- Mark Schipper
New Texas Longhorns Book says A&M Aggies Are Little Brother & Makes a Statistical Case
By Mark Schipper
Kyle Umlang has a newly awarded master’s degree in applied data science and, fittingly, a new book chock full of statistical facts. And because Umlang loves college football, and went to school at the University of Texas, his treatise is strung with statistical pearls running out from the Longhorns' momentarily dormant rivalry with Texas A&M University.
But what makes Umlang’s book more than a sidelight about a cancelled football rivalry is that it gets at the nature of the unique Big Brother vs Little Brother dynamic that exists in many college football and university rivalries. The text, 101 Aggie Facts: Things Every Longhorn Should Know, opens with a merciless a gut shot:
From the Texas Constitution, 1876: The legislature, as soon as practicable, was to establish, organize, and provide for the maintenance and support of a university of the first class.
*Texas A&M was created in 1871.
Even though the state had a college in A&M, they decided to try again five years later, this time with a “first class” university. And that was only the first page.
Without a yearly showdown on the gridiron to relieve some of the pressure from this rivalry, the battle between the fanbases has become increasingly asymmetrical. Umlang’s new salvo, the latest campaign in the permanent war, wants to win the argument both by points and by knockout.
In the nature of unhappy marriages with so much bitter history the parties can hardly stand to be in the same room together, the football-sides of the two universities stopped speaking to each other back in 2011. That was the year Texas had signed an exclusive $300 million dollar television deal with ESPN, which created their very own Longhorn Network channel, and declined either to share the wealth with their league or join them in a shared venture that would have seen everyone paid.
It was a selfish and greedy move, there’s no arguing that, but that does not mean it was the wrong thing to do. Both the old Southwest Conference, where Texas had come from, and the Big 12, where they had relocated in 1996 as a founding member, were catch-as-catch-can leagues when it came to generating revenue. We don’t blame the shark when it takes a bite out of the surfer and in the same way it is hard to blame Texas for allowing a heavy revenue stream to be channeled straight into the personal bank account. What would you have done?
But A&M also wanted more TV revenue, better exposure for its athletics, and distance from what had become, in their eyes, an increasingly toxic rivalry with the Longhorns. So the Aggies fired off a double-barreled middle-finger at Texas and the Big 12 and moved their operations to the Southeastern Conference (SEC), where they got all the money and publicity they'd sought, but are waiting on the championship returns.
For the rest of the country the divorce marked a sad and stupid end to one of the sport’s greatest annual and traditional games. Aggies versus Horns began in 1894, had been contested every season since 1915, and counted 118 meetings between the two schools. For most the United States those two programs meant little outside of their Thanksgiving-weekend game, which millions upon millions watched as part of the holiday.
“The rivalry was a big deal,” says Umlang, who spoke by phone with 5th Down College Football. “My dad and middle brother went to Texas A&M, but my youngest brother and I went to Texas. That jabbing at each other, going back and forth, either at the game itself or watching it together on Thanksgiving, I do miss that. That atmosphere was something you only find in several of the best rivalries around the country.”
The light had gone out for good in dramatic fashion on a fine Thanksgiving night in 2011. With 1:48 left to play in the game and the series the Aggies connected on a sixteen-yard touchdown strike to take a hair-raising, 25-24, lead. The racket within the big cauldron at Kyle Field rose to deafening levels, like commercial jets winding up their engines before takeoff, as euphoria began to spread like a smoky vapor through the assembly.
“They were talking so much crap for the last ten minutes,” Umlang said of his father and middle brother as they all watched on TV. “Rubbing it in in our faces—you’re gonna lose—eternal scoreboard—all this stuff.”
And then it happened. Following the kickoff Texas executed an ugly, six-play drive that miraculously picked up 48 yards and left three-seconds on the clock. With everything, the past, present, and future on the line—and what felt like symbolic fashion for the rivalry—the Horns booted a towering, no-doubt-about-it 40-yard field goal as time expired to win, 27-25, and absolutely silenced that boiling sea of Aggies’ fanatics in College Station.
The TV broadcast of those final moments captures all of its pent-up emotion and drama.
“When the kick went up, before it had even gone through—because you could tell it was good right away—my Aggie bro took the remote, shut off the TV, threw it, and went upstairs and started slamming doors," says Umlang.
"Portraits fell off the wall. It was hilarious, it was the best thing ever because of how much they’d had to say before it happened.”
