Texas AD says Texas A&M football will play Longhorns annually; hopes for Thanksgiving

Chris Del Conte said in a Q&A session today that he expects to play Texas A&M football annually.

Texas Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte makes his way into the stadium of an NCAA college
Texas Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte makes his way into the stadium of an NCAA college / Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman
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Despite scheduling strangeness, Texas AD confirms what everyone expected: Texas A&M football will play Longhorns annually

During a Q&A session tonight, Chris Del Conte, the athletic director at texas university, was asked about Texas A&M football. There had been some speculation, ever since the announcement was made that the Sooners and Longhorns would be joining the SEC, about how the scheduling might work with the renewed rivalry between the Aggies and Longhorns. Del Conte, without getting into details, said—per Chip Brown—that he expects the two to face off in football every year.

Up until this previous year, the SEC has used a divisional format based on geography (loosely, in some cases). With seven teams in each division, you play the other six in your own division, plus two cross-divisional games: one against a permanent opponent and one against a rotating opponent.

For some teams, there was a natural cross-divisional fit. Alabama had Tennessee. Auburn had Georgia. LSU and Florida became a fun game and legitimate rivalry. Others had less intuitive rivals, such as A&M's pairing with South Carolina, or Mississippi State and Kentucky.

A consequence of this format, once A&M and Missouri joined, was the fact that it would take 6 years to play every team in the conference, and 12 years for every team to visit your stadium. In fact, the Aggies have been in the conference for that length of time, yet the Georgia Bulldogs have still not made a trip to College Station, nor have the Ags been to Lexington, Kentucky.

The format agreed upon for 2024, once the Horns and Sooners were added, was a 1-7 format, where you keep one permanent opponent and rotate the other 7. This made it such that it only takes two years for a team to see every other team in the conference, and only four years to visit every venue. The drawback, though, is that certain rivalries have to take a backseat if this format is to continue: Alabama has to choose between Auburn and Tennessee; Auburn has to choose between Georgia and Alabama, and so on.

For the Horns and Ags, this also posed a problem. The rivalry being renewed is obviously a huge draw for both sides, but it was equally important to each side to continue to play Oklahoma and LSU, respectively. It never seemed realistic that these two wouldn't play each other every year, but neither did it seem realistic that either would forego these other games.

This is the first official word we've heard that this will be an annual contest, even if it is a result we all expected. For my money, this likely means that we will be moving soon to a 3-6 format, where the SEC switches from 8 conference games to 9. This allows all traditional rivalries to be kept and provides the same flexibility as the 1-7 format when it comes to seeing other teams.

The other notable thing that Del Conte mentioned is that he hopes to have the game "move[d] back to Thursday," meaning Thanksgiving. This is when the game has traditionally been played, but it is currently scheduled for a Saturday this year—though tentatively. During that schedule announcement, a provision was made that games could slide back into other slots, such as Thursdays or Fridays.

In any case, this means that the game is expected to be played every year, on the final week of the year. Practically speaking for Texas A&M football fans, that means we can expect the LSU game to remain a midseason contest as it will be in 2024 (assuming it is still annual as well). Things are starting to fall more and more into place for future schedules and rivalries for the Aggies.

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