Illegal Motion? Legislature Could Require UT-A&M Football Game

 

Football in Texas has been described as a religion—now it could be the law.

Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) hasn’t often courted controversy. In fact, Guillen has cruised through six consecutive elections with more than 65 percent of the vote. In five of those races, he ran uncontested. Now he may face some of the most intense scrutiny of his career—because of a football game.

Well, not just any football game: the traditional but now defunct UT-A&M football game. The football rivalry ended in 2011, with the 118th match-up between the two teams. Texas won, as they did 75 other times in the series.

Now House Bill 778, introduced by Guillen, would require the two universities to play a regular season, non-conference game every year. If they refuse? The Legislature would mandate that the university which turns down the game “may not award to any student for the following academic year an athletic scholarship, grant, or similar financial assistance funded with state money.” That means no football scholarships from state funds.

“UT enjoyed our conference rivalry with Texas A&M and we were disappointed A&M decided to leave the Big 12,” Powers told the Alcalde. “We’ll leave it to lawmakers to weigh in on this legislation.”

But that punishment may be less effective than it sounds. Though they wouldn’t comment for this story, officials from UT Athletics confirmed that the University’s athletics programs, including its scholarships, are self-funded. Jason Cook, Texas A&M’s vice president for marketing and communications said he’s not aware of any state funding that goes toward athletics scholarships.

Responses from the general public—at least on Twitter—have mostly chided lawmakers for not focusing their energy on more important matters.

Though university presidents rarely comment on legislation under consideration, Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin responded quickly to the news.

“We remain hopeful that the game may continue one day through the normal scheduling process,” Loftin said. “Having said that, we, of course, will follow any specific direction from the Legislature.”

UT president Bill Powers gave a response that also put the responsibility on lawmakers.

“UT enjoyed our conference rivalry with Texas A&M and we were disappointed A&M decided to leave the Big 12,” Powers told the Alcalde. “We’ll leave it to lawmakers to weigh in on this legislation.”

Guillen—an Aggie—did not comment specifically to the Alcalde, but in a prepared statement called the game a “sacred tradition,” and said that it is “as much a Texas tradition as cowboy boots and barbecue.”

“I think the people of Texas want a game,” Guillen said. “And we’re trying to get them one.”

As of press time, the People of Texas could not be reached for comment.

Whether Guillen’s bill makes it past the goal line remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: the eyes of Texas—and Texas A&M—will be upon him.


Editor’s Note: For the sake of full disclosure, it should be noted that the author once worked in Rep. Guillen’s office as an intern. He did not formulate football policy during his time there.

 
 
 

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