That final triumph stretched the series lead to 76-37-5 in favor of Texas, but over the last 40 meetings that number is only 22-19. The all-time record has stood untouched these last ten seasons. The loss of their annual Thanksgiving-day competition has stripped out some essential value from both football programs, though both sides are too proud to admit it publicly.
BIG BROTHER AND LITTLE BROTHER
College football has been built up around several types of major rivalries: Traditional battles hallowed by time—Border Wars between states—Intersectional Games with fascinating back stories——Conference vs Conference battles, (both inter and intra)—State Championships—City Championships—Public School vs Private School—Religious School vs Religious School—and Land Grant colleges vs University systems.
The Big Brother vs Little Brother dynamic works like a force multiplier—and like Cain and Able, or the guys from Death of a Salesman—it is the most incendiary and emotional relationship of them all.
Texas and Texas A&M was a fine example of an ultra-volatile blend. It was a traditional battle hallowed by time, a state championship, an intra-conference and then divisional rivalry, and a Land Grant vs University-System battle, with all the class implications represented in the two types of schools.
A fine example of the class antagonisms at play can be seen in how Aggies frequently refer to Longhorns as “T-Sips,” which stands for “Tea Sippers.” The reason for this, in A&M’s mind, is that while their students are learning practical and useful skills at their Agricultural and Mechanical schools, or, with their long-standing corps of cadets program, off fighting wars to defend the country, Longhorns are at cocktail hours in swanky clubs, discussing the differences between early Greek and late Roman philosophy, before deciding which new, high-concept restaurant in Austin to patronize that night.
It does not matter if any of it is true or not, these things are instilled like religion. The Aggies, for example, will never ask themselves why—if Texas Longhorns are tea sippers—their football team is 39 games under five hundred against such a pack of wusses? That would ruin the good time, you see. Once you start to understand the types of people involved in the rivalry it it not difficult to see why this relationship has been rocky over the years.
To the disgust of Aggies around the world the athletic rivalry between the schools also qualifies under the Big Brother/Little Brother taxonomy, a dreaded designation for a school with as much pride in their traditions and identity as A&M has. The number one requirement, call it a prerequisite, for potential Big Brother/Little Brother classification, is a competition known for markedly one-sided outcomes.
Umlang’s book is filled with head-to-head statistics that make a powerful case for it here:
If the president pardoned all of Texas A&M’s football losses from when they were strictly a military school (1871-1965), they would still have a losing record to Texas.
Since 1990, Texas has beaten Texas A&M in eight or more different sports during the same calendar year a record 20 times. Texas A&M has never beaten Texas in eight or more sports in the same year.
Texas Top Five finishes in football during Leap Years: 5
Texas A&M Top Five finishes in Football, Basketball, and Baseball All-Time: 4.
Texas vs Texas A&M | All Sports
Last 25 Years: Texas leads A&M 266-148-4 (64 percent)
Last 15 Years: Texas Leads Texas A&M 132-73-0 (64 percent)
Last 5 Years: Texas Leads Texas A&M 21-11-0 (65 percent)
To understand why fans of a school at such a stark historical deficit would want to engage their rival’s fanbase over a self-proclaimed sense of superiority, you must understand a little more about the Little Brother mentality. Self awareness is a conspicuous weak point, where the failings of Big Brother typically are treasured at least equally alongside their own accomplishments.
Aggies fans, for example, love to mock Texas for their most recent, middling decade of football, and point to the Longhorns' last national championship—won in 2005 against Southern California in one of the greatest college football games ever played—as some kind of dusty artifact. But the Longhorn’s last championship might as well have been yesterday compared to A&M’s, which happened in 1939, a comparison that Umlang puts into context:
Texas A&M’s last football national championship is closer to the Emancipation Proclamation (1862) than it is to the upcoming season.
The Book Itself
Umlang says he made his book as a reaction against prolific and fact-free social-media engagements with the Texas A&M crowd. Since leaving for the SEC, and assuming a class upgrade had taken place purely because of the new address, many Aggies have tended to address the Longhorns and Big 12 as if they were pauper characters in a Dickens novel. Umlang’s collection of facts serve as an almanac for Longhorns to address Aggie disinformation on the spot.
“I realized there were a lot of people on Twitter who had only been watching football for the last five or six years and had no idea about the history,” says Umlang.
