Strong: A&M series 'needs to happen'

Originally Published: July 23, 2014
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

BRISTOL, Conn. - Texas and Texas A&M have played 118 times, and their in-state rivalry was a longtime holiday tradition in the Lone Star State, with the teams meeting 64 times on Thanksgiving Days.

But one of the sport's most storied rivalries was a victim of conference realignment, as the Longhorns and Aggies stopped playing each other when Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC before the 2012 season.

While Texas and Texas A&M administrators have repeatedly said renewing the rivalry isn't on their front burners, new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said he wants the rivalry to resume.

"You would like to see it happen," Strong told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "At some point it needs to happen. We need to play them."

The Longhorns and Aggies haven't played since Nov. 24, 2011, when Texas' Justin Tucker kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired for a 27-25 victory. Texas leads the all-time series, 76-37-5. The rivalry, which began in 1894, is the third-most played in FBS football.

Texas A&M is facing LSU on Thanksgiving this season. Texas is playing TCU.

Texas defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Vance Bedford, a former Longhorns cornerback, also has been outspoken about his desire to renew the series. On Jan. 30, Bedford tweeted (since deleted): "UT and the aggies should set up a schedule to play again in the future. What a great game for the state of Texas."

Strong At some point it needs to happen. We need to play them.

-- Texas coach Charlie Strong

But there doesn't seem to be a major push from either side, at least not from those in charge of scheduling, to play the game again anytime soon. In April, Texas athletics director Steve Patterson told ESPN's Paul Finebaum that renewing the rivalry wasn't among his priorities.

"I think the reality for us is A&M made a choice they felt was best for them to move to the SEC," Patterson said. "That's great for them. They've leveraged that well. For us, there has to be a real business or branding case made to play anybody that we play with our football games given the way our schedule is structured, playing Oklahoma every year in Dallas. Unless there really is a compelling business or branding reason, I see a hard time renewing that rivalry in football."

Strong says he has not had discussions with Patterson regarding the A&M series.

Texas A&M associate athletics director Jason Cook told ESPN in November that the Aggies hoped to play the Longhorns in the future, but not necessarily during the regular season.

"We hope to play them again in a BCS bowl or playoff game at some point," Cook said.

With the Longhorns playing a nine-game schedule in the Big 12, there are only three available nonconference contests each season. This season, UT plays nonconference games against North Texas and BYU at home and against UCLA at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Longhorns also have future home-and-home contracts with Notre Dame (four games), California (two games), Maryland (two games), Ohio State (two games) and USC (two games). The first available open date on Texas' schedule wouldn't occur until 2018, when the Longhorns are already scheduled to play at Maryland and home against USC.

The Aggies' future schedules aren't as finalized, as they have multiple nonconference openings beyond the 2015 season. This season, the Aggies will play home games against FCS opponent Lamar, Rice and Louisiana-Monroe and a road game at SMU. In 2016, Texas A&M is scheduled to play Arizona State in Houston, along with home games against Ball State, Nevada and FCS foe Western Carolina.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who has criticized SEC teams for only playing eight conference games, took exception to Texas A&M's nonconference schedule this coming season.

"Boy, that's a bunch of toughies," Stoops quipped.

Texas A&M is scheduled to play at UCLA in 2016, but it canceled future series against Oregon and USC after moving to the SEC.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

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