AUSTIN (CN) - A football-crazy Texas legislator introduced a bill that would punish the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University with loss of athletics scholarships if they refuse to renew their "sacred" annual football game.
State Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Laredo, filed House Bill 778 this week. Guillen called the Longhorn-Aggie football rivalry "a sacred Texas tradition."
He announced his bill on Twitter: "Just filed HB778; it requires UT and A&M to play each other annually in a nonconference, regular season football game," Guillen tweeted. The Longhorn-Aggie rivalry dates back to 1894; games were played every year since 1914.
But Texas football heaven ended when the Aggies and the University of Missouri left the Big 12 Conference in 2012 for the Southeastern Conference, setting off a nationwide wave of conference realignment.
If Guillen's is passed and either school refuses to comply, then "the university may not award to any student for the following academic year an athletic scholarship, grant, or similar financial assistance funded with state money and conditioned on the student's participation on the university 's intercollegiate football team," the bill states.
The bill would amend the Texas Education Code, and is to be enforced beginning with the 2014-2015 academic year-or academic football season.
"This game is as much a Texas tradition as cowboy boots and barbeque," Guillen told the Texas Tribune. "The purpose of the bill is to put the eyes of Texas upon our two greatest universities to restore this sacred Texas tradition."
The departure of Texas A&M from the Big 12 resulted in Texas Christian University of the Mountain West Conference being invited to take the Aggies' place. Fort Worth-based TCU accepted and began Big 12 conference play in 2012.
In doing so, it reneged on an agreement to join the Big East Conference, and the Big East sued TCU in for the $5 million exit fee. That lawsuit was settled in July 2012.
The Big East then sued the University of West Virginia and the University of Pittsburgh, seeking to enforce conference bylaws that require 27 months notice before a school can leave
West Virginia left for the Big 12 in 2012, as well, while Pitt and Syracuse University will leave in July for the Athletic Coast Conference.
In a pre-emptive strike, Big East member Rutgers University sued the conference to avoid paying a $10 million exit fee after it was invited to join the Big Ten Conference last November.
Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin has offered to continue the rivalry with the Longhorns by adding Texas as nonconference opponents in all sports, but Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds cited already full nonconference schedules as the problem.
"It will be played again sometime, somewhere down the road," Dodds told the Dallas Morning News in 2011. "When and if, it will have to be the right situation. It will have to be positive for us."
Dodds added: "We didn't want them to [leave]. We still don't want them to, but they did. That was their choice. That leaves us with an opportunity to make choices, and we will make them on our time and on our own grounds."
Loftin said he is optimistic that the rivalry will continue.
"We remain hopeful that the game may continue one day through the normal scheduling process," he said Tuesday. "Having said that, we, of course, will follow any specific direction from the Legislature."
Guillen was born in College Station, and is an alumnus of Texas A&M, according to his website.Follow @davejourno
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