“They thought A&M was some SEC school—and then Texas was having one of its worst-ever decades—so they got the wrong idea. There’s a whole bunch of people who need to know about these things. So it became me informing everyone that just because they’re in the SEC doesn’t really mean anything. They just moved there. Here’s who they are. Here’s how I’ve always known them."
In the decade since A&M fled the Big 12 to become an SEC nouveau riche, the football team has compiled a 77-37 overall record, with a 50-37 number against Power 5 programs. They have not yet won their division, the SEC West, or an SEC conference championship. The Aggies last conference crown came 23 years ago when they upset Kansas State in the 1998 Big 12 title game.
Over that same timespan the Longhorns have gone 65-48 overall, with a 54-46 record against Power 5 competition, a loss total that includes several embarrassing upsets. But Texas’s last conference title came in 2009, when they also played for the national title, losing to Nick Saban’s first championship team at Alabama. The Longhorns played for the Big 12 championship again in 2018, but lost to the Oklahoma Sooners. Since then Texas has fired another coach and are trying again this fall with a new head man.
Because the Aggies' set frequently boasts about its superior league and better class of competition over the last nine seasons, Umlang’s fact-sheet breaks down A&M’s performance into more granular detail.
Sixty-nine percent of Texas A&M’s conference wins since joining the SEC have come against Arkansas (9), the Mississippi schools (17), South Carolina (7), and Vanderbilt (3).
Texas A&M’s win percentage against the best two teams in their division:
Last 9 years in Big 12: 4-14 (22 percent)
First 9 years in SEC: 3-15 (17 percent)
Since joining the SEC, Texas A&M has more wins over FCS (1AA) opponents (9) than yearly conference division foes Alabama, Auburn, and LSU (7)
Another aspect of the Little Brother personality is a proclivity for sniping. But the sniping turns into a strange kind of psychological projection when Little Brother is called out on it. Even after initiating almost every confrontation, and throwing nine out of every ten opening insults, Little Brother will gaslight the conversation when the Big Brother finally engages, asking in outraged fashion: ‘Why are you always so obsessed with me?’
“That’s what they have to say, what they have to do,” says Umlang. “They have to say that the other guy’s jealous, the other guy’s obsessed. But no one really pays attention to the Little Brother schools except those who went there, and their families, so they’re always struggling to even be recognized. So they do whatever they can to get your attention and then ask why you’re stalking them.”
Right on queue, two standout representatives of the Little Brother mindset appeared on social media to attack Umlang’s book. It is no problem to attack Umlang’s book, or hate it, or try to refute it, but what made the situation amazing was how fast these two avatars of Little Brother fandom jumped at the chance to attack a book they had not read.
Ironically, had Kayce Smith and Brandon Walker of Barstool Sports Unnecessary Roughness podcast not shown up on Twitter with their videos, Umlang’s book would have got less attention.
“She’s pretty popular,” Umlang says of Smith. “It gets me attention, it helps me sell books, so she can keep it up. I encourage her to keep tweeting about it.”
Smith might be the most out-front and vocal A&M supporter in the college-football podcast world, and Walker is a far gone Mississippi State Bulldog fan who has spent much of his life in spectator agony. Watching them yell into the camera felt like seeing a friend disregard good advice from mom to ignore any provocation from Big Brother. But the Little Brother just cannot stop himself, which only makes it worse.
The first Unnecessary Roughness video was posted under a Tweet that read: “You expose yourself as jealous little children when you refer to your rivals as Little Brothers” . . . . . .
“There’s this guy on Twitter who has this, ‘Aggie Facts,’ and he’s a Longhorn fan, and he tweets out facts about A&M sports all the time. Fine, if you want to waste your time on social media doing that, fine, that’s all fine and good,” Smith says, referencing Umlang and Texas on a video she herself recorded and posted to social media.
“How many times do you hear the, ‘A&M always thinks about Texas; Texas lives rent-free in A&M’s head,’” says Smith, who frequently talks about Texas and her opinion of Texas.
At that point Walker interrupts Smith to go on his own mini-rant about Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
“I get it from Ole Miss people,” Walker says. “Ole Miss fans are f—ing obsessed with everything Mississippi State fans do. And it covers everything they do in life. So the way they cover it is by saying we’re obsessed.”
At the moment Walker made his rant there were no Ole Miss social-media videos or Tweets talking about Mississippi State. But Walker, after the manner of scorned Little Brothers everywhere, felt Umlang’s Texas A&M book had obliged him to speak out about the problems with Ole Miss. While confusing to everyone else, in the Little Brothers’ mind the motivation here makes perfect sense.
