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BON Roundtable: Sark, Longhorns win another battle against Texas A&M

Plus, new transfer windows in college football and Nick Saban’s thoughts on the mega-conferences

Sam Khan Jr./The Athletic

Steve Sarkisian added their 19th commit in the 2023 class, this time in the form of 4-star CB Malik Muhammad. Muhammad joins Johntay Cook and Billy Walton as another recruiting win for Texas over Texas A&M. With Texas ranked 3rd in the ‘23 class and the Aggies down in…hold on…still scrolling…geez how far down are th- okay found them, 62nd, is the Aggies no longer a threat to Texas in recruiting?

Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - Don’t let the recruiting ranking fool you. A&M may be in a bit of a lull right now, but they absolutely have a recruiting staff that can recruit and they will get their share of recruits in time. Even though it feels like Texas is getting everyone right now, things will eventually even out a bit and A&M will get rolling because they know they have to respond quickly.Texas positioned itself nicely by landing Arch Manning and capitalized on the momentum that followed his commitment, but they will have to be sure to take care of business on the field if they want this wave of momentum to carry them to the early signing period.

Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) - When you asked me this question on The Horn last week, I didn’t have an answer about what’s going on with Texas A&M recruiting and I still don’t have an answer now. With a big head-to-head battle still looming with No. 1 linebacker Anthony Hill, it’s still too early to make any big, bold statements about the Longhorns surpassing the Aggies, especially because Jimbo Fisher and his staff signed an insanely good class in 2022. Texas A&M’s presence in the SEC, the facilities, and the proximity to Houston will ensure that the Aggies will always be a threat to the Horns in recruiting. There’s just a major downward trend right now in College Station as the Arch Effect buoys the state’s flagship university.

Nik Patel (@NothingbutNik) – I mean Texas did get many of these commits after the Arch Manning announcement, so it can be partially attributed to that. I am also surprised Texas landed Malik Muhammad because the other four star CB from South Oak Cliff, Jayvon Thomas, committed to A&M in April. Jimbo Fisher seems to have figured out how to operate in the gray area of NIL deals and recruiting, and while it’s upsetting to Nick Saban, he is simply just playing the game as it stands right now. Austin has more businesses who want to become involved, and as a booming city, it could hold that edge over A&M in the future.

Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - As much fun as it is to gloat in Aggie tears, the dry spell won’t last for A&M. I expect them to land 5-stars David Hicks and Hykeem Williams plus a few others that will turn their class around. The interesting battle will be for Denton Ryan 5-star Anthony Hill. If Texas wins that battle, it’ll signify the Horns controlled the state of Texas in 2023 but we saw how landing one player (Arch Manning) really turned things around for Sark. Maybe A&M gets that guy in 2024 that leads to a big class for the Aggies? Either way, Texas and Texas A&M will be in a constant battle.

At this week’s SEC Media Days, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he believes the mega-conferences will create a “caste system” that will favor the SEC and Big 10. This will benefit schools like Texas, Texas A&M, and Alabama but does it ruin college football in the process?

Daniel - I kinda feel like there already was a caste system in place when you think about it prior to these realignments, except instead it favoring two conferences it favored the Power Five. College football has been trending this way for years now and it all comes down to where the money is going to be. I don’t think it will necessarily ruin college football, because at the end of the day people will show up and the games will be played. The show will go on and I think people who are clinging to the old days of college football are going to have to adjust because this is just the way things are trending right now.

Wescott - College football at the highest levels has always trended against parity. Before scholarship limits, the top programs stockpiled top players. Heading into the more modern era, television contracts further entrenched the haves and the have nots in the sport. Arms races in facilities and support staff size combined with the latest moves in realignment to exacerbate the sport’s inequality. Add in the spineless and ineffectual nature of the NCAA and it’s easy to take a clear view of the sport trending in this direction for a long time. So I don’t think viewing it as “ruining” college football is the right approach to take – it’s just been inevitable, and at that point, the only hope is that the television networks that call the shots preserve enough about college football to continue making it appealing. And I think that’s happened because if these moves actually threatened the bottom line, the shot callers wouldn’t have called these shots. There is always collateral damage in losing some rivalries, but especially for Texas, the move to the SEC will be a net positive.

