The athletic officials at Texas A&M and Texas have seemingly done everything in their power to avoid one another in football and men’s basketball, since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 four years ago for SEC prominence.
And yet, the scheduling gods still like to conspire against both schools, acknowledging this bitter divorce with more amusement than sympathy.
Take the Bahamas-based Battle 4 Atlantis hoops tourney from last Thanksgiving weekend: Even with a high-profile field of Syracuse, Gonzaga, Connecticut, Michigan, Washington, Charlotte, Texas and Texas A&M, tournament organizers still made a point of pitting the Longhorns and Aggies together in the opening round.
(Texas A&M won on that day, 84-73.)
Fast forward to the present: The NCAA tournament committee, which seldom passes on the opportunity to plausibly create made-for-TV matchups in the early rounds, has taken the drama to a new level in the West region.
For the Oklahoma City sub-regional, 3-seed Texas A&M and 6-seed Texas will meet on Sunday, if the two schools prevail on Friday against Green Bay and Northern Iowa, respectively.
And for the Round of 32 winner … A&M or Texas would most likely draw hated Oklahoma (2-seed) in the Sweet 16 round.
The NCAA committee even has a Plan B for that part of the West region, establishing the possibility of Texas taking on VCU (Sweet 16 round) — the former hub of current Longhorns hoops coach Shaka Smart.
Back to Texas A&M and Texas: How long will this bad blood exist between the two programs? And from an outsider’s perspective … what’s the root of such animosity?
Ask a Texas A&M fan about the rift … and they’ll point to the general arrogance of the Texas brass (and fan base). They might even express dismay over UT’s creation of The Longhorn Network (foregoing the all-inclusive conference model used by the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12), along with the Longhorns’ very-public threat of leaving the Big 12 earlier in this decade.
Ask a Texas fan about the rift … and they’ll simply say Texas A&M chose to go its own way, upon joining the SEC in 2012. As such, there’s a substantial price to be paid for the abandonment.
There might also be some lingering resentment about A&M producing two first-round NFL quarterbacks in the last four years (Ryan Tannehill, Johnny Manziel) … while Texas has incurred three losing seasons this decade — largely due to inconsistency among the QBs.
The University of Texas has undergone some changes at the top in recent years. But the parting words of former athletic director DeLoss Dodds (circa 2013) still probably ring true, amid the specter of the Longhorns and Aggies meeting again on a football field.
“(Texas A&M) left,” Dodds said three years ago. “They’re the ones that decided not to play us. We get to decide when we play again. I think that’s fair. If you did a survey of our fans about playing A&M, they don’t want to. It’s overwhelming. I know. I hear it. Our fans are important to us. I think there’s got to be a period where things get different. I think there’s too many hard feelings.”
From 1915-2011, Texas and Texas A&M squared off every year on the football field. But there aren’t any future meetings on the horizon.
Perhaps this might change over time. Or, maybe the ball gets rolling this weekend, given how Texas and Texas A&M officials will occupy the same space around Oklahoma City.
For those who think a reconciliation or civil truce cannot be reached, how about this:
From 1922-82, Kentucky and Louisville basketball never scheduled a head-to-head meeting during the regular season, depriving Bluegrass State fans of an annual bragging-rights showdown between the schools.
But when the national powers were obliged to meet in a 1983 NCAA regional final (Louisville prevailed 80-68 in overtime), the post-game euphoria of the titanic matchup prompted Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. to demand an annual clash between Louisville and Kentucky — a politically savvy tradition which remains today.
And we have the NCAA tournament committee to thank for it.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.