The American Athletic Conference raided Conference USA this morning, plucking six new teams to replace the three they recently lost to the Big 12 (read our Ben Swanger’s conversation with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby for more on that). Which, sure. You do you, college football vultures.
One of those six teams, however, is UNT — which means they’ll officially share a conference with SMU for the first time. So let me be the first to lead the charge: it’s time to make this rivalry A Thing.
Yes, I’m aware that it’s been a lowercase thing for a while now. The two schools have played 42 times since 1922, often in fits and spurts. The series has been back on since 2014, and it’s been perfectly fine. It has an identity, however colloquial, in The Safeway Bowl.
But there’s always been a power imbalance in SMU’s favor due to the program’s history but also its present-day standing as the school in the bigger conference. The game has never mattered to the Mustangs nearly as much as the Mean Green. That’s even baked into the name, which came about when then-North Texas coach Matt Simon beseeched SMU to return to the rivalry after one of its periodic breaks, even if it meant playing in the grocery store parking lot.
They’re about to get much better acquainted with one another, so let’s drop the pretense. Sure, the Iron Skillet will always come first, but TCU is peering down at the Mustangs from the Big 12, and if Bowlsby’s comments to Swanger are any indication, SMU isn’t getting an invitation to join them any time soon. Moving forward, there’s going to be a lot more stakes and neighborly strife in the American. SMU and UNT should act accordingly.
So give this thing a real name like the North Texas Classic and make them fight over a trophy shaped like mutant eagle-horse hybrid or some such. I don’t know. Branding people exist for a reason — marshal your best. I demand outright loathing by 2025. Anything less, and they’ve failed each other and all of us.
We could use another good college sports rivalry around here, and today’s news provided the kindling. Light the damn match.