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Jeff Eisenberg

Realignment threatens the historic Texas-Texas A&M rivalry

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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The Lone Star State's two most prominent schools apparently agree that the Big 12 cannot be salvaged without Nebraska, but Texas and Texas A&M have been unable to reach a consensus about what to do next thus far.

Texas wants to lead an exodus to the Pac-10. Texas A&M intends to at least explore the possibility of joining the SEC. And if neither side agrees to follow its counterpart, Orangebloods.com's Chip Brown suggests a rivalry steeped in more than a century of tradition could be the first major casualty of the latest wave of conference realignment.

If A&M splits off from Texas in this realignment, it might create a War-Of-The-Roses style divorce. UT officials probably would not be eager to schedule the Aggies in anything, anytime soon. There would be the risk of losing 100-plus years of tradition, including the driving force behind the Aggies' very fight song (which starts: "Good-bye to Texas University ...).

Although Texas-Texas A&M has always been a more significant matchup in football than basketball, the lesson for hoops fans is that no rivalry is safe until conference realignment is over. Reports this week have suggested Utah could split with BYU to join the Pac-10, UCLA and Arizona could wind up in opposite halves of the same league and Kansas could part with both Missouri and Kansas State in a desperate bid to remain in a major conference.

The resistance to Texas A&M falling in line behind Texas and joining the new Pac-10 appears to originate with Gene Stallings, the former Alabama football coach who is now a regent at Texas A&M. Stallings confirmed to the Austin American Statesman that Texas A&M is looking into the SEC, adding that the Longhorns and Aggies splitting up is definitely "a possibility."

Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne also has concerns about traveling West for games all the way to California or the Pacific Northwest, but Orangebloods.com reports that he was unable to persuade his Texas counterparts at Thursday's meeting. Texas apparently has minimal interest in the SEC, preferring instead to join the new Pac-10 with its soon-to-be-former Big 12 South peers.

If Texas leads the Big 12 South contingent to the Pac-10 and Texas A&M waits too long to make a decision whether to join or not, the Aggies could be in danger of forfeiting their spot. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott might try to lure Kansas if it's amenable to splitting with Kansas State and Missouri or he might attempt to pluck Utah from the Mountain West.

Can Texas and Texas A&M athletics flourish without their rivalry? Of course. Texas' rivalry with Oklahoma is arguably more heated right now anyway and the Aggies have longstanding history with LSU and Arkansas of the SEC.

Still, it seems like a shame to give up on 100 years of history. Hopefully Texas and Texas A&M will work hard to preserve it.

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