How will the Big 12 fill the void left by the loss of the Big 12 championship game this season? Could the annual Texas vs. Texas A&M game be moved to after Thanksgiving? If so, will fans care?
American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls reports that the idea is being discussed internally, moving the game to the first weekend in December instead of the traditional date of Thanksgiving. The reason being that the game would be the most attractive game on the Big 12 schedule at the end of the season and could be the best chance the conference has to have a relevant presence in December now that the conference will no longer have a conference championship game starting in the 2011 football season.
Bohls reports that Texas prefers to keep the rivalry game on Thanksgiving but is willing to move the game “if it’s critical to the television deal,” and Texas A&M officials feel the same way. Both schools are insisting that the Big 12 ensure the two in-state rivals play in their season finale. If the two continue to play in the final regular season game and the date of the game is moved to December, then it is expected that neither school will play Thanksgiving week.
So how sacred is that tradition in the rivalry? Clearly the thought of moving the annual game will be enough to get the fan bases of both schools riled up, and a poll being conducted by the American-Statesman shows that 72.6% of those polled do not want the game to be moved from the Thanksgiving time slot. As noted, both Texas and Texas A&M would prefer to keep the game where it is now but this decision may be all about television and money, as is the case for many collegiate athletics decisions today.
The departure of Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac 10 (Pac 12) leaves the Big 12 with ten teams, which is two below the minimum for a NCAA sanctioned conference championship game. NCAA rules allow for a conference to apply for an exemption from the 12-school minimum and previous reports suggested that the NCAA would have no problem allowing the Big 12 to continue a conference championship game, but the Big 12 looks to be content not pursuing that option at this time and reorganizing the conference with ten schools, and a nine-game conference schedule starting in 2011.
Texas and Texas A&M have played on Thanksgiving 63 times since 1894. From 1996 through 2007 the game was played on the day after Thanksgiving but was moved back to Thanksgiving day through a deal with ESPN to broadcast the game on their family of networks.
Follow Kevin’s college football updates and conversation on Twitter, join the Facebook page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes!