With sluggish ticket sales and tepid fan interest, replacing the Texas A&M Aggies with the TCU Horned Frogs and Texas Tech Red Raiders as the Thanksgiving opponent for the Texas Longhorns just isn't working out.
In fact, Burnt Orange Nation's own Curry Shoff argued that the Horns shouldn't even play the game any longer.
Now Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman suggests replacing the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders with the Baylor Bears, which would presumably decrease pressure on students to attend the game each year and provide a better current rivalry for the program.
Yes, Baylor is now more of a rival than either TCU or Texas Tech, even though former Texas pitcher Nathan Thornhill doesn't believe the Bears are close to the levels of the old Aggie rivalry:
If the Aggies were the annoying little brother always seeking attention, the Bears used to be the red-headed stepchild -- generally ignored and then kicked around if any heed was paid to them.
But the tables turned in both basketball and football as head coaches Scott Drew and Art Briles pulled their respective programs out of the Big 12's cellar. It's happened not only at the league-wide level and the nation-wide level, but also in the head-to-head match ups against Texas -- the basketball program has won nine of 15 against the Horns and the football program currently holds victories in four of the last five seasons.
So it's been a pretty one-sided rivalry in recent years after the Longhorns dominated in both sports throughout most of the 2000s, but that's what makes the game more appealing -- there's actually some Texas antipathy towards Baylor now.
Most Horns fans probably still remember what former linebacker Steve Edmond had to say about the Bears last spring:
Texas LB Steve Edmond, unprovoked, said he's still bitter Texas lost to Baylor: "I really don't like Baylor. I think they're trash."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) April 19, 2014
Edmond: "Y'all think it's funny but I'm serious. They have some good players. ... But I don't understand how we lost to Baylor."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) April 19, 2014
Edmond: "Baylor gets a win and act like they haven't won before. They won it, so what? They still suck to me."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) April 19, 2014
Like Thornhill, Edmond was pretty dismissive of Baylor and the current state of the program -- "they still suck to me" -- but his dislike of the Bears stands in marked contrast towards the former state of affairs between the two schools.
Those games matter now because Texas fans are tired of losing to Baylor and resent the nouveau-riche attitude accompanying the rise of the Bears as a relevant entity in the two most important college sports. The Longhorns haven't lost to the Red Raiders in football since 2008 and two losses in three years since the Horned Frogs entered the conference hasn't re-kindled whatever rivalry existed before the SWC disintegrated.
Will a Thanksgiving Day game between the Horns and Bears happen? Here's what the respective athletic directors told Bohls:
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said the school has had no discussions with the Bears about the possibility. His Baylor counterpart, Ian McCaw, said, "Baylor and Texas have two of the top athletics programs in the nation, and we are located just 100 miles apart, so it makes for an exciting, natural rivalry. The fans of the two schools ... are the beneficiaries as there has been some outstanding competition between Baylor and Texas across a number of different sports during the last several years."
Since McCaw added that Baylor likes the game against Texas Tech in Arlington during Thanksgiving weekend, there's not much current impetus on the Bears side to engage in a game on that Thursday against the Longhorns.
Given that fact and the clear lack of interest on the part of Texas fans (especially students) to attend home games every year on Thanksgiving, the best option is probably to move the game to the weekend or simply not play that week. But if a Thanksgiving Day game does continue, Bohls is right about Baylor growing into a bigger rival than either Texas Tech or TCU -- the Bears would represent a more appealing Turkey Day option than either of the other two schools.