Friendly Rivalry or Hostile Neighbors?

In light of Texas' substantial advantage in the win column of this series, there's some truth to the notion that Longhorns look at Aggies as the pest down the street, while Aggies view their opponent as a blueblood bully, one it constantly attempts to unseat. Regardless, this long-running series has had its share of venom, "neighborly" proximity notwithstanding.

In fact, it is the geographic closeness (less than 100 miles apart) that fuels the passions between these two schools. In a state the size of Texas, that's considered nearby neighbors. Rather than a friendly spirit, though, these schools are in bitter competition for the same prizes.

Texas tends to believe it's already in possession of the King of the Lone Star State title, and A&M seems, at least, to always be looking up, sometimes just a little, other times with a crick in the neck. As longtime Longhorn athletics director DeLoss Dodds arrogantly stated, "We're not keeping up with the Joneses, we are the Joneses."

Such is the perception and, to real degree, the reality. Both schools have their share of pluses, but Texas is, at least to Longhorns and much of the rest of the nation, "The University (of Texas)."

In response, Aggies attempt to demean Texas with labels of "t.u.," small letters further denoting simply Texas University, another school in the state rather than the flagship school the Austinites present themselves to be. A&M further reflects its obsession by integrating a heavy dose of anti-Longhorn rhetoric in many of its cherished and longstanding traditions.

But that fails to change the fact the rest of the nation largely determines the fortunes of Texas area football not by how Texas A&M performs, but how Texas does. A&M, hating the idea or not, needs a strong Texas to give its success meaning. Texas, however, does not need a potent A&M, as 2005's national championship season reminds.

The competitive spirit (even if not always results) of these two unfriendly neighbors can be seen in the frequent exclusive nature of one's success at the expense of the other. Oftentimes, when one is strong, the other is weak. Both the common recruiting grounds and conference affiliations almost mandate this.

This rivalry is one-sided in that Texas has basically doubled A&M's win total in head up contests, with the overall record of 73-36-5. Texas rolled to a 38-0 win in 1894 to start things off and promptly shut out Texas A&M the first eight times they played.

By 1909, the Aggies had had enough and hired industrious Charley Moran. When a faculty member asked Moran what he was teaching his players about being good losers, he responded, "I didn't come here to lose."

That will to win apparently trumped its Code of Honor which states "Aggies do not lie, cheat or steal, nor do they tolerate those who do," with history repeatedly showing that to be the case. Moran, as time discovered, utilized players long on talent but woefully short on academics.

The combination of this, annual game fistfights amongst students, and the Longhorns' charging of "dirty tactics" by Moran's kids led Texas to bitterly cancel the series following its 1911 victory that broke the Aggies' three-game victory string.

The tenuous rivalry renewed in 1915, with the game played at College Station for the first time. With tensions still at a peak and Texas having insisted on Charley Moran's ouster in order to continue the series, A&M prevailed anyway, 13-0.

Moran may have moved on, but he'd given Texas A&M a new standard, a new outlook that included its share of victories over the hated ‘Horns.

Revealing its own cravings, Texas fired highly successful Berry Whitaker in 1922 because he had tied and then lost to the Aggies, the latter in Austin—only Texas' third home defeat against A&M in 16 battles.

The Moran momentum culminated in Texas A&M's first and only national championship in 1939 under Homer Norton. The Aggies could look back at Charley Moran's arrival three decades before and see it had won 14, lost 13 and tied two against hated Texas and now boast a bigger title than Texas could yet claim.

Longhorns could deem Aggies as those "simple-minded farm boys (first female not admitted until 1963) who were thrilled to wear soldier suits," as an observer once stated, but A&M now had scoreboard, the biggest voice of all.

But Texas, growing more restless, had already begun countering Texas A&M's successes by hiring a former Aggie coach who had had even greater success than Charley Moran, Dana X. Bible. The University paid Bible an unheard of amount at the time, further proving the ever growing emphasis on football and, yes, beating Texas A&M.

The Bible era at Texas struggled early, going only 8-18-1 in his first three years (1937-'39). But when his program blossomed in Austin, it cracked the foundation of an A&M program that soon eroded into annual mediocrity.

Homer Norton, riding the momentum of his Aggies' national title in 1939, enjoyed another two years of excellent football, winning the Southwest Conference in 1940 and '41 as well. Amidst this, though, Texas began taking over the head-to-head battles, first beating the Aggies in Austin, 7-0 in '40, followed by another shutout, 23-0 in College Station.

