Call the Horns' Bluff. If A&M Joins the SEC, They Would Still Play Texas

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Call the Horns' Bluff. If A&M Joins the SEC, They Would Still Play Texas
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images

Enlightened self-interest.

That is the rationale that we are hearing from teams with regards to conference realignment.

It’s just enlightened self-interest. What is best for the school and the program. The best way that we can maximize revenues.

There are now reports that Texas A&M will not follow the lead of Texas and the rest of the bunch from the Big 12 South (sans Baylor) and join the Pac-10 in a new super conference.

Nope. Seems the Aggies want to go their own way and join the SEC. Enlightened self-interest, after all, works both ways.

This is not making the Longhorn brass happy. Led by Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, they have let it slip to the various press sources in the state that if Texas A&M joins the SEC, the annual series with Texas played on Thanksgiving is over.

Hmmmm…ever play Texas Hold 'Em? If you have, you know that sometimes people bluff, and bluff big. That is exactly what Dodds is doing here.

The whole rationale for conference realignment is, to put it politely, the aforementioned “enlightened self interest.”

To put it more crassly, in the words of the immortal Tom T. Hall, it’s all about one of the key factors in life, (along with faster horses, older whiskey, and younger women)...more money.

Jerry Jones, another noted philosopher of money, politics, and sports in the area has been famously quoted as saying “never let your money get mad.” 

In other words, don’t let your emotions overcome reason when it comes to maximizing your profits. And for Texas, keeping the Turkey Day clash, even if A&M joins the SEC, will maximize their profits.

The Turkey Day clash with A&M represents a lot of money for both teams. Not only is it an immediate sellout at inflated ticket prices, but it also is a huge television game.

As one of the only college games actually played on Thanksgiving Day, the game has become a watch not only in Texas, but nationally. 

It has become a tradition not only in Austin, but also in Boston to watch it after indulging in our annual pilgrimage to the sin of gluttony.

Why not? It’s on, you're full, and it is a good game.

These captive eyeballs translate into big ratings, way beyond many other traditional rivalries. This means big money.

So if your whole rationale for realignment is more money, why would you then get rid of one of your biggest money makers? 

Does it really matter that it is not a conference game? After all, the Red River rivalry the Horns have with the Sooners was a non-conference game for years and years.

There are also many other examples of non-conference rivalries, like Florida and Florida State; Georgia and Georgia Tech; and Clemson and South Carolina.

Another reason that it is in the interest of Texas to keep the game is scheduling.

Once the 16-team power conference format is adopted, league schedules will expand to nine teams, leaving three out-of-conference opponents. This will make out of conference scheduling tougher, not easier.

The networks, after all, are not throwing all this money around to watch compelling match ups like Texas vs. UTEP. Word has it that NBC is none too pleased with the Fighting Irish 2010 schedule, which includes Western Michigan and Tulsa. 

These ware not exactly the marquee match-ups they were seeking when they forked over the scratch to the good Padres in South Bend.

Thus, teams will need to schedule at least one, if not two, quality non-conference opponents to continue to rake in those TV dollars. Given the numbers, that will become more difficult. 

So why, please tell me, would you throw out a quality non-conference game? One which is guaranteed to sell out and be nationally televised during the biggest holiday of the year? (yes Virginia, Thanksgiving is bigger than Christmas, since non-Christians also celebrate it).

A game that will give you an automatic quality out-of-conference opponent.

If you are operating out of enlightened self-interest and not letting your money get mad, it just makes no sense. It does not maximize your profits.

Finally, there are the alumni.

Not just the rank and file, who would go ballistic if the game was called due to Dodds having a hissy fit. Also the big-time supporters.

I’m talking Mr. Tex Moneybags, who just signed a check for the new Moneybags Athletic Center, or other such tribute to his success at capitalism.

These guys have the number of not only Dodds, but also the entire university hierarchy. And they are not afraid to dial it.

If Dodds kills the Thanksgiving matchup, I guarantee there will be a bunch of angry calls from people who write checks with lots and lots of zeros at the end. Calls that will indicate that said checks may not be forthcoming if that boy does not come to his senses. 

Once again, were talking dollars and cents here. If the Horns want to maximize their alumni contributions, they have to be sensitive to their alumni wants and needs. And make no bones about it, the alumni most definitely want this game to continue.

Dodds is not a stupid man. He knows this.

He also knows that, with A&M, the new Pac-whatever super conference immediately trumps the SEC.

If the SEC can grab A&M, however, maybe not. After all, that will give those Southern boys inroads into Texas, and if they simultaneously attack and grab another Florida school, the dominance of the Pac-? would not be a done deal.

Therefore, he’s doing what any good poker player would do in his situation. He’s bluffing. Holding out and threatening the Aggies with the biggest weapon he has, the annual rivalry game.

Looked at dispassionately, however, you can see that he is actually holding a gun to his own head. He kills that game, and it will cost his program a lot of money and invaluable television exposure during, as aforementioned, the biggest at-home holiday of the year.

Dodd’s no dope. And he is not going to let his money get mad. If A&M goes to the SEC, he’ll keep the Thanksgiving game.

Not because he’s a nice guy, or cares about tradition, or any such stuff.

He’ll keep it because that is how the Longhorns will maximize their dollar return. 

That is what it’s all about.

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