It’s that time of year where the same questions are always brought up at Big 12 Media Days and SEC Media Days.
- Will the College Football Playoff expand?
- Where does the conference stand in realignment?
- Will Texas and Texas A&M ever renew its rivalry?
While Tom Herman said he’d like to see the rivalry renew, which you can read about here, Jimbo Fisher said “only if it benefits Texas A&M”. Right off the bat, I can think of how this rivalry is really one-sided in benefits.
The benefits of the Lone Star Showdown are far greater for the Aggies than the Longhorns. Texas is a national brand. This isn’t conjecture. It’s pure fact.
First off, Austin is a town with tourism. Celebrities live there including Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Willie Nelson. College Station is known for, well, Texas A&M University. That’s it. If you don’t go to College Station, there really isn’t a reason for you to come within several miles of being there. Austin is known for excellent food, world-renowned music festivals and Sixth Street. The only recognition College Station’s Northgate District ever receives is when Johnny Manziel gets arrested there.
Even the other major in-state universities are in a town known for something more than just its university. Lubbock, quite frankly, is a music hub. It’s home to the Buddy Holly Center and the Maines family has major roots there. Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks, despite her hatred for the town’s conservative political climate, is a Texas Tech alum. Although Baylor is well-known for the rampant sexual assault case from the Art Briles era, many see Waco as a tourist attraction thanks to the marketing of Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Again, College Station is only there for those who attend Texas A&M. There really isn’t anything else.
Two of my high school years were spent living in southern New Jersey. No one has ever heard of Texas A&M there. You’ll never find an Aggie flag or decal anywhere. What you will find are people who root for Texas. These people have no connections to the Longhorns, but they purchase Longhorns merchandise. That merchandise markets the school to other people in New Jersey, and that’s how a brand is built: recognition. New Jersey is mostly interested in professional sports. Cowboys fans are shunned upon. My classmates would bring binders to school with a picture of Tony Romo’s famous botched hold against the Seattle Seahawks. Eagles fans take pride in watching a Cowboys blunder. However, many of these same Eagles fans rooted for the Texas Longhorns. You never heard any mentions of Oklahoma. Every once in a while, a Penn State shirt would pop up. Rutgers was really just a place to go to school, despite being the birthplace of college football. However, everyone knew who the Texas Longhorns were and the brand was on proud display of those same Philadelphia Eagles fans.
This is why it benefits Texas A&M. It’s marketing. It’s brand recognition. When you play Texas, the world watches. Despite what ESPN thinks, Alabama isn’t a worldwide brand. In fact, I did not know one single fan of an SEC team during my two years living 45 minutes away from Philadelphia. Even growing up for the first 15 years of my life in the north suburbs of Houston, there were more Rice baseball fans than there were of any SEC team at that time. Being back in the north suburbs of Houston, I do notice a few more Alabama car decals. My neighbor across the street proudly displays a Clemson flag. But that’s mostly because so many folks are moving to Texas. It has an amazing economy. The state income tax is at zero percent. The quality of life is better in Houston than it is at most places in the United States.
Still, Texas A&M doesn’t reach the New Jersey market. Quite frankly, it never will while it’s in the SEC. Play Texas, and someone will notice you. It’s cheaper than paying Jimbo Fisher $75 million over a 10-year period. The Aggies were lucky to ever be in a BCS game. After Ohio State went up 21-7 in the 1999 Sugar Bowl, people were turning the dial. Just before they changed the channel, those avid college football fans probably said “I don’t know this maroon team, but they sure can’t compete against the Buckeyes.”
Since 1998, the Aggies have failed to return to a conference championship game. The best postseason they’ve had is a pre-New Year’s Six appearance in the Cotton Bowl. Despite what A&M fans believe, they’re really on the same marketing level as Texas Tech. Except, wait a minute. Mike Leach placed Texas Tech on the map with his famous air raid. The NFL knows who Texas Tech is and hired a former Leach quarterback to lead one of its teams after Tech fired him (Kliff Kingsbury anyone?). Leach got future President Donald Trump on board as a Red Raiders fan before his controversial firing. The Red Raiders are now known nationally as a basketball school because of their recent appearance in the 2019 National Championship. Texas A&M basketball has never advanced past the Sweet Sixteen. The Aggies aren’t a national brand. Heck, a Texas Tech jersey even appears in Nelly’s “Air Force Ones” music video. The number one thing Texas A&M is known for nationally is Johnny Manziel. He’s been a bust and Baker Mayfield has taken over as the NFL’s image of a “bad boy” quarterback. Unfortunately, something else Texas A&M has made headlines for is the multiple times a racist occurrence has taken place on campus. In fact, those headlines occurred again in the past week.
Texas A&M needs Texas. Playing the Longhorns would benefit the Aggies far greater than it would benefit the Longhorns. Marketing wise, the Aggies don’t need to return to the Big 12, but until they embrace the rivalry against their in-state rival, they will always be seen in Texas as the envious little brother. Above the Mason-Dixon Line and west of the Rocky Mountain, Texas A&M isn’t seen at all.
To Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M benefits from playing Texas far greater than the Longhorns ever will. Clear up some schedule room, pencil the Longhorns into your schedule and tell Texas you want to renew the Lone Star Showdown.
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