Only a week after it seemed like negotiations for the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners to leave the Big 12 early were dead in the water, it’s now official that both schools will join the SEC for the 2024-25 academic year. Both schools will officially join the conference on July 1, 2024, 12 years to the day after Texas A&M joined (#branding).
So what does that mean for Texas A&M? Well, a lot, as it relates to our athletic schedules. Obviously it means we’ll once again be playing the Longhorns and Sooners in sports across the board, but the one everyone cares about the most (and the sport where the schedules will change the most drastically) is football. And, sorry Sooners, but from the A&M perspective, when and where we play Texas is the bigger talking point here.
What will happen to the current 2024 SEC schedule?
In short, it will get blown up. For A&M this could potentially be a good thing, as the current schedule has them hosting Notre Dame in non-conference before having to play both Alabama and Georgia in conference play (in addition to the rest of the SEC West and South Carolina). While any revamped schedule will still be a gauntlet, there’s a good chance A&M doesn’t end up with both of the dominant programs on the schedule in the same year.
Football scheduling format of the future?
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has stated multiple times that the conference is leaning toward abandoning divisions when it expands to 16 teams. This means the ever-so-trendy “pod” format is likely dead. And while nothing is set in stone, it appears the scheduling format that has gained the most traction is the “3-6-6” model, in which each team has three permanent opponents and plays the remaining 12 teams on rotation every other year. You can read about this format in more detail in this article I wrote last year.
The only stumbling block for the 3-6-6 model may be schools who are opposed to adding a 9th conference game. If there are enough of them to prevent this from being approved, that would likely lead to a 1-7-7 model, where every school has only one permanent opponent instead of three, but you still play all of the other schools every other year.
Will this change our non-conference schedule?
If the 3-6-6 model is adopted, absolutely, because it means you’d go from four non-conference games down to three. But assuming the SEC maintains their requirement for all schools to play a Power 5 opponent in non-conference play, it would simply mean that the Aggies drop one of the G5/FCS teams off of their schedule. In 2024, that would be either McNeese, Bowling Green or New Mexico State.
It’s safe to assume the upcoming Power 5 non-conference games (Notre Dame in ‘24/’25, Arizona State in ‘26/’27 and Louisville in ‘29/’29) remain.
Will A&M play Texas every year?
In a 3-6-6 model, the answer is almost certainly yes. It’s hard to imagine either school not wanting the other to be one of their three permanent rivals. In a 1-7-7 format, that’s much less guaranteed. Texas in particular may not want to give up their annual game against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl, and A&M would likely keep their rivalry weekend matchup with LSU in that scenario.
Will the games be played on campus?
I’ve seen people throw out the possibility of A&M and Texas being played at a neutral site, just because it seems like something money-grubbing people in charge of sports would tend to do. However I don’t think that’s something either school would support. Aggies want Texas to have to come to Kyle Field, and likewise, Texas won’t want ANOTHER rivalry game that never comes to their campus. Beyond the obvious financial incentives, their lack of big home games was one of the driving forces in their desire to leave the Big 12.
Where will the first game be played?
With the last matchup between A&M and Texas being played in College Station in 2011, many may assume the game will travel to Austin when the rivalry resumes. But according to A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork, that first game will be at Kyle Field. If you think that’s not very fair, consider that over the course of the 100+ matchups between the two schools, games have been played 11 more times in Austin than they have in College Station.
That disparity is solely due to games played prior to World War I, but if anyone is for acting like games in this rivalry from generations ago still matter, it’s the Longhorns.
What does this move mean in the long-term?
Plenty of A&M fans were perfectly content to see the Longhorns and Sooners languishing in the Big 12. But if you assume that them joining one of the major power conferences was inevitable, I’d much rather them be in the SEC then if they’d ended up in the Big Ten. If they’re going to reap the benefits of more revenue and increased visibility, at least make them go through you (and the rest of the SEC) in order to win anything meaningful.
Ultimately, this gives A&M more natural rivals in our conference, which can never be a bad thing. While I’ve loved playing the SEC, the pure hatred isn’t what it was when we played our more regional rivals on a regular basis, and I’m happy to see that return.