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It’s time to forget tradition

September 29, 2011

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Tradition is obviously overrated. Nostalgia is for saps.

“If memories were all I sang,” Rick Nelson once sang, “I’d rather drive a truck.”

You’d think history might mean more in a sport that produced “Win One for the Gipper,” but this is no time to be taking sentimental journeys.

Before the Pacific 12 Conference called off the expansion malamutes last week, conference realignment directors were prepared to tear asunder the Apple Cup core of some of its most ancient rituals.

Before he was all for the Big 12 staying together, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops seemed perfectly fine with divorcing Texas and the Red River Rivalry.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Stoops said in early September. “No one wants to hear that, but life changes.”

The realignment pullback, thankfully, spared many traditional games from the scrapbook heap, but some are in limbo.

Texas A&M’s wedding announcement to the Southeastern Conference this week, the church date set for next year, could end its annual Thanksgiving weekend classic against Texas.

The series dates to 1894, but so what? Only two other rivals have played more than the 117 times the Longhorns and Aggies have met, but life changes.

“People mark their calendars for that ballgame,” Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman acknowledged Monday during the Big 12 coaches’ conference call. “It will be a passing that will be sad, but new rivalries come up, and you start circling other games on the calendar, I guess.”

If Texas A&M’s move to the SEC forces Auburn to the East Division, Tennessee vs. Alabama might mess with that annual bloodbath.

If Missouri eventually joins the SEC, will that end its Border War rivalry with Kansas?

Think of the possibilities conference realignment might produce:

Pac-12

Utah vs. Washington State: “The Boxcar Bowl.” Teams commute via train to honor historical ties to the railroad industry. Pullman was founded by George Pullman, who invented the Pullman sleeping car. Utah’s Promontory Summit, in 1869, was the site where the “Last Spike” completed the Transcontinental Railroad.

USC vs. Utah: “Settle the Scorebook Bowl.” Imagine these proud Pac-12 South rivals fighting it out every year to win the same game by the score of 17-14 or 23-14.

SEC

Missouri vs. Arkansas: “The Other Border War.” Kansas, you know, isn’t the only state that saddles up next to Missouri.

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: “The Over Our Head Jug.” The tradition of this game’s winner swigging pond water out of a soup kettle would continue until one of the schools wins its first SEC championship. Arkansas joined in 1992.

ACC

Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest: “Battle for the Carnegie/Walter Raleigh Spittoon.” If Pitt wins, the mayor of Winston-Salem pays off with 10 cartons of Winston-Salems. If Wake wins, Pittsburgh’s mayor has to export a top-quality support beam.

Big East

Connecticut vs. Texas Christian: Forget Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Minnesota/Wisconsin). Ponder: “Sam Clemens’ Pen vs. Sam Houston’s Gun.” This dysfunctional battle of geographic/cultural misfits manifests a spirited rivalry and a successful student foreign-exchange program.

Mountain West

Hawaii vs. New Mexico: “The Pineapple Johnny Appleseed Magellan GPS Bell.”

So, do as Mike Sherman says, go and ahead and mark your calendars. Embrace the new, emerging landscape. Be mindful that rivalries take time to develop.

Some people, back in 1899, had to warm up to Colorado State vs. Wyoming (The Bronze Boot).

Look what that is now.

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