When Texas A&M left the Big 12 Conference for the SEC in August of 2011, many thought that the second verse of the Aggie War Hymn would need an update.
The verse, which starts “Good-bye to Texas University/So long to the orange and white,” focuses exclusively on the team that was then A&M’s chief rival – The University of Texas Longhorns.
But in the wake of conference realignment, those teams don’t play each other anymore, nor will they for the foreseeable future. So if the on-field rivalry is dead, shouldn’t the verse change?
Not necessarily. Not with football recruiting in the state of Texas.
Though Texas’ and Texas A&M’s football teams may no longer play each other, their competition to lure top Texas talent is fiercer than ever before – and this year’s class could shape the future of college football in the state.
Texas has been the state’s dominant recruiting power over the last 10 years. According to rivals.com, 12 five-star and 115 four-star recruits from Texas have committed to the Longhorns between 2004-2013, whereas Texas A&M landed three five-star and 53 four-star, in-state recruits during that same period.
That trend is changing though. Since Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin arrived in College Station in December of 2011, Texas A&M has challenged Longhorn recruiting supremacy. Of those 53 four-star recruits that Texas A&M signed over the past 10 years, Sumlin recruited over one third of them.
“It got to a point to where it went from, ‘They’re going to get their brains beat out [in the SEC],’ and now people are saying ‘Don’t to [Texas A&M] because they’re loaded,’” Sumlin said to The Dallas Morning News.
A&M isn’t just making recruiting more difficult for Texas — it’s consistently signing players who might otherwise be Longhorns.
For the class of 2014, the Aggies have already beat out the Longhorns for some of the most highly-rated players in Texas. The best two linebackers in the state (La Porte’s Hoza Scott and Gilmer’s Josh Walker), along with Nederland defensive tackle DeShawn Washington and West Mesquite safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner all picked A&M over Texas, forcing Texas to accept commitments from less-heralded players. Two members of the 2013 class, Sealy athlete Ricky Seals-Jones and Lancaster defensive end Daeshon Hall, verbally committed to Texas before ultimately signing with Texas A&M.
But the Longhorns won’t give up the title of top dog without a fight. Cypress Falls’ outside linebacker Otaro Alaka chose the Longhorns over the Aggies last week, which lurched Texas ahead of Texas A&M for the nation’s top spot in 247sports.com’s 2014 team recruiting rankings (the only rankings to be released thus far). And with the 2014 class shaping up to be one of the best the state has seen, whichever program ends up on top come national signing day may be the next to bring a title to Texas.
It may be quite a few Thanksgivings before the Aggies and Longhorns take the same field, but that doesn’t mean the rivalry is over. Even though it’s being played in field houses and living rooms instead of DKR or Kyle Field, it’s still alive, and it’s still important.
Go ahead and keep the War Hymn as-is, A&M.