, October 17, 2011
UT-A&M rivalry: Playing the blame game
By David Ubben
Trying to hand out blame for the Big 12's diminishment over the last 16 months is a bit too convoluted. By now, just about everyone involved has had a hand in it.
But the possible end of the Lone Star Showdown, at least in football?
That's a bit easier.
Texas A&M's stance has been consistent throughout, punctuated by a repeated, clear stance on the issue.
"We want to make it abundantly clear we will play the game anywhere, any time," new Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp told the Austin American-Statesman last month. "If that game dies, it will not be on us. That game is bigger than Texas and bigger than A&M. That game belongs to the people of Texas, and if it goes away, it's not going to be on our watch."
Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, who admitted last month that scheduling the Aggies would be "problematic," delivered what may have been the rivalry's final blow on Friday.
"In my e-mail to [Texas A&M AD] Bill Byrne, I wrote that we were not in a position now to look at future football scheduling," Dodds said. "We're scheduled out with nonconference games through 2018 and our Big 12 schedule is not yet settled. 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."
Last month, Dodds had this to say: "We didn't leave the conference. They did. ... We'll make a decision that's best for Texas."
Each side is looking to pass the blame off to the other.
Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin told the Associated Press on Sunday: "We're able to accommodate them anytime they want to make that happen. ... It's their choice, obviously."
Sorry, guys. This one must be shared.
And drink it in, Lone Star State rivals, because it might be the last time you share anything for awhile, save a mutual disdain for one another.
This may return at some point in the future. In time, I'm betting it does. But the loss of this heated, annual rivalry is the most disheartening consequence of any recent college football realignment move.
As much as fans were clamoring to see Wyoming and New Mexico come to Austin in 2012, I'm betting all sides would have understood if those contracts had to be broken to make room for the Aggies. Pay to get out of those contracts? No, Texas shouldn't have to because of the Aggies' choice, but I'm also betting Texas A&M might have been willing to chip in on the cost to keep the rivalry going.
If nothing else, it would have forced A&M to quite literally put its money where its mouth is.
This rivalry dates back to 1894, is each school's most-played rivalry, and has been played every single year since 1914, a stretch of 97 seasons. It's the third-most played rivalry in college sports and the most-played intra-state rivalry.
Texas refusing to schedule A&M may kill one of college football's best rivalries, but the Aggies helped.
Texas delivered the death blow with the rivalry still salvageable. Texas A&M's move to the SEC, though clubbed the rivalry over the head, and put it in jeopardy.
Divy out percentages all you liked, but Dodds is both right and stubborn. Texas has been nothing if not consistent, insinutating throughout the process that if Texas A&M left the conference, the rivalry would be discontinued.
Texas A&M left the conference. Dodds is willing to sacrifice tradition for ego.
You know, like A&M sacrificed more than a century of tradition for "increased visibility for its student-athletes."
What, pray tell, was keeping Aggie athletes out of the spotlight? I'll hang up and listen.
The Aggies made their choice. Nobody, especially not Dodds, forced them to leave.
Dodds made his.
Now, college football fans may have to live with the consequences.