Since spring football is currently still ongoing, it's not exactly silly season yet, but it's apparently still time to resurrect the discussion of whether the Texas Longhorns should play the Texas A&M Aggies in football.
Both coaches want the rivalry to resume, with Texas head coach Charlie Strong reiterating his stance from last summer that "at some point it needs to happen."
So Strong's comments to ESPN recently were hardly anything new:
"That game is so much a part of this state," said Strong, who is entering his second season at Texas. "Over 100 years, we've played that game. Why stop it now because we're in different conferences? At some point, when it's right for everybody with the different schedules, I would love to play Texas A&M again."
Of course, no matter what Strong thinks, the problem from the Texas side is that athletics director Steve Patterson is already on record with his stance:
"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."
Not everyone is buying into Patterson's reasoning:
The idea that Texas playing A&M limits its ability to promote its brand across the country and world is completely insane.— David Ubben (@davidubben) April 14, 2015
Ubben goes on to argue that playing the rivalry game benefits both schools because casual fans will tune in to watch the game.
Regardless of the merits to that particular argument, the difference is between playing a historic rivalry and playing historic programs. Only a value judgement can determine whether one is better than the other, but consider the upcoming non-conference opponents for Texas -- Notre Dame, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, USC.
All of those programs are national brands that rank among the top 15 in all-time wins. Texas A&M? Perhaps more of a national brand now, but the Aggies rank No. 23 in all-time wins, so Texas A&M can't match those upcoming opponents in prestige.
So the practical problem right now is that Texas already has marquee non-conference match ups set, along with games against second-tier Power 5 programs like Maryland and South Florida. Throw in a lower-tier program and that's the ideal makeup for a non-conference schedule.
With that in mind, the Longhorns aren't in the market for a marquee opponent until 2025 and have at least two non-conference games scheduled until 2020.
According to Patterson, there's also a recruiting element to the equation:
You want to make sure you can recruit certain parts of the country besides Texas. Everybody knows we're here in Texas... People aren't overlooking us in our own backyard, but you want to have a presence in southern California. You want to have a presence in the Midwest. You want to have a presence in Florida. So, we look at that as a consideration at what our alumni, donors, and fans want to see in this building, and where they want to go on the road. They're excited to see those schools in this facility. They're excited as they can go on the road to The Big House in Michigan, or Ohio State stadium, or out to the Rose Bowl, places like that. That drives interest. That drives revenue. That drives the brand. That drives recruiting.
So when the Texas athletics director talks about expanding the Texas brand around the country, the type of non-conference games the Longhorns have on the future schedule is exactly what he's talking about.
Then there's the matter of A&M's desire to play again -- with the Aggies officially on the record as saying that they hope to play Texas in a BCS or playoff game (but apparently not in a bowl game), there's no real news here, just a chance for hot takes like a Bleacher Report accusing Texas of being scared of playing Texas A&M, even though the Aggie administration isn't exactly clamoring to renew the rivalry. And wasn't exactly clamoring to play the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl, even though the SEC might have made the game happen had the Aggie administration clamored for it.
The bottom line remains that Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC because it decided that was in the school's best interest, knowing full well that no longer playing in the same conference might kill the rivalry. And fair enough -- the move helped elevate the program's perception with recruits, improved the schedule, and helped fund the renovations that will arguably make Kyle Field the state's best football facility.
The Aggies finally made it out of big brother's shadow. Good for them. But until the Texas A&M administration starts saying publicly that it wants the game to happen and starts to engage in a dialogue with Texas about the game, this isn't on Patterson or the Longhorns.
Until that happens, there's no real news here, just hot takes and playing the blame game. In light of that, can we all agree not to bring this up again until there's actually something to talk about?