Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma fans unite against SEC's latest proposed move to 16 teams | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to The Town Talk

There are rivalries, and then there are college rivalries.

Kentucky-Louisville or North Carolina-Duke in basketball.

Michigan-Ohio State or Alabama-Auburn in football.

And then, there is Texas-Texas A&M.

It isn’t so much a rivalry as a way of life in the Lone Star State.

With few exceptions, you are either an Aggie – Gig’Em – or a Longhorn – Hook’em. The rivalry spills past the playing fields into the state capitol building in Austin. It doesn’t much matter whether a Democrat or Republican is in the governor’s office as it does which school they attended.

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Texas has long looked down on its A&M brethren. The level of contempt reached its zenith in 2011 when Texas struck its own deal with ESPN to form the Longhorn Network. The rest of the Big 12 was left out of the arrangement and it nearly spelled the end of the conference. A&M seized the opportunity to bolt to the SEC and escape Texas’ shadow.

In truth, Texas A&M to the SEC has been a strong marriage, allowing the conference to grab a lasting stronghold in Texas.

When news broke last week that Texas and Oklahoma were in negotiations to join the SEC, the timing was perfect as it came during Texas A&M’s turn at SEC Media Days. I don’t think it was a coincidence, nor do I think A&M was caught off guard like many others as Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork was the only AD to attend and address the media during the four-day extravaganza in Hoover, Alabama.

Bjork’s message was simple: He wants A&M “to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas."

That likely isn’t going to happen. Texas and OU both notified the Big 12 on Monday of their intent to not renew their broadcast rights when they expire in 2025, which is another way of saying they are leaving the conference.

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If there was any doubt about the superiority of the SEC when it comes to what truly matters in college athletics – money and power, both of which result from football – there is none now thanks to this move.

Oklahoma running back T.J. Pledger (5) breaks through the defensive line of Texas Longhorns during the Red River Showdown in 2020.

The fallout likely means the end of the Big 12, which has been teetering ever since the Longhorn Network was announced and A&M departed. It also should shake NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to the core. For years, there has been speculation about four 16-team super conferences breaking away from the rest of the NCAA. Thanks to the addition of Texas and OU, the SEC has its 16 teams.

For good, and for bad. The reaction among friends I have with ties to A&M, Texas and OU has been strongly against the move.

“I hate the SEC,” said the Sooner fan. “I personally don’t like the SEC. The whole chanting, SEC, SEC. I’ve had at least two or three LSU fans asking if I will chant SEC. I cheer for my school. I don’t have to cheer for my conference. My school is good enough. That is kind of my thing.”

Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) fights for yardage against Oklahoma Sooners defense in an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Another friend who is an LSU alum based in Houston, but whose daughter is a recent Texas grad, said his co-workers who root for Texas and Oklahoma are united against the moves.

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“Not one of them is in agreement with this move,” he said. “They’ve built bonds, friendly rivalries, traditions that forever will be broken. I’ve polled them all and I can’t find one of them that’s on board with this move.”

“Nobody I’ve talked with in Oklahoma is happy about it,” confirmed my OU friend.

If they are unhappy, imagine being an Aggie and seeing Texas invited to crash your exclusive neighborhood.

“They are running to the money and were losing in the recruiting battles,” said my A&M friend. “Hopefully, we get four votes no to block the move. We were hoping they would bankrupt themselves, not the Big 12.”

Oklahoma would come to the SEC in better shape than Texas, which has struggled in football for more than a decade. While my Sooner friend wonders why OU must be included in Texas’ move, he isn’t worried about fitting in.

“Am I worried about Oklahoma going to the SEC? No,” he said. “I think they’ll give Alabama a run. I feel sorry for Oklahoma State. I’m not a fan, but it is my state. I hate to see the Big 12 break up, but it has been coming for years.

“As long as we continue to play Texas and Oklahoma State, I’ll be fine.”

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.