If you could somehow point a device at Walker that revealed what was actually animating him, it would have showed the series record of the Egg Bowl, the annual football game between the two schools, that Ole Miss leads by a wide margin at 63-45-6.
“I felt bad for them,” Umlang says with a light-hearted laugh. “You could tell the Mississippi State guy—his face, his language—he’s been dealing with this rivalry his whole life. He cannot stand Mississippi. He hates being Little Brother.”
The pair released another video a few weeks later, cut from a longer conversation recorded during their podcast, attempting to shame people into no longer using the Big Brother/Little Brother rubric to describe a one-sided rivalry.
“It’s just a played-out f—ing thing, it’s just ridiculous,” says Walker, who sounds a little angrier and a little more exasperated after every failed effort to abolish this useful and easily understood concept.
“I don’t like it because it’s supposed to be demeaning, but it just doesn’t make any sense anymore,” says Smith, picking up the thread. “Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fans do it. It’s really just a weak, lazy argument for your rival.”
Smith's prodigious lack of awareness in making the Oklahoma State—Oklahoma comparison is both impressive and hilarious. OU vs Okie State arguably is the quintessential Big Brother/Little Brother rivalry in college football, largely because the Sooners lead the series, which is called Bedlam, 87-18-7. Even in the T. Boone Pickens era of Oklahoma State football, in which the Cowboys have stepped up in class in every possible manner, the Polks are just 2-18 in the last twenty rounds against the Sooners.
“It’s funny she uses that one. Oklahoma—Oklahoma State is the most painful one,” said Umlang. “Oklahoma always finds a way to win. It’s so rare for the Cowboys to win that game. Being an Oklahoma State fan would be rough, even worse than A&M.”
But Smith, undaunted, (because Texas is obsessed with her, okay), had more she wanted to say to the Longhorns and Umlang. In a third social-media video, she returned to promulgate an old canard, claiming Texas A&M had in fact forced the name of the Longhorn’s famous steer mascot, Bevo, on the university, after branding a 13-0 score into his hide to commemorate a 1915 victory.
The legend had it that Texas found a way to turn the 13 into a “B”, while adding an “E” and “V” into the middle, and then using the zero for an “O” to get B-E-V-O. How could A&M be Little Brothers when they named your mascot, bro? And with that Smith knocked the ball back into Texas’s court.
“They love that story,” says Umlang. "It’s a time-honored tradition. My little brother, who went to A&M, came back from Fish Camp [freshman orientation] telling that story. I had to tell him, no, that’s not true.”
Beneath Smith’s triumphant video Umlang posted a 1916 article from The Alcalde, the Texas alumni magazine, detailing the naturally orange-tinted steer’s debut at halftime of the 1916 Thanksgiving game between the Aggies and Horns. He was already named Bevo, and was introduced as such when he was presented to the student body in a kind of mock ceremony, as their new mascot.
It was in reality three months later, after losing that 1916 game to Texas, 21-7, that a small squad of Aggie cadets snuck into Austin and cruelly branded the steer’s hide with the score of the 1915 game.
After receiving several threats that Bevo was going to be kidnapped, the steer was removed from Austin to a ranch for the duration of World War I, which ended in November of 1918. Following the war, with the livestock costing Texas more than they wanted to pay, Bevo was fattened up and then barbecued for the 1919 end-of-season football banquet. Several Aggies were invited by Texas to attend the feast and were presented with Bevo’s pelt, which still had the 13-0 branded into the hide.
“It’s pretty funny, and pretty typical,” says Umlang. “It was 105 years ago, so who’s going to claim they’re wrong? Everyone just kind of accepted it, but it’s not true. I don’t know why they do it. No one does. No one understands anything they do.”
Aggie Facts is a fine book both for the specialist and the general college-football anthropologist. If you are a Texas Longhorn it is a must have while if you are an Aggie it is a reality that must be confronted on its own terms.
A Little Brother certainly can rise up and become equal or even overcome a Big Brother—take Oregon and Washington, or UCLA and Cal, as your paradigms of virtue—but never after the teams have stopped playing each other. The relevant parties in Texas need to figure out a way to get the Longhorns and Aggies back on the football field on Thanksgiving day so we can all find out what has changed and what has not after all these years.