Deeply embedded in the soul of Texas, amongst the culture, the lone star flag, and the rugged individualism, is the storied rivalry between the two most prestigious public universities this great state has to offer.
The University of Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M University Fightin’ Aggies battled it out for gridiron supremacy from 1894 to 2011. In that time the two football programs combined for eight claimed football national championships, three Heisman Trophies, and countless memories at Darrell Royal Memorial Stadium and Kyle Field.
Why the rivalry in football ended is fairly obvious and has caused such a stir across the state that Texas state legislators have filed bills to force the teams to play.
To no avail.
However, the rivalry between the two schools extends well-past football and all varsity lettered sports. No, Texas vs. TAMU extends to the board room, the state house in Austin, the Governors Mansion, and in households across the state.
Soon the great and storied rivalry of the Aggies and Longhorns will once again take place in one of America’s greatest college football venues, the Cotton Bowl. The only difference being that the playing surface will be a sheet of ice.
In a major development for the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association), the TCHC (Texas Collegiate Hockey Conference), and the Texas and Texas A&M club hockey teams, the Cotton Bowl on January 5th will be the setting for the first outdoor club hockey game in the south.
Texas A&M club hockey president Huston Svondrk is a local product who played his high school hockey at Plano East High School and club hockey for the Dallas Warriors program. The senior forward biomedical sciences major, serves as an assistant captain in addition to his role as club president. To Huston this venture onto NHL ice started by simply reaching out to the Dallas Stars.
“We found out there was going to be ice set up in the Cotton Bowl after the 1st (2020 Winter Classic), we decided to take a shot and reach out to the Stars,” Huston said. They (the Stars) quickly got back to us and they were very excited about the prospect of coordinating a college hockey game in the Cotton Bowl, especially against the University of Texas and A&M.”
The Aggies and the Longhorns are very familiar with each other in recent years, as both teams play and reside in ACHA’s Division II Texas Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Conference is comprised of each club hockey team in the state, who compete in an end-of-season conference tournament for an automatic bid to the ACHA D-2 national tournament. The Aggies defeated the Longhorns in the tournament a season ago, which makes this exhibition at the Cotton Bowl anything but meaningless.
Huston quipped that, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be playing in an outdoor game against our biggest rival, much less than in the Cotton Bowl a few days after an NHL game.”
Huston has good reason to think that this once-in-a-lifetime dream was for all intents and purposes only that: a dream.
For years, Texas college hockey stood on the outside looking in when it came to the region’s club hockey scene. Texas currently fields no ACHA Division I men’s programs, with the closest Division I team located at the University of Oklahoma. However, while largely ignored by many around the state and the region, Texas college club has served as a land of opportunity for hockey players from Texas and elsewhere to continue their hockey passions at the next level.
In fact, the presence of hockey players looking to play at schools across the state has seen programs pop up as far as the University of Texas El Paso and as wide as East Texas Baptist University. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area alone there are four club teams: The University of North Texas, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, and Dallas Baptist University.
Many of these teams have their own rinks and facilities that house robust locker rooms and rabid fanbases. However, the grind can be tough for these teams, as many have to practice at odd hours, pack games into weekend series, and pay club fees to cover travel, uniforms, and ice time.
However, it will all be worth it when Texas and A&M combine to showcase ACHA and TCHC hockey on its biggest stage to date.
“This game will give our programs, ACHA hockey, and Texas hockey in general the much needed publicity that is deserves,” Huston said. “We want to prove that we can we play at a high, entertaining level.”
There is also something about this college hockey experience that will make this game unique in the landscape of this rivalry.
The Dallas Stars as an organization have displayed their commitment time and again to growing the game of hockey, not just in DFW, but around the state of Texas. The chain of Children’s Hospital StarCenters are physical proof of this commitment. There will be another physical piece of evidence for the Stars’ commitment and ultimate success in their efforts when these two schools take the ice.
It is is safe to say that most of the players on the rosters of Texas and A&M grew up playing on these very rinks that the franchise built and operates. This should serve as a point of pride for a franchise and their countless years of youth hockey development.
There is also another point of pride in this whole process. The bond of hockey players and the common goal to grow the game.
The Universities of Texas and A&M at the NCAA level do not like each other and do not want to play each other on the biggest stages. However, when it comes to hockey and growing the sport, it seems that the rivalry has been set aside for the good of the game.
“It has been and still is a joint effort between all parties involved,” Huston said via our conversation. “There has been consistent communication between UT, A&M, and the Dallas Stars organization almost every day since the game contract was agreed upon.”
For details on when the Texas A&M Aggies and Texas Longhorns will face-off, we have a tweet from the official A&M Ice Hockey Twitter account with details.
Go out and see the growth of Texas College Hockey at the Cotton Bowl on January 5th.
Your 2020 Texas Showdown— Texas A&M Ice Hockey (@tamuicehockey) December 16, 2019
The Aggies and Longhorns renew the rivalry and #TakeItOutdoors at Cotton Bowl Stadium This event will be a non-ticketed exhibition match and begins at 5:15PM on January 5, 2020
We would like to thank the Dallas Stars and NHL for this opportunity. pic.twitter.com/0xOoIufr1D