Ever find yourself defending a group whose traditions and sense of loyalty give you pause to reconsider a high colonic and Justin Bieber. If so, you feel the agony, my friend. Either you dislike Texas A&M as much as I do or you harbor a dislike for another college football program. Perhaps the Gators or the Seminoles? How about the Knights or the Bulls? Do the ‘Canes get under your skin?
In the coming weeks college football gets down to serious business with rivalry games. “They need the dough” games versus FCS liberal arts schools have satisfied the bloodlust of boosters. Fans now will revel in the contrived enmity of the blue and orange (Florida), scarlet and gold (Florida State), orange and green (Miami and Florida A&M), black and gold (UCF), green and gold (USF), blue and red (Florida Atlantic), blue and gold (FIU) and maroon and gold (Bethune-Cookman).
And don’t think athletic departments haven’t figured out how to cash in.
Collegiate licensing is a $5 billion per year industry and colleges rake in millions in royalties while making sure fans are appropriately adorned at games, sports bars and house parties. School colors matter. During my daughter’s volleyball recruitment I quietly hoped she wouldn’t end up at a school of green and yellow. Then again a full-ride has a way of influencing one’s tastes.
Collegiate Licensing Company, a licensing affiliate of IMG College, is the industry leader and it represents the lion’s share of FBS schools with the notable exceptions of Ohio State, Oregon and USC. Per its most recent poll from 2014, the number one school for royalties is The University of Texas. Its ninth consecutive year at the top. And that’s despite only one Top 25 finish, two losing seasons and several other unsatisfying football campaigns since 2009. Perhaps the sunrise is burnt orange.
But winning doesn’t hurt. Perennial contender Alabama is second in the poll followed by Michigan, Notre Dame and Georgia. Florida schools aren’t far behind with the Gators sitting at No. 6 and the Seminoles at No. 8 to round out the state’s Top 25 representation. The Gators climbed as high as No. 3 in 2007 when it reported royalties of $5.98 million after claiming football and men’s basketball titles. Chomp, chomp. The Seminoles banked $4.58 million after claiming the 2013 football title.
What do schools do with royalties? They fund non-revenue sports to maintain Division I status and Title IX compliance, enhance athletic facilities, pay exorbitant salaries to coaching staffs and, in some cases, pay off the guaranteed contracts of former head coaches (Will Muschamp at Florida) and athletic directors (Steve Patterson at Texas) to the perverse delight of opposing fans.
Admittedly, as one from out of state, I can’t wrap my head around local rivalries any more than I understand mascots such as large reptiles living on golf courses or indigenous people running casinos in South Florida. Please explain the ibis wearing a shirt but no pants, the tin man with a broad sword and the shorthorn steer. But what do I know? Having attended Texas Tech and Texas my mascots are a Yosemite Sam look-a-like and a neutered bull.
What we have in common is a dislike for other colleges if for no other reason than we were raised to dislike them. And rivalry games raise the stakes. Billy McGuffin said recently on his middle school blog, “If grandpa hates Miami and daddy hates Miami, then I hate Miami.” That should last through high school. We know Billy will end up in Coral Gables and shake up the Thanksgiving get-together with orange and green apparel.
On the local front, with one daughter graduated from Florida State, we feel no love for Florida. With another at Villanova, don’t get us started about Georgetown. Then again neither Villanova nor Georgetown play in the FBS, with the big boys, so we hold our angst for basketball season. And while these grudges exist in my household, nothing is greater than my dislike for the farmers from College Station.
I was raised to dislike Texas A&M. Yea, mom’s family were farm folk and they drove maroon cars and trucks, but dad’s family was all about “don’t send my boy to A&M I’d rather see him …” They were that serious. The families didn’t mix during football season. As graduates of Texas and Rice nothing infuriated my dad’s family more than standing in line at the grocer behind an Aggie counting exact change. It took time.
And don’t get me started about its yell leaders (caffeine addicts with crew cuts), mascot (Reveille, a Lassie wannabe) and Corps of Cadets (teenagers in jack boots). It didn’t allow women until 1963. That’s wrong on so many levels.
Texas A&M is the same college while getting its butt kicked in 1981 by SMU and the Pony Express – Eric Dickerson and Craig James in their heyday – took offense when Mustang cheerleaders went contortionist and spelled SMU on the field after the Mustangs scored at A&M’s Kyle Field. A member of the corps didn’t react well. He ran on the field, shoved a male cheerleader to the ground and brandished his sword.
Aggie faithful flooded the radio call-ins. And they didn’t disappoint. Some referenced Kyle Field as hallowed ground – the stadium like most stadiums of its era is a war memorial – not to be besmirched by the antics of visiting cheerleaders. Others thought the cheerleaders should’ve been dispatched at the tip of the sword. Yes, run through. You can’t make up this stuff.
Though swords, hopefully blunted, should remain sheathed in the upcoming weeks, the craziness of rivalries isn’t going to change with location. Florida State already has slipped past Miami, but we still have Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman fans going at it on the call-ins before their clash at the Florida Blue Florida Classic, Nov. 21, at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
UCF and USF fans will trade barbs leading up to their Thanksgiving showdown. Don’t get me started about USF and its “Go Bulls” hand gesture. The Gators conclude the regular season, Nov. 28, at home versus the Seminoles. That’s a whole different level of craziness and much blue-orange and scarlet-gold gear will be sold.
All in all, it’s good fun. Some of it is alcohol infused at day-long tailgates. Some of it is ribbing between work colleagues. Then again life must be good when the biggest distraction during the fall, the one thing that upsets you to the point of yelling at your television, and expecting an answer, is college football.
Well, my fridge is stocked and I’ve promised to keep my game-day swearing to a minimum. Not that anyone has defined the minimum. And yes, my television does yell back. The Aggies once again are ducking the Longhorns. But who can blame them. They bolted for the SEC and safe haven. So instead I’ve got my blood in a boil over Baylor.
Good luck this season. Be sure to hate responsibly.