Frustrated after watching another rivalry weekend pass quietly in Texas, a state lawmaker thinks it’s time for the Legislature to step in to require the University of Texas and Texas A&M University to get back to playing football once a year around Thanksgiving.
State Rep. Lyle Larson, a San Antonio Republican and A&M graduate, filed a bill Tuesday to require the schools to meet on the football field on the fourth Thursday, Friday or Saturday of November.
“There’s a huge hole in rivalry weekend, and it’s A&M and Texas not playing each other,” Larson said. “I think we’re depriving generations if we don’t restore this.”
Larson might be unaware that Texas tried to reschedule A&M, but the Aggies said no thanks. UT Athletic Director Chris Del Conte reached out to his A&M counterpart Scott Woodward and offered to play in 2022-23.
Woodward said A&M was already booked. So Del Conte signed a home-and-home agreement to play Alabama.
The Longhorns-Aggies game was an annual event for almost 100 years before the final game was played in 2011 — a 27-25 victory for UT on a last-second field goal — but the matchup ended when A&M moved to the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
Larson said he grew up eating Thanksgiving dinner early so he could drive to Austin or College Station to watch the game with his dad (A&M class of 1956) and brother, who broke a few family hearts when he chose to become a Longhorn because he wanted to play for Coach Darrell Royal at UT. Mark Larson played linebacker in the early 1970s.
“It was tantamount to him defecting to the Soviet Union,” Larson recalled, adding that he and his brother still get into frequent discussions about the merits of their chosen schools.
That’s the kind of intensity that has been missing in Texas since the annual game was canceled, and Larson said he hopes his bill will pressure school leaders to renew what he calls “one of the greatest rivalries in the history of college football.”
“It’s just nudging both schools to say it’s time we stopped the nonsense. These two schools should play each other. They’re embedded in each other’s fight songs. This game is a large part of Texas football folklore,” he said.
And if no deal is struck, the Legislature could be ready to act.
“If they get dug in because of egos, if they don’t want to recognize the heritage of this rivalry, the Legislature, we have a lot of bills to deal with, but this can be one of the fun ones. We’ll have a robust discussion about whether this should be part of the legislative process, but a lot of people are tired of this game not being played,” Larson said.
Unlike a similar bill that went nowhere in 2013, Larson believes his idea can catch on during the 140-day legislative session that begins in January. Within hours of filing House Bill 412, Larson said he had heard from more than a half-dozen House members of both parties who want to add their names to the legislation.
“If there’s a willingness to do it, we can restart this rivalry in 2019,” Larson said.
As added incentive, if the UT-A&M game is not scheduled, Larson’s bill would deprive both schools of football scholarships that receive state money.
“I just think we’re losing one of the purposes of collegiate athletics: so folks can enjoy it and be entertained by it. And there’s nothing more entertaining in the state of Texas than watching an A&M and University of Texas football game,” he said.