In his 13 years of coaching in the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry, head coach Mack Brown’s favorite memory is not a big win. Instead, it’s a moment. And his least favorite memory has almost nothing to do with the game itself.
That alone should be proof that this Thanksgiving battle was always bigger than the game.
“The best memory was watching Ricky Williams break the rushing record in 1998,” Brown said. “Tony Dorsett on the sidelines, Earl Campbell was there, [former Aggies] John David Crow and Gene Stallings were there.”
His most painful memory came a year later, when Texas A&M lost 12 students in the tragic collapse of the bonfire, a ceremonial construction in anticipation of the Texas game.
“As a parent, I would never want to bury a child,” he said. “It was one of the worst games of my life.”
The week of the bonfire accident, the game took a side-seat. Brown helped create a blood drive to aid those injured. During the game, the Longhorn band dedicated its performance to the Aggies.
As you should know, Thursday is the last scheduled game between the two. There’s more than enough blame to go around as to why — you can call the Aggies dumb or cowardly, or you can call Texas arrogant and its Longhorn Network unnecessary — but none of it matters anymore.
The two schools decided they didn’t need each other, that they would be fine without one another.
Brown calls the game the “only show in town.” It’s easy to see why. Longhorns and Aggies go to school together and work together and, every once in a while, live together. Don’t you remember that kid in elementary school, the one who was decked out in maroon, who you hoped you wouldn’t have to face the Monday after Texas lost. Can’t you picture that co-worker of the future, the one who sends you those “Saw ’em off” emails and stops by your cubicle to tell you 12 reasons why his Aggies are going to stomp your Longhorns?
All of that will fade away. Next year, you’ll be enjoying your turkey and pie with a game against Texas Tech.
To show you what can become of the Longhorn-Aggie feud, let me take you back a bit. It’s September of 2008, and Texas is playing Arkansas — a rival from the days of the Southwest Conference, now in the SEC. My Dad made me go to the game, made me sit in 100-degree temperatures to watch a 52-10 Texas beat down. He talked about the time in 1969 when Texas played the Razorbacks in what was dubbed the Game of the Century, all capped by a locker room visit from President Richard Nixon, who declared the Longhorns National Champions.
Some old-time Longhorns walked away from that 52-10 win thrilled they had beaten those damn Hogs. Everybody else couldn’t believe that atrocity of a game had actually meant something. Maybe that’s the fate of this rivalry. Sometime, in 15 or 20 years perhaps, the Longhorns and Aggies will come to an agreement and schedule an early-season, non-conference game. We’ll drag our children to it, telling them about a time when the game was the “only show in town” and remembering days of McCoys, Shipleys, Youngs and Williamses playing against Tannehills and McNeals, Goodsons and Nguyens, and that time when both communities banded together to help each other heal after an awful tragedy.
They probably won’t care about any of that stuff. They’ll ask why, if these two schools were such grand rivals, did they stop playing in the first place. Thoughts of the Longhorn Network and A&M’s move to the SEC will swirl through our minds, and we’ll shake our heads and wonder the same thing — how, why, would anybody let this great Thanksgiving rivalry die?
The answer? Somehow, it just didn’t mean enough anymore.
Printed on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 as: Storied rivalry comes to close as Aggies leave Big 12 for SEC