Texas swiping Jim Schlossnagle pours gasoline on renewed rivalry with hated Texas A&M

There’s a scene in the movie “Friday” where Deebo, a muscular, 6-foot-5 neighborhood bully, is confronted by Red, a character who loaned him a bicycle.

Red, who might weigh half as much as Deebo, kindly asks for the bike back, informing Deebo that he was urged by his father to do so. Deebo briefly leads Red to believe he’s going to return it, then unexpectedly delivers a Mike Tyson-caliber uppercut that knocks Red out.

“That’s my bike, punk!” Deebo yells.

It is in this spirit that Texas has poured gasoline onto its age-old rivalry with Texas A&M, just days before the Longhorns officially become league mates with the Aggies in the Southeastern Conference on July 1. By hiring Aggies baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle away from College Station, less than 24 hours after he led the Aggies to the brink of a title in the College World Series, the Longhorns have taken A&M’s lunch money in a way that resembles Deebo’s ownership claim over that beach cruiser.

It’s a joyous exercise of dominance for Texas over “little brother” and a painful reminder to the Aggies of why they chose to get away from “tu” in the first place 13 years ago when they left the Big 12 for the SEC.

And for everyone, it’s an emphatic reminder that this heated rivalry is officially back and couldn’t have returned fast enough.

For the last dozen years, Texas and Texas A&M’s relationship has been defined by the fact that they didn’t play in the sport everyone in the Lone Star State cares about: football. There were years of will-they-or-won’t-they, a blame game and even legislative attempts to get the Aggies and Longhorns back together. None of those worked, but the hate never went away. It just found homes on message boards and social media through arguments about recruiting and unprovable claims of superiority from both sides.

That all changes this year. On Nov. 30, Texas and Texas A&M will meet in Kyle Field, the teams’ 119th meeting and first since 2011. Texas leads the all-time series 76-37-5.

It’s long overdue, and Texas had to change conferences to make it happen. But Schlossnagle’s move on Tuesday will supercharge the intensity of hard feelings in a way that nothing, except maybe Texas’ 2021 announcement of its SEC move, has since Justin Tucker’s game-winning kick sailed through the uprights on Nov. 24, 2011.

Some context behind Schlossnagle’s move is important. It wasn’t simply leaving Aggieland for the Forty Acres. There’s a preexisting relationship that paved the way. Schlossnagle coached at TCU for 18 years and eight of those were under Chris Del Conte, who is now the Longhorns athletic director. Schlossnagle even alluded to that bond in a statement he released through Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

“Although I know many will be upset with my decision, I chose to make a change to join a longtime friend to continue my career as a college baseball coach,” Schlossnagle said.

But that fact isn’t going to make anyone in Aggieland feel better. The school appeased Schlossnagle’s facility demands by approving an $80 million plan to renovate Blue Bell Park. He talked of a grand vision for A&M’s future. With two College World Series appearances in his three years, it was easy to believe.

After coming so close to the mountaintop, disappointment from falling short on Monday night has quickly turned to rage, anger and disgust directed 100 miles to the west toward Schlossnagle and everyone else in burnt orange. It’s one thing to leave. But after that season and for that school? Talk about a punch to the gut.

Texas made a power move by swiping a coach in a major sport away from an in-state rival. It’s not the first time the Longhorns have done this. There are similar moves in Texas’ history, from the Longhorns hiring men’s basketball coach Chris Beard away from Texas Tech in 2021 or hiring football coach Tom Herman away from Houston in 2016. The Longhorns also did it to the Red Raiders in football, swiping David McWilliams away in 1987 after he spent just one year in Lubbock.

But the hatred doesn’t flow both ways between the Longhorns and those others the way it does with the Aggies. Taking a sitting coach away from Texas A&M is a different type of flex.

It stings even more that it comes on the heels of A&M’s missed opportunity to win its first national title in baseball. Men’s basketball has never won one and football is still seeking its first title since 1939. Women’s basketball, women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, equestrian and men’s golf account for the Aggies’ national titles this century.

Meanwhile, Steve Sarkisian has revived Texas football, making the College Football Playoff last season, giving the Longhorns a ton of momentum heading into 2024 while the Aggies paid Jimbo Fisher more than $70 million to go away. Texas also won its third Directors’ Cup in the last four years, which goes to the most successful overall athletic program in the country.

Although Texas has a richer winning tradition in baseball, with six national championships, the Aggies took the upper hand of late, making two trips to Omaha in Schlossnagle’s three seasons. A&M beat the Longhorns in the Bryan-College Station Regional en route to the 2024 CWS. In 2022, the Longhorns’ last trip to Omaha, it was Schlossnagle’s Aggies who eliminated them.

And for a moment, when Schlossnagle became indignant late Monday night when asked about his future in Aggieland amidst swirling rumors of him going to Texas, it sounded like the Aggies might just stiff arm the Longhorns in their pursuit.

“I think it’s pretty selfish of you to ask me that question, to be honest with you,” Schlossnagle said. “But I left my family to be the coach at Texas A&M. I took the job at Texas A&M to never take another job again. And that hasn’t changed in my mind.

“That’s unfair to talk about something like that. … But I understand you’ve got to ask the question. But I gave up a big part of my life to come take this job and I poured every ounce of my soul in this job and I’ve given this job every ounce I could possibly give it. Write that.”

Well, something changed, because Schlossnagle’s gone and the Aggies are pissed. The Longhorns are giddy, just as they were three years ago when they celebrated their pending move to the SEC.

“What a home run hire,” Texas president Jay Hartzell said in a statement. “We are the premier baseball program in the country with legendary coaches, our six national championships and record 38 College World Series appearances, so it’s certainly fitting that we hired a coach of his caliber to lead us. We’re looking forward to great days ahead with Coach Schloss leading our Longhorns.”

Texas A&M left the Big 12 and the Longhorns after 2011 because the Aggies wanted to blaze their own trail. They wanted to leave big brother behind.

“It was clear to me that one thing A&M needed was independence from our sister over in Austin,” former A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said last year while reflecting on the decision. “And we needed resources. The SEC afforded both of those very well. … I think almost every Aggie would agree it was the right thing to do.”

Texas A&M had its independence for a little more than a decade. But Texas is back in the neighborhood and the Longhorns just repossessed the Aggies’ bike.

The Aggies must wait 158 days to try to get it back.

(Photo: Maria Lysaker / USA Today)

First appeared on www.nytimes.com

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