It's Red River Rivalry week, but a report by Dallas Morning News reporter Brad Townsend says University of Texas officials are less concerned with Oklahoma than they are with in-state rival Texas A&M:
A high-level UT source says the university's decision-makers are increasingly preoccupied with Texas A&M. The source said there is a palpable sense that Aggies successes since moving to the Southeastern Conference last year have raised the ante for Texas.
"What they are concerned about is not just a football season or a football team," the source said. "What they're concerned about is that we're going to lose this kind-of war to A&M. They are really paranoid about A&M.
"And not just in sports, by the way."
Academic standing and research funding are chief among Texas' concerns. Texas A&M has increased enrollment and donations since leaving the Big 12 for the SEC two years ago. Texas donor Red McCombs admitted that A&M chancellor John Sharp has raised the stakes, both athletically and academically, for Texas:
"Well, hell yes, my God," McCombs said. "I think he's great and I want him to be great. I want Aggie students over there to be great, but I'm not interested in them beating Texas."
The recent struggles of Texas' athletic program are well-documented. Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel published a column last week critical of the direction of the Longhorns' football, basketball, and baseball programs, and the role of the Texas state government in the decline of Texas athletics.
The problems have surfaced only recently, and extend throughout the university. It was just two years ago that Texas launched its own sports network, held the Big 12 together through expansion, and were apparent masters of the college sports universe.
Two years later, Texas regents have opened an investigation into fellow regent Wallace Hall, who has taken aim at president Bill Powers through a series of Freedom of Information Act requests. Athletic director DeLoss Dodds has announced he is retiring next August, football coach Mack Brown looks destined to leave the school at the end of the year, and basketball coach Rick Barnes could be in even more trouble than Brown.
Texas faces its other rival, Oklahoma, at the Cotton Bowl Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is set for noon ET.
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