Texas A&M missed chance to back 'we run this state' slogan
That’s cute, Aggies.
Texas A&M will participate in the Liberty Bowl in a Dana Holgorsen-Kevin Sumlin reunion, which already has provided entertainment. It’s also the launch site for this year’s Mississippi State team, which exploded on Rice in Memphis last year before proceeding to a 10-2 season. Not a bad path to emulate.
But to focus on the matchup against West Virginia and the possibilities in the SEC West for 2015 is to ignore the obvious: the Aggies should be preparing for the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl.
Texas A&M, which deployed the Twitter hashtag #WRTS this year (“We Run This State”), reportedly pushed behind the scenes to avoid playing Texas in a bowl game. It appears that the SEC, acting on behalf of the Aggies, made it known to any bowl game with Big 12 and SEC ties that the conference would nix any pairing between the two programs.
To be fair, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson previously said he has no desire to play Texas A&M in football. Securing a non-conference game in Mexico would do more to enhance the Longhorns brand and was a bigger priority, he maintained.
But it sure sounds like Texas A&M, enjoying a decided recruiting advantage in the Lone Star State over Texas in recent years, doesn’t want to risk that by facing the old Big 12 rivals and the long-time flagship program on the gridiron.
As of right now, Baylor and TCU “run this state,” falling just short of playoff bids while Texas A&M (7-5) and Texas (6-6) languish in mediocrity. Even with Sumlin’s strong recruiting and proven offensive system, as well as Charlie Strong’s track record, both programs are behind the Bears and Horned Frogs on the field right now.
Today’s recruiters have borrowed pages from the negative political attack ads that flood TV stations and websites every election season. In a state that loves the Second Amendment, how’s this for ammo: “That school over there with the cute little dog for a mascot? Yeah, they’re afraid to play us. Are you scared of competition? Is that really who you want to be?”
Texas A&M joined the SEC before the 2012 football season, severing a rivalry first played in 1894 and staged on an annual basis from 1898 to 2011. The programs have played 118 times. The Longhorns dominate the series and won nine of 12, including the final meeting in 2011, before it discontinued.
What happened to “don’t mess with Texas?” Isn’t this state the home of Remember the Alamo? Aren’t you trying to pump yourself up as the swashbuckling, Swagcopter-owning little brother now all grown up and ready to teach big brother a lesson?
Beating West Virginia in Memphis means nothing. Interest in Texas-Texas A&M would’ve turned the Texas Bowl into one of the premiere postseason matchups in all of college football this year, just behind the College Football Playoff, TCU-Ole Miss and maybe a few others.
At best, you beat the Longhorns, head into 2015 vindicated and continue the narrative fraught with a Texas-sized ego. At worst, you at least briefly renew the rivalry and reward the legions of fans and boosters that have lined your pockets with tens of millions of dollars the last few years with a thrilling bowl game.
Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather, anyone?
It’s reminiscent of the pooch kickoff in football, which if you ask me is the most detestable strategic decision in the sport. Coaches are afraid the other team’s kick returner will peel off a great return, so to avoid that risk, automatically hand the team good field position.
Sure, if Strong and the Longhorns embarrassed Texas A&M in a bowl game, it could constitute a setback in recruiting. But by avoiding the game, you’re handing Texas something they can use against you in the living room of some blue collar cattle rancher with calloused hands and a five-star linebacker as a son.
I realize that millions of dollars are at stake in each of these games. But isn’t it supposed to be just that? A game?
The SEC has mandated that each of its members play at least one power conference team in the non-conference schedule beginning in 2016. There are only four other power conferences, and if A&M and Missouri boycott the Big 12, that doesn’t leave many options.
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina all play in-state rivals out of conference each year. With the College Football Playoff committee placing such an emphasis on quality wins and strength of schedule, both the Longhorns and the Aggies need games like that to fulfill their ultimate aspirations.
Texas A&M, grow some cojones and seek a game with Texas or shut down #WRTS for good.