Nik – I think just like any professional league, the landscape will always change in a sports league. Old heads will always be upset about ruining tradition, putting asterisks on records, and thinking programs are only making money-based decisions. At the end of the day, fans want exciting football. This gradual conference realignment will ultimately group teams with massive football programs, historically, financially, and talent-wise to face each other more often. Nobody needs to see Alabama wreck Louisiana-Monroe this year. If the CFP isn’t getting reformed for 8, 12, or even 16 top teams to be able to face each other, then allow top-level teams to compete amongst one another earlier on by putting them in the same pool. Saban shouldn’t think of it as a caste system so much as the D1 simply separating out into more tiers. It leads to quality games and championships that feel more meaningful. Who knows, maybe they even adopt a premier league-like promotion and relegation system?

Cameron - Look at the College Football Playoff every year and the teams that get in. It’s mostly made up of the schools in the Big 10 and the SEC. And the schools that have made it outside those conferences (Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington), will soon be in the Big 10 and SEC. Notre Dame is the only outlier. The current structure has and always will benefit the mega conferences.

A new NCAA rule proposal would allow transfer portal windows in the winter and the spring, allowing players to be immediately eligible to play if approved by the Division 1 board. Are you for or against this proposal?

Daniel - I’m very pro-player when it comes to this kind of stuff so I’m all for allowing these kids to make decisions to move on to another school if they feel it’s in their best interest without having to lose a year. I’m glad the days of schools and coaches being able to control transfer destinations are way in the rearview because it allowed them to mess with a kid's future. Just like with the original idea of the portal there will need to be some guidelines in place so that it isn’t abused, but I like the idea overall. I think those periods in the winter and spring make sense because that’s typically when guys are looking to transition out of a school anyway, so it works for me.

Wescott - On the surface, it makes sense to have transfer windows to reduce the uncertainty for all the parties involved, from the programs to the athletes to the recruits. But I think the proposal to only have transfer windows after the football season and after spring practice is unnecessarily restrictive and will exacerbate some problems like tampering that the transfer portal was created to involve. Take Joshua Moore, for instance – he had issues with the Texas coaching staff last year and would have left the program and then had to wait for several weeks before being able to enter the portal. Does that actually benefit anyone? If a key purpose of the transfer portal is to avoid the tampering that existed previously, reducing the transfer portal windows to a total of 60 days per year seems like reactionary regression. There’s probably a middle ground here that would allow for some larger windows or perhaps another transfer window entirely.

Nik – I’m all for player empowerment, and the portal doesn’t need to be that stringent. I don’t think reducing the window to 60 days would reduce the total number of transfers, it would just mean more per day which will mean more difficult time-crunching decisions to make by players and programs alike.

Cameron - This proposal is very similar to how professional soccer works and I’m all for it. Soccer has two transfer windows, one during the season and one after, and while the D-1 proposal would be after the regular season and spring practice, it’s two ideal timeframes for programs to add new players and see which ones are leaving. Possibly adding a third one during the summer before fall camp could be a good idea but for now I like what they’re doing.

Texas dropped their new gameday fits for the upcoming season that doesn’t feature the Longhorns logo. Thoughts on the classic home threads?

Daniel - A nice clean look. I’m not one who gets too up in arms about the uniforms, but they were getting carried away with how many logos and stuff they had on the front.

Wescott - Less is always more for a Texas football uniform and I support any move in that direction. These should be some of the best uniforms in school history, with the only caveat some increased difficulty in identifying players from the press box without the numbers on the uniform. But I think I’ll survive and so should the rest of the beat writers in the name of keeping the look clean and iconic.

Nik – It’s the age of minimalism and they look cleeeaaannnnn. As far as the removal of the Longhorn logo at the top of the jersey, could break the end of the curse since they were put on in 2012. I’ve always been a fan of the icy white away uniforms, but I think we could use an oranged-out look for one game a year.

Cameron - Love them. I did like the Longhorn logo on the front but as long as it’s simple and burnt orange, I won’t complain.