College Football is big money. You can see this most recently with the Big Ten conference adding Maryland and Rutgers. Not because of their football prowess but because of their geographical location and the markets they can open up (New York, Baltimore and Washington DC respectively). One of the by products of this money grab is the loss of traditional battles you would see at the end of the season.
When conferences began to merge and develop championship games one of the first rivalries to die was that of Nebraska vs Oklahoma. A series that dated back to November 23,1912 was ended due to the fact that Nebraska was in the North and Oklahoma was in the South. They did continue to meet every few years until Nebraska left the conference in 2011 for the Big Ten. Now Nebraska’s rivalry game the day after Thanksgiving is Iowa.
Other rivalries have fallen by the wayside due to conference realignment. Pittsburgh vs West Virginia (the Backyard Brawl) stopped play in 2011 after playing every year since 1943. Texas vs Texas A&M had been played, usually on Thanksgiving, every year since 1898. That came to ended this year when A&M moved over to the SEC and Texas started their own TV network. Texas is keeping the Thanksgiving day game by rotating in opponents such as TCU and Texas Tech but it will not be called the “Lone Star Battle”. Flying under the radar was the ending of the Kansas vs Missouri game which had been played for 120 consecutive years.
Not all rivalries come to end however. When the SEC expanded they somehow managed to keep some of the biggest rivalry games around with Auburn continuing to battle Georgia (the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry) and Tennessee continues to battle Alabama every “third week