A call placed from new Texas Longhorns athletics director Chris Del Conte to his counterpart with the Texas A&M Aggies, Scott Woodward, during the spring once again reignited the years-old conversations about whether the old rivals will ever meet again on the gridiron.
When the Ohio State Buckeyes asked Del Conte to re-schedule a home-and-home series for 2022 and 2023 in order for the Buckeyes to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Del Conte started making other calls to fill that hole in the schedule.
One such call was made to Woodward, who declined, citing games already scheduled against Miami for those two seasons. And although the SEC plays four non-conference games, Woodward wasn’t willing to add another high-level program to the schedule despite two openings in each of those seasons.
Like many schools in the conference, A&M prefers to play teams like New Mexico and then schedule non-Power Five opponents that essentially serve as little more than scrimmages unless the program is in absolute disarray.
“We have a hell of a home schedule,” Woodward recently told the Houston Chronicle. “You have Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State rolling in here every other year, and Arkansas in Dallas every year. That’s a pretty darn good schedule. And as brutal and hard as our schedule is in the SEC West… it’s definitely the toughest division in football. That’s proven year in and year out.
“You look at where national championships come from, and the caliber of play, and you see it every week. It’s hard on a team, and it’s a pounding. So you have to be careful how you schedule your non-conference games.”
So the argument essentially boils down to this — the Aggies play in the best division in college football and went ahead and scheduled Miami, Notre Dame, and Arizona State through 2027, so there’s no way it would make sense for Texas A&M to schedule Texas.
That schedule is already too good.
Except that scheduling three weak non-conference opponents, all normally played at home, drags down the overall strength of schedule for the Aggies and dilutes that home slate that Woodward is crowing about.
Three of the seven homes this season will come against Northwestern State, ULM, and UAB.
And, in fact, while the Longhorns toiled in the supposedly mediocre Big 12 last season, Texas played the No. 17 schedule nationally, according to the FEI ratings, while A&M played the No. 40 schedule.
Things aren’t projected to change much in 2018 if ESPN’s FPI index is any indication — Texas projects to play the No. 4 schedule nationally, a significantly more difficult slate than the No. 29 schedule that Texas A&M will play.
To be fair, between 2013 and 2016, the Aggies encountered more difficult schedules in the SEC than the Longhorns did in the Big 12, but the different probably isn’t as stark as Woodward is trying to make it out to be.
For now, the Texas A&M athletics director won’t rule out reigniting the rivalry at some point in the distant future.
“With the right circumstances at the right time, but not right now,” Woodward said. “We already have some very good home-and-away non-conference games for our fans. It’s something coach (Jimbo) Fisher and I will talk about and consider, but it has to be at the right time and the right opportunity, when it works for both (schools).”
However, with Texas already working to schedule high-quality opponents for the non-conference slate from 2028 to 2031, the odds are decreasing quickly.
And perhaps it all makes sense — with A&M struggling to 8-5 records for three straight seasons before finishing with seven wins prior to Kevin Sumlin’s termination last year, scheduling those three easy wins is the difference between consistently becoming bowl eligible and staying home for the holidays.
Given that the SEC made sure bowl match ups between the two schools didn’t happen in 2014 or 2017, one might even accuse the Aggies of being scared to play the Longhorns. But that type of arrogant behavior is exactly why A&M left, right?
Now that the formerly big, mean Horns are wallowing in mediocrity in the Big 12, the truth of the matter at the moment, at least from the College Station perspective, is that Texas A&M is simply too good to play Texas any more.
Sounds kind of arrogant, but perhaps the Aggies are just too busy celebrating the national titles won by the Crimson Tide to really think about this deeply.