Walking around the stadium at Kyle Field a few weeks ago, Blake Brockermeyer couldn’t help noticing some of the shirts Texas A&M fans were wearing.
They were sawed-off-horns shirts, homage to hated rival, Texas.
“They haven’t played since 2011,” Brockermeyer thought.
He would know, having been an all-conference offensive linemen at Texas in the mid-1990s before playing nearly a decade in the NFL. Now, his son James is an offensive lineman at Alabama, and when the Crimson Tide played at Texas A&M last month, Brockermeyer found himself marveling at those shirts with Longhorns on them.
“It’s still such a hated rival, even though you haven’t played each other in so long,” he said.
With the final football Bedlam days away, Oklahomans may not be fixated on a future without the rivalry. This game has lots of high stakes in the here and now. OU has a chance to resurrect its hopes of making the College Football Playoff while OSU has a chance to all but secure a spot in the Big 12 title game.
But by nightfall Saturday, Bedlam will be no more.
Oklahomans may not fully comprehend what that will be like, but there’s a group of folks from south of the Red River who can provide a glimpse.
Longhorns and Aggies alike experienced the loss of a storied rivalry when Texas and Texas A&M decided to end their annual series. A matchup first played in 1894 hasn’t been played since 2011, the result of Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.
“I think most people would say that it was a frustrating time for both parties involved,” former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee said. “I felt like the decisions that were being made were made by the higher-ups at both institutions, and ultimately, the egos got in the way of what has historically been a very important tradition in the upbringings of lots of Texans.”
McGee was one of those Texans.
Growing up, his mom’s side of the family was all for Texas. His grandparents went to Texas. All their kids went to Texas. And when they got together for Thanksgiving — the Texas-Texas A&M game was always played around the holiday — all they did was talk about the game, watch the game, then relive the game.
McGee remembers going into the front yard with his cousins to recreate plays.
He had no way of knowing that in 2005, he’d be a redshirt freshman quarterback at Texas A&M making his first career start against Texas.
He is eternally grateful the Aggies were the home team that day and wore maroon pants.“Because I was so nervous, my white pants would have been a different color,” McGee said with a chuckle. “I was so amped up, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.”
The Longhorns beat the Aggies that day, one of many victories in what would become a national championship season for Texas. But McGee came back the next two years and led Texas A&M to victories against the Longhorns.
After Texas A&M moved to the SEC, McGee figured the rivalry would go on hiatus for a few years, then be brought back. Surely, heated feelings would simmer down and cooler heads would prevail.
Bucky Godbolt wasn’t so sure.
He was a college football coach for many years, including a stint coaching running backs at Texas when Ricky Williams was there. But in the late ’90s, he retired from coaching and became a sports-talk stalwart in Austin.
Godbolt heard from lots of Texas fans after the Texas A&M game was dropped. Many of them said they saw OU as a bigger rivalry.
When Godbolt was coaching, though, Texas A&M was always a bigger deal to him and others inside the Texas program. The players and the coaches saw the Aggies differently than any other opponent.
“These are like your cousins,” he said. “These are your next-door neighbors. They grew up playing against each other.”
Still, Godbolt never had much faith the schools would agree to resume the series. (It is only restarting because Texas is joining Texas A&M in the SEC.) The blame passed back and forth between the schools was pervasive, and even all these years later, he still sees the finger pointing.
“It was Texas’ fault for not letting Texas A&M have more say in the Big 12. It was Texas A&M’s fault for leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC,” he said. “Everybody wanted to blame everybody.
“But the folks that really missed out were the fans.”
Texas super fan Scott Wilson insisted he hasn’t missed out.
“I didn’t really care that much what A&M did,” he said. “When they left, I just basically was, ‘Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.’”
Wilson has no equal in his devotion to Texas. He has Longhorn gear and memorabilia displayed throughout his house. He even has a massive burnt-orange Cadillac with huge longhorn horns on the front. And he hasn’t missed a Texas football game in more than 46 years.
“Five hundred and sixty-eight at this point,” he said. “I go to all the baseball, too. I go wherever baseball does. I’ve been to over 1,400 straight in baseball.”
But the retired lawyer who lives in Austin says he hasn’t missed Texas A&M being one of his road trips, especially for football games.
“In the past, it’s been a pain to go over there,” he said. “Parking places and finding tickets, you have to scramble for a ticket.”
Still, many fans believe something is lost when a tradition like Texas-Texas A&M falls by the wayside.
Tim Schnettler became an Aggie fan in 1977 when his older brother decided to attend Texas A&M. Their family had long loved the Longhorns, but after his brother started going to school in College Station — Tim followed a few years later — the family got season tickets for football.
Schnettler remembers Thanksgiving plans being made around the Texas game.
When that was no longer the case, there was a void.
“You lose that mystique, everything around the game,” said Schnettler, who has lived his adult life in College Station and now works in web communications for Texas A&M AgriLife. “It’s just something that’s been there forever.
“And A&M is a tradition school. You lose that tradition of playing Texas on Thanksgiving Day or Thanksgiving weekend. I figure A&M people will probably say, ‘Yeah, we’ve overcome that,’ but to me, you lose that mystique.
“That’s the game everybody looks to.”
Aggies and Longhorns alike say they’ve learned to live without the rivalry. Seasons go on. New schedules are made.
But not everyone likes it.
Maybe it’s fitting that those who are the most ardent about what it’s meant to be without the rivalry are the players. Brockermeyer, the former Texas offensive lineman, had nothing but praise for the environment at Texas A&M, calling it one of the best he’s experienced.
“I think their fans are incredible,” he said, “and they’re just one of the loudest if not the loudest stadium in the country.”
He can’t wait to see the Longhorns play there again.
As for McGee, the former Texas A&M quarterback, he appreciates the efforts the SEC made to give the Aggies a great Thanksgiving week game. The conference paired Texas A&M with LSU. The Tigers have been among the best programs in the country over the past decade or so, and since Baton Rouge is only about five hours away from College Station, the programs are a good pairing.
But it’s not Texas-Texas A&M.
“Playing LSU on Thanksgiving,” McGee said, “just isn’t the same.
“We’ve learned to live without it, but life without it still does suck.”