Yes (and sorry): this was an April Fools’ joke, right down to the fake tweet. Thanks to all who laughed, and respect to those who couldn’t. As has been the case with everything about the rivalry, reactions were split (on both sides) between fans who desperately wanted this to be true (a majority, at least in our social media universe) and those taking the hard “we’re better off without ’em!” stance.
To be honest, we thought it was obvious by the fifth paragraph, but as one Ag tweeted at me, “I want to believe so badly that we’re gonna play again. [The quotes] were fishy but I didn’t care.”
The last paragraph did the job for most people, however. I mean, c’mon, Johnny Manziel won’t even be at A&M in 2015!
The stand-off only lasted for two seasons.
Sources close to Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst tell Texas Monthly that the University of Texas and Texas A&M are on the verge of signing a ten-year contract with ESPN’s pending SEC Network, as well as the Longhorn Network, to play football once again.
“At the end of the day, we’re all part of the same greater goal within the state of Texas,” one university official said. “As both higher education institutions and football programs, we have a noble obligation to fulfill. And that’s to create programming for cable television.”
The ground was laid for the renewal of the rivalry by the unlikely pair of Sharp and UT Board of Regents member Wallace Hall.
“From what I understand, they ran into each other at [Texas legislative watering hole] the Cloak Room,” said an Austin lobbyist who wished to stay anonymous. “After a few drinks, they realized that they both care deeply about the same thing: embarassing the University of Texas as much as possible.”
UT athletic department officials had been unhappy about the fact that ESPN plans to air the Aggies’ Maroon-and-White game April 13, whereas this past Saturday’s Orange-and-White game in Austin was only available on LHN. Conversely, A&M fans didn’t like the fact that ESPN seemed to “protect” UT-Baylor last October, forcing the Aggies into an 11 a.m. kickoff against LSU.
But it’s been speculated that once ESPN and the SEC put the finishing touches on their network, that will put pressure on such major providers as Time-Warner and DirecTV to also carry the LHN. Having the two networks switch off with an Aggies-Longhorns game each year should only help that process.
“I could get in a lot of trouble for telling you this, because it’s not part of the public contract,” said one official at the 40 Acres. “But there was a gentleman’s agreement that if UT didn’t win ten games for two straight years, ESPN could take over the entire football program.
“They’re not actually doing so, but they certainly forced this match-up down our throat. Of course, they’ve also got us playing on another Thursday this season. It’s like we’re in the MAC or something.”
An unnamed member of the Aggies’ football coaching staff told Texas Monthly that he’d heard that rumor too. “But I’m not gonna criticize the ‘Sips’ for that,” he said. “We’re doing it because ESPN said so too.
“Plus, let’s face it: we might not ever have a better season than we did last year, and we were still just fourth in the SEC. Playing for state bragging rights is still going to be worth something.”
Sources could not confirm the exact date of the first game, but this tweet from the LHN would seem to be a hint.
That would represent a departure from the rivalry’s Thanksgiving tradition, as November 28 is a Saturday. Presumably, there still would be a prime-time kickoff.
According to an associate of prominent UT athletics donors Joe Jamail and Red McCombs, the Longhorns’ refusal to continue playing A&M was never about money or conference bitterness.
“We just don’t like going places where there isn’t a Four Seasons,” the source said. “And what fun is visiting an SEC school when there’s not even a Waffle House?”
The source added that the Aggies’ plan to re-do Kyle Field changed everything.
“It’s gonna be nicer than DKR,” he said. “Luxury boxes, waiters, comfy chairs. It looks like the kind of place where there might be halftime tea service, if you get my drift. Anyone from Austin will feel right at home.”
To further highlight the new spirit of cooperation between the two teams, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has agreed to play 10 snaps for the Longhorns as a safety. The Aggies QB has also agreed to take UT offensive coordinator Major Applewhite out to a few student bars after the game.