A&M suffered a dramatic drop in 1942 (4-5-1) that coincided with the United States' involvement in World War II, while Texas continued to fly high. The legendary Norton still had a couple of decent (albeit not stellar) squads during the war years, but Texas had well established itself as the superior state program.

The private schools (SMU, TCU and Rice) derailed Texas' runaway train as conference heavyweight during various parts of the 1940s and 1950s, though the ‘Horns hooked several SWC trophies in the process.

Texas also continued to dominate a moribund Texas A&M program, leading Aggies to forever strive to overcome their embarrassing gridiron dungeon dwelling.

In 1954, A&M hit a winner, hiring Kentucky's Paul "Bear" Bryant, a young but highly demanding leader who possessed zero tolerance for anything short of excellence. Building an infinite inner fortitude from the infamously brutal Junction camp, his program eventually rose to prominence, going unbeaten in 1956 and seizing A&M's first SWC title in 15 years.

This proved a blip on the screen of futility, though, as Bryant was "called home" to Alabama shortly thereafter, leaving A&M in what would become a familiar refrain through the years—sanctions from the NCAA for football rules violations.

Despite Bear's overall success, he struggled in defeating Texas one time, 1956, the Longhorns' worst season ever (1-9 record). And while that game reminded that one's uprising was often at the other's expense, it also illustrated the longstanding uphill battles Texas A&M faced, barely breaking a longtime Austin jinx that had held serve since 1924.

Stated a shaken Bryant, "We were about five touchdowns better than Texas, yet I recall we were leading by only one score as late as the fourth quarter."

With the coming of Darrell Royal, the narrow triumph would be the Ags' last over the Longhorns for many seasons, as Texas fans experienced an overwhelming 31-3-1 record over their "beloved" neighbors from 1940 through 1974.

Much as Texas had turned the tide by hiring an Aggie's coach, Texas A&M began changing things when it lured Emory Bellard from Texas in 1972.

Bellard had been the ‘Horns offensive coordinator that brought The University the Wishbone offense, a 30-game winning streak, and two of its four national titles. Though wins were hard to come by early, he already had the Aggie offense humming in 1973, his second season. The following year would truly begin A&M's ascension from the depths.

Aggies had endured losing to Darrell Royal 17 of 18 times before former assistant Bellard upended Royal's Longhorns in 1975 and again the following year. By 1978, the Aggies' highly successful Wishbone leader left in the wake of tremendous alumni criticism following some struggle, but A&M had regained its football footing.

Texas A&M, on the strength of the Jackie Sherrill-R.C. Slocum era that was launched in 1982, has carried itself quite well against Texas. Over the last quarter century in this rivalry, the Aggies hold the edge with a record of 14-11.

Does that mean we are in a completely different realm, meaning Texas' overall series domination is ancient history? That depends on how you frame the results. Even more recent history—i.e. the Mack Brown era—gives Texas a prolific 7-3 mark, and that's despite two straight A&M wins considered upsets. That mark, in fact, closely parallels the 114-game history between the two Texas adversaries.

Texas supporters often point to A&M's boost upon Jackie Sherrill's arrival as obviously induced by prolific, intensive under-the-table cheating that nearly led to its own death penalty (had the NCAA not been shamed through SMU's carnage). Naturally, R.C. Slocum's own regime thereafter benefited greatly from the vast momentum and talent left by the NCAA-fleeing Sherrill.

Aggies fairly note today's Texas A&M is a far different world than the old school, men only, farmer institution that long suffered before the 1970s. A&M touts its own large enrollment, an ever growing alumni base and resulting monetary leverage.

Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. If Texas A&M hires a highly competent coach and properly leverages its considerable resources, it will prosper.

Will it prosper as much as Texas? Well, when you compare Austin against College Station and Texas' still greater alumni base and statewide influence, it's easy to see that the Longhorns still boast a status resented by Aggies.

A&M may no longer be that dirt road hick that Texas fans long ago looked down upon, but it still sometimes conflicts between wanting to beat Texas and wanting to be Texas. The "Texas Aggies" always have an understood "A&M" attached to their label, and they'll never be "The" University of Texas.

Gridiron field order, in all likelihood, gets restored to a series that the burnt orange historically and recently has dominated.


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