It was as though Texas and Texas A&M never stopped playing one another.
The rivalry between the Longhorns and Aggies has been defunct across the three major sports—football, baseball and men's basketball—since A&M moved to the SEC. Although A&M initially brought the "anytime, anywhere" challenge, that talk has since quieted down.
And, for the 1,000th time, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson reaffirmed to every reporter who asked that he wasn't interested in rekindling anything with the Aggies.
But the hatred was reignited last weekend when the two programs met in the Houston Regional of the College World Series. When Texas took the first game on Friday, 8-1, it was hardly business as usual.
Afterward, Patterson emerged from the press box with the first swing:
That's all it took. If baseball was the lighter fluid, Patterson was the match.
When A&M staved off double elimination by beating Texas on Sunday, pitcher Taylor Stubblefield gave the signature "Horns down" sign. And when Texas prevailed 4-1 over A&M on Monday to advance to the Super Regionals, players in burnt orange turned those horns right-side up for A&M to see.
And, then, as it so often does, the Internet exploded.
A&M fans were sniping at Texas beat writers:
Geoff Ketchum of Orangebloods.com and Good Bull Hunting of SB Nation got into it, too. The whole exchange, which lasted from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, was then beautifully documented to enjoy all over again.
But this was just another series, right?
As David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest perfectly explains—with a heap of sarcasm—"You should definitely believe what fans and administrators in Austin and College Station tell you on the days Texas and Texas A&M don't play: This isn't a rivalry."
Maybe not in the sense that the two meet on a regular basis, but there's no denying the bitterness toward one another is real and goes beyond the playing field. It's fun for the rest of us to watch, and too much fun to limit to a long weekend once in long while.
To be clear, this isn't a request for Patterson to call up Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman and ask if he wants to resume a series in football. This is a request for Patterson to call Hyman and ask him how many more times he wants to lose to Texas in football so he can make note of it in the quarterly newsletter. This is a request for Hyman to tell Patterson it would be a shame to embarrass the Longhorns in front of all the 4- and 5-star recruits they're not going to get.
This is a request for Texas and Texas A&M to be honest with themselves—and each other.
The call isn't limited to the state lines of Texas. Pitt and West Virginia: We're looking your way. You too, Kansas and Missouri.
Enough time has passed. Acting like that other team doesn't matter anymore is tired and no longer remotely believable. Remember when lowly Pitt stunned West Virginia in the 2007 Backyard Brawl by keeping the Mountaineers from playing in the BCS championship? Or when Kansas and Missouri combined for 28 points in the final seven minutes of their 2008 edition of the Border War?
Or, even, remember when all hatred was put aside during a moment of humanity?
There's a lot of history that was quickly undone when programs went their separate ways. That doesn't mean, though, that the history is easy to forget. Of all the things that are supposedly awful for college football—paying players, unionization, expanded playoffs and the like—nothing has been worse for the passion of the sport than conference realignment.
Of course, other defunct rivalries are getting new life. Pitt has upcoming games against Penn State; West Virginia has future games scheduled against Virginia Tech. This is progress in a post-realignment world.
But with the SEC and ACC staying at eight conference games, there's no reason for there not to be room on the schedules of A&M, Missouri and Pitt for non-conference rivalries on, at least, a semi-regular basis.
Even though the Big 12 plays a nine-game conference schedule, there's almost always room for one key out-of-conference game. If Texas is committed to scheduling big names like USC, Notre Dame and Ohio State, it can be committed to scheduling A&M.
It's a two-way street. That makes scheduling more difficult, but not impossible. If two sides want to get it done, they will.
After watching the drama unfold between Texas and A&M this past weekend, it's harder to believe the charade is legit.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.
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