Late to the Game: The Prank Job

In late October, some juvenile delinquent—possibly a real-life Bart Simpson—tagged the Alumni Center with the call letters of a certain East-Central Texas agricultural school. As up-in-arms as we could get over this senseless act of vandalism—perpetrated in the light of day, to boot!—the prank is neither outrageous nor unique when viewed in the context of historical UT vs. Texas A&M rivalry pranks. Here are some of the most notable:

Late to the Game: The Prank JobThe Methuselah of College Football Pranks (It’s Really Old)

The most infamous of all Texas football pranks occurred in 1916, after some UT alumni collected $124 and bought a longhorn steer named Bo. Though Texas already had a mascot, a dog named Pig, these students perhaps preferred a more congruous union of nickname and mascot to bring to that year’s Texas vs. Texas A&M game. After the game, a 21-7 victory for the Longhorns, Texas allegedly planned to brand Bo—later renamed, of course, Bevo—with a “T” on one side and “21-7” on the other, but before that happened, on Feb. 2, 1917, A&M got to him first: Students broke into the steer’s stable and branded him with the score of the previous year’s game, 13-0. With the U.S. joining World War I that same year, and university budgets getting slashed, Bevo was seen as an extravagance. He was eventually fattened up and barbecued for the 1920 football team’s varsity dinner at the end of the season. Texas A&M was invited—and served the slab of beef bearing their brand.

The Curious Case of the Puppy Thief

After a pair of aborted attempts at revenge in 1933 and 1948 via firebombs dropped on the Aggie bonfire from rented planes, Texas struck back in 1993. Before the Aggies were to play Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and just after Texas and A&M squared off in College Station, the Aggies’ mascot was stolen for the first time in history.

“It was like robbing Fort Knox,” one of the puppy thieves would later say.

Reveille VI, a four-month-old rough collie set to replace the retiring Reveille V, was nabbed by a group of students led by Neil Andrew Sheffield, BS ’97, Life Member. Using the pseudonym “Bob,” Sheffield told his story to Daily Texan reporter Phil Van der Slice, who was then pressured by UT administrators to give up his source.

“It was really stressful, and there came a point when the dean of students threatened to kick me out of the university,” Van der Slice later said. “But being the young reporter that I was, I couldn’t reveal my sources.”

Fearing retaliation, Texas and Texas A&M then-presidents Robert Berdahl and E. Dean Gage issued a joint statement: “We ask that all of our students and friends remain calm, use the utmost restraint, and not create a more serious situation than already exists.”

Since the pup was valued at more than $750, the theft of Reveille was classified as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Reveille was recovered unharmed shortly after, found tied to a pole near Lake Travis.

When asked about his motivation for stealing the vaunted canine—who holds the highest rank in the A&M corps—Sheffield referred to a Dallas Morning News article from that time period, which he said was like a “PR campaign” for the Aggies. The article also mentioned that Texas A&M was the only school in the Southwest Conference to have never had its mascot stolen. Sheffield sought to change that.

“They thought they were God’s gift to man,” Sheffield said.

Pretty Pretty Pranking

In 2012, Texas A&M left the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference, thus ending a century-plus tradition of rivalry between the universities. Just two years later, though, the absolute gentlest prank was allegedly perpetrated by a rogue group of Aggie horticulturalists.

In April 2014, maroon bluebonnets sprouted near the UT Tower. Initially, both UT Irrigation and Water Conservation program coordinator Markus Hogue and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist Daphne Richards said that this was likely a prank, with Hogue adding that nature would weed out the maroon flowers. When nature didn’t keep up its end of the bargain, Jerry Parsons, one of two A&M horticulturists involved with isolating the maroon bluebonnet in the wild, said, “They are not a prank but rather a seed mix-up during packaging by the producer.”

Hogue doubled down, asserting that since blue is the dominant color and should take over in the wild, “someone is seeding them each year.”

The mystery still hasn’t been solved, but either way, if the Aggies are going to prank Texas and vice-versa, isn’t it so much nicer when it doesn’t involve animals or vandalism? And even if Aggies sowed seeds bearing the maroon bluebonnet—and really, the maroon bluebonnet is more pink than maroon—it’s still a bluebonnet, the state flower of Texas. And as I’m quickly learning, more bluebonnets are a good thing.

Senior editor Chris O’Connell isn’t from Texas; he’s from New Jersey. That’s OK though—he’s here now. But without growing up in a place that cherishes college sports the way many parts of the South—and especially Texas—do, Chris has taken it upon himself to learn more about all aspects of college athletics in a series we like to call Late to the Game.

Illustration by Melissa Reese.


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