State Rep Lyle Larson proposes law to force annual Texas v Texas A&M football game

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Lyle Larson wants Lone Star Showdown
Scene from the 2006 Lone Star Showdown. Image: Johntex (CC3.0)

Texas House of Representatives member Lyle Larson has proposed legislation to force the state’s premier college football teams, the University of Texas and Texas A&M, to play each other annually or risk losing public funding from the state government.

Lyle Larson: “Gig’em and Hook’em!”

The Texas v Texas A&M rivalry is one of the most celebrated in college sports, so it is no surprise that some Texans are missing the annual “Lone Star Showdown” that first became a fixture on the football calendar in 1894. The two teams have met 118 times in total, but the match-ups ended suddenly when Texas A&M announced a move to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 2011.

Representative Larson, a Republican from San Antonio and graduate of Texas A&M, thinks Texas is poorer culturally without the classic football rivalry. After news of his proposed law, HB412, broke, he explained on Twitter his thoughts behind the bill.

“Songs, stories and football folklore about this storied rivalry has touched Texans for a century,” he tweeted.

“The idea behind this bill is to start a discussion, between the universities, so future graduating classes can experience the home and away game that we did.

“Graduated from Texas A&M in 1981, my father graduated from vet school at Texas A&M in 1956, my brother played linebacker for UT in 1971 to 1973. The rivalry is embedded in our family. Gig’em and Hook’em!”

How the proposal would work

Lyle Larson may say his proposal is meant to start a discussion, but if passed as-is it would have real teeth.

In its current version, HB412 would financially penalize the two football programs if they failed to hold a game, saying the two schools “may not award to any student for the following academic year an athletic scholarship, grant, or similar financial assistance funded by state funds.”

What’s more, HB412 also requires the Lone Star Showdown to take place within a brief three day window – the fourth Thursday, Friday or Saturday of each year. This just happens to coincide with Thanksgiving, of course.

(full text available here)

The public reaction

As justification for what many will see as a side-issue (at best), Larson has made it clear he does not see this as the most important issue for the upcoming legislative session.

“School finance reform, property tax reform, health care delivery, highway funding, water policy, teacher retirement and teacher benefits, opioid addiction epidemic, and much more will be our focus in the legislature,” he tweeted yesterday.

Still, not everyone is happy with government regulation of college football matches. A Facebook page post on the subject by Larson has drawn dozens of angry comments.

Some believe the bill is not a proper use of government resources. One person wrote, “This is not the kind of issue you were sent to Austin to solve. I think most voters want their politicians looking forward and finding ways to guide Texas to a better future. Not staring in the rear view mirror at past football rivalries.”

But perhaps more angry comments came from Texas A&M football fans, who see an annual match-up with their former rivals as a step backwards.

One upset Texas A&M fan wrote, “As an Aggie, I don’t want this game. We’re in a better conference and don’t need [Texas] any longer. I’d much rather play LSU every year.”

Lyle Larson may claim that he wants to also concentrate on pressing social and infrastructure needs for Texas, but this is not the first eye-catching bill he has proposed for the upcoming session. Earlier this month he also filed a bill to end daylight savings in Texas.

On the plus side, Larson’s bill is not nearly as unusual sounding as the recent Utah proposal to legalize firearm use while intoxicated.

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