Mac Engel

Texas A&M needs to play Texas, but TCU can drop SMU

Ty Summers and Bobby Thompson helped TCU retain the Iron Skillet last year as the Horned Frogs defeated SMU 56-37.
Ty Summers and Bobby Thompson helped TCU retain the Iron Skillet last year as the Horned Frogs defeated SMU 56-37. Star-Telegram

Driving on Interstate 30 toward downtown Dallas, Reunion Tower was lit up in SMU’s red and blue while one of the nearby towers that is outlined in lights was dressed in a purple glow.

This means someone — bless their hearts — decided to pay attention to TCU’s game on Friday night at SMU.

Few others do. At this point, the only use for the Iron Skillet is to fry up bacon.

Retaining tradition is what makes college football so special and separates it from the NFL game, but there are some things worth letting go.

Previously a strong advocate for TCU to continue its home-and-home series with SMU specifically for the reason of maintaining tradition, it’s time to put this horse out to pasture.

College programs do owe it to their alums and fans to retain some rivalries that no longer have direct conference ties, but this ain’t one of ’em.

TCU vs. SMU has all of the appeal of two scoops of Blue Bell Ice Cream — it was great once, but now it actually can do more harm than good for the Froggies.

There is only one game from the days of the Southwest Conference that needs to remain, but it needs to return first — Texas A&M vs. Texas.

Beginning with the annual snoozefest that has become TCU vs. SMU, the rest of the SWC “rivalries” can go away.

The Southwest Conference died for a reason.

The new generation of fans do not care about a conference that died 20 years ago, and even the older ones have to admit there is nothing much to the sight of roughly 20,000 fans watching TCU crush another outmanned SMU team.

SMU will host TCU on Friday night before a thoroughly disinterested national-TV audience, and an in-stadium crowd that will check out shortly after kickoff and soon enough challenge itself to a throw down on the 19th hole, or a future Junior League meeting.

Only twice this century has this game been worth watching — both SMU wins — the first in 2005.

The second was in 2011 a few days after GP went on a calculated rant against SMU. One year later, he would express regret over his comments that have been the only thing to give this rivalry any real teeth for far too long.

TCU is not the problem.

Since being left behind in the initial formation of the Big 12, SMU never lined up all of the necessary moving parts to make its football team a regionally, or nationally, relevant product.

While SMU continually enjoys higher marks in the overly-valued, but oh-so-important rankings of U.S. News & World Report, its football team was left behind by Texas Tech, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU and now Houston, too. Four winning seasons since the destruction of the SWC does that.

Perhaps the Ponies can pull out a few gold Trans Ams and envelopes full of cash from storage to help solve that problem. While TCU was building a program that mandated national respect, SMU just never put it together.

It’s not for a lack of effort; the hiring of June Jones was a noble, expensive effort that blew up the Ponies’ stall. Second-year coach Chad Morris was handed a disaster left by Jones’ own indifferent making, and Morris will be given time to build a winner.

According to one TCU administrator, the contract between TCU and SMU expires in “2024 or 2025,” and right now there is no apparent rush by TCU to extend it.

It’s not much of a secret Patterson is not a huge fan of the game; that he’s tired of being SMU’s “Super Bowl” with no real residual benefit for his team. TCU has nothing to gain by winning this.

In cases such as these, the ostensible benefit is to the alums, the fans and the sake of maintaining a fun tradition of college football. That no longer exists for this rivalry.

There is but one remaining game left in the entire state that must return: Aggies vs. Horns.

I asked A&M coach Kevin Sumlin if coaches have an obligation to play those type of games that most of them don’t want to touch.

“The first misnomer is that a coach has a lot to do with the scheduling,” Sumlin said. “These games are scheduled five, six, seven, 10 years out. … This is something you have to talk about upfront with the administration. To say the coach has an obligation is tough; that’s an administrative question.”

Even though Sumlin said he has some influence on a schedule, believe him on this. While he and UT coach Charlie Strong will have a say, this particular decision is above their level. Administrators at both schools need to agree to let Bevo and Reveille dance at the 50 again, which they must.

Texas vs. Texas A&M is about the state, and it should return — whereas games such as TCU vs. SMU can go away and only the Dallas skyline will miss it.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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