In the midst of all the Super Bowl pageantry last week, it was announced that the University of Texas will no longer play football on Thanksgiving Day.
Ok, so maybe it’s just this upcoming season that they are moving the game, for now; but in my opinion, it should be a permanent move. Texas fans have mixed emotions about having the game moved, and there are valid points on either side.
Ever since the game with A&M ended, attendance has gone down and TV ratings have followed. Part of that has to do with the Longhorns not being a very good team, but another part is because the NFL has taken over.
Texas and A&M arguably had the best rivalry in college football and dominated the state on Thanksgiving Day. Even the Dallas Cowboys were put to the back burner at times, depending on whom you talked to. But now, Texas plays either TCU or Texas Tech on the big day.
Aside from the loyal fans from each school, who do you expect to watch those games? With the NFL trying to take over Thanksgiving by scheduling big matchups on that day, it was time for Texas to move out.
They will still have a chance to be in the spotlight for a Friday afternoon game, though. You can expect the attendance to rise, especially from the students, and the ratings to increase as well. Texas may be a powerhouse for ratings, but even they can’t compete with the NFL without the help of A&M on Thanksgiving.
Texas Athletic Director Mike Perrin indicated that the move to play on Friday is essentially a trial, and that the game could move back to Thanksgiving Day soon. What a big mistake that would be.
The only way Texas or A&M will be relevant on Thanksgiving Day is if they played each other. That rivalry itself is enough to garner the attention of a big audience, no matter how bad both teams are.
But let’s look at some possibilities that could make the game relevant again, in the event that Texas does still want to play on Thanksgiving Day in the future:
- Play against A&M. The schools aren’t close to playing each other at this time, but it’s really the best way to make the game on Thanksgiving relevant again.
- Play a high quality non-conference opponent other than A&M. What if Texas played Notre Dame or Michigan or some other traditional powerhouse on Thanksgiving Day? That’s a game that people would tune in to.
- Create a rivalry within the current conference. Outside of Oklahoma, Texas really doesn’t have a hated rival. And considering rivalries create themselves, you can’t put your finger on a team and declare a rivalry. That’s what Texas has tried to do with the Tech and TCU experimet, and it hasn’t worked.
So what do all of these have in common? The answer is tradition, or lack of.
People will show up and watch a traditional matchup between storied programs. Tech and TCU don’t do that for Texas. Just like LSU doesn’t do it for A&M. Thanksgiving Day is a tradition itself, so it would only make sense to play the game on that day if it was between two teams rich in tradition.
Considering it may be more likely to have Texas play against A&M again rather than a program like Notre Dame, we might as well shelve the discussion.
With all due respect to Tech and TCU, they just aren’t natural rivals right now and it just doesn’t feel right. It will take at least a decade of both teams being relevant nationally in order for the rivalry to bud naturally. But considering that none of the teams have been consistent lately, we are still at least a decade away from that happening.
The only logical way that you can “create” a traditional game is by playing it the way Texas and A&M did. Alternate playing each other home and away. If Texas wants to do that with TCU, great. Same with Tech or even Baylor.
Give people something to look forward to every year. If fans from TCU know they play Texas on Thanksgiving weekend every year, then the process of a natural rivalry budding will increase drastically.
But, we all know that Texas is arrogant and wants the spotlight on them, so expect them to keep the game at home on that weekend in the near future.
There’s still a long way to go before the Thanksgiving weekend game is relevant again, but not playing on Thanksgiving Day is at least a step in the right direction.