|Friday, October 4
Goal post incident only latest in A&M-Tech series
By Jim Dent
Special to ESPN.com
Some three decades ago, Texas Tech fans displayed their passion toward the visiting Texas A&M basketball team by hurling turkey eggs at the players.
Last season at Jones SBC Stadium in Lubbock, those rowdy Red Raider fans found something larger to toss -- the goal posts.
Fans in West Texas possess good aim; the metal objects landed squarely in the Aggie rooting section.
"Those people out in Lubbock are the craziest SOBs in the world," said a long-time Aggie seeking anonymity for fear of what might be thrown at his house.
Though the rivalry has passed under national radar, and hardly ranks with Texas-Oklahoma and Alabama-Auburn on the butt-kicking meter, the game played each season between Tech and A&M ranks as macho manifesto. It has been suggested they play this game out in the desert along the Pecos River using barbed wire for the sidelines and cactus as goal posts. Turkey buzzards could referee.
Saturday, it will be Aggies' turn to settle this goalpost-throwing score. It will be 86,000 screaming Aggies at Kyle Field when Texas Tech, 3-2, and A&M, 3-1, open the Big 12 season. Many of these same A&M followers watched in disbelief as Raiders fans tore down the goal posts last October and transformed them into battering rams. Folks in the south end zone were forced to seek higher ground; a few had stitches to show for their Aggie loyalty.
Naturally, a fight broke out in the stands. But Red Raider fans claimed the Aggies triggered the melee when one A&M fan slugged another. Even if the allegation proves false, the story could suffice as the next Aggie Joke.
Regardless, the A&M players know what is expected of them: Revenge.
"I would say our fans are pretty riled up," Aggie linebacker Brian Gamble said. "Based on what happened last year, I think they'll probably show up in a foul mood."
Yes, the Aggies know how to make noise. About 40,000 attend midnight yell practice the night before each game, and the energy level for the Raiders far outweighs anything Hurricane Lilli had to offer.
It goes without saying that the Aggies and Raiders hate each other.
In College Station, the West Texans are regarded as both misguided and uneducated. The Aggies accuse the Red Raiders of being jealous over their nationally acclaimed engineering and veterinary schools.
In Lubbock, Aggies are bumbling Bubbas, and it would take more than four to screw in a light bulb. You wouldn't walk into the Buckhorn Saloon in Lubbock wearing an Aggie ring. There's no telling what might be thrown at you.
This hatred began to rise out of the West Texas desert in the 1950s when Texas Tech, a member of the Border Conference, a rag-tag group of outlaws, was, at first, denied admission into the mighty Southwest Conference, which over the years had spewed forth names like Doak Walker, Sammy Baugh and Bobby Layne.
Of course, Tech blamed the Aggies for the negative swing vote. At the time, Texas A&M was an all-male military school that was called Sing Sing on the Brazos. The A&M campus color scheme was that of a grocery bag. Naturally, the Red Raiders did not understand the Aggies' feeling of superiority.
Paul "Bear" Bryant, who coached the Aggies from 1954 through '57, did not understand what the fuss was all about. Though he had coached the previous eight seasons in the Southeastern Conference, he had never experienced such hatred.
"He used to tell us that some people were just going to hate us more than we hate them," said former Aggie guard Marvin Tate, one of the legendary "Junction Boys," who survived Bryant's ten-day hell camp in the summer of '54.
Tate has lived all of his adult life in Bryan-College Station and served as the Aggies' associate athletic director from 1967 through '79, and as athletic director the next three years.
"Tech puts a whole lot of emphasis on this rivalry," Tate said. "I guess they always will."
Hopefully the Aggies can laugh at their own folly. Almost twenty years ago, a member of the Aggie Corps became so angry with the SMU cheerleaders that he brandished his sword and chased them from the field. He had to be restrained by A&M's Billy Cannon, who was preparing to return a kickoff. The Aggies once ran the Rice Mob, a.k.a. the Rice University band, off the field for making fun of their traditions.
In truth, Tech harbors the same contempt for A&M that the Aggies hold for Texas. The game played between Texas and Texas A&M during the Thanksgiving weekend is the biggest in Aggieland, as evidenced by the passion of Bonfire.
But the throwing of the goal posts did awaken the Aggie ire.
The Red Raiders were called "classless clowns" in a story published by the Twelfth Man, the Aggies' weekly alumni magazine. Part of that piece found its way into the official Texas A&M press information guide, and the Aggies were admonished by the Big 12 office as being "unsportsmanlike."
Texas A&M president Robert Gates wrote a letter of apology to Tech president David Schmidly.
Knowing the history of this rivalry, and the characters involved, I surmise that folks from both schools had a big laugh about the entire affair when it was over.
But all the laughter turns to anger again Saturday at Kyle Field.
Jim Dent is the author of "Junction Boys" and "The Undefeated" and is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. "Junction Boys" will be ESPN Original Entertainment's second original, made-for-television movie. The premiere is scheduled for Saturday, December 14 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.