FRISCO, Texas — Coach Tom Herman’s Texas team will be one of only two programs in the country—Texas opponent USC is the other—to play 11 Power 5 (or Notre Dame) opponents for the second consecutive season. Herman would like to see a change in scheduling philosophy in the future, and his dream schedule would include an old rival.
“In my perfect world, you would play one big-time Power 5 [non-conference] opponent,” Herman said in an interview with myself and former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel on SiriusXM's ESPNU Radio on Tuesday. “To me, there’s a very logical one an hour-and-a-half east of us.”
That logical opponent is Texas A&M, the former rival that Texas has played 118 times but hasn’t played since 2011. That was the Aggies’ final season in the Big 12 before moving to the SEC.
When the split took place, parties on each side blamed the other for the rivalry’s end. The truth is that both schools acted in their own best interests, and the rivalry was a casualty. But nearly all the people who were in power at both schools back then have moved on, and some of the new players on both sides have advocated restarting the rivalry. New Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, who was hired from TCU, has said he’d like to see the rivalry resume at some point. Herman’s desire to resume it, meanwhile, is as practical as it is sentimental.
ACC and SEC schools play eight conference games, and both leagues require schools to schedule at least one Power 5 (or Notre Dame or BYU) non-conference opponent. The Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 all play nine conference games and also require a Power 5 non-conference opponent. “That, to me, is not apples to apples,” Herman said. But Herman, who is in his second year at the school after coaching two years at Houston, understands why the Longhorns would schedule two Power 5 schools in the non-conference. “I do understand the plight of Texas,” he said. Two Power 5 non-conference opponents means one of those games would take place in Austin, and that would excite a fan base that now never gets to see a rivalry game in its own stadium.
“The University of Texas does not play a rival at home, ever,” Herman said. “Our only now-true historic rival is Oklahoma. We play them in Dallas at the state fair. Oklahoma, they play Oklahoma State home-and-home every year. Iowa plays Iowa State home-and-home every year.”
Herman would like to see the series resumed, but earlier in the season instead of on its traditional Thanksgiving date. “Play Week 2 every year,” Herman said. “Don’t disrupt the conference schedule. Play a tune-up game. Then play your rival game two.” If ACC and SEC schools can make it work in multiple cases, so could an SEC and a Big 12 school. “Clemson and South Carolina find a way to play every year,” Herman said. “Georgia and Georgia Tech. Florida and Florida State. Iowa and Iowa State. The list goes on of in-state rivals that find a way to play.”
Reached Tuesday by phone, Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward said the calls for the game aren’t anything new. Unfortunately for Longhorns and Aggies who would love to see the series resume, both schools are scheduled out for almost a decade. In an interview this spring, Woodward explained that at the moment, Texas A&M’s priorities are trying to figure out how to beat its new(ish) rivals in the SEC West. “I admire that [Texas is] a great [Association of American Universities] institution in my state,” Woodward said. “They have a great role, but they do what they do what they do. From an athletic standpoint, all my focus is east. I’ve got to worry about Auburn and Alabama and LSU. Frankly, that’s where my focus is.”