Texas-Texas A&M rivalry legislated back to life? Not likely

Tuesday January 29th, 2013

Everybody who wants to see Texas and Texas A&M play again on the regular, raise your hand. (AP) Everybody who wants to see Texas and Texas A&M play again on the regular, raise your hand. (AP)

The annual Texas-Texas A&M clash was one of several longstanding college football rivalries felled by conference realignment, and after just one year off, willingness to restore the tradition by whatever goofy means necessary is already on display. Texas state representative Ryan Guillen has filed a bill to reestablish the series, under threat of scholarship restrictions. (Wait. What?)

If this sounds ... curious to you, you're not alone. We enlisted the kind assistance of SI.com legal analyst Michael McCann, who offers this take on Guillen's bill, with the obvious part right up front (emphasis ours):

1) I don't think this bill has a plausible shot of becoming law. Using the law to interfere with the scheduling of college football games seems like a dubious use of legislative authority and government overreach. 

2) If it defies the odds and becomes law, the two schools would likely claim the law is unconstitutional -- specifically, the argument would be that the state lacks legal authority to regulate the scheduling of games or at least lacks the authority to regulate the scheduling of games for a non-health reason like this. Scholarships also impact interstate activities, which are usually the domain of the federal government, so that would be another argument against state authority.

3) If it became law, it may also have unintended legal consequences -- including possibly causing the two schools to breach their NCAA and conference membership contracts (changing scheduling or scholarships might violate membership contracts), and contracts with television networks and other private companies in business deals with schools over their football teams. Students losing out on scholarships if the penalty came to pass might also argue they are being legally harmed. 

Bottom line: It's a bad bill, probably unlawful and might trigger other litigation that harms these two schools and their students. We want to emphasize at this point that we want to see Texas play Texas A&M. We hold no particular allegiance to either football team, but this is too spite-filled a rivalry to rank as anything but appointment television. But if the stars are going to align to make a series resurrection possible, they'd better try it somewhere other than with House Bill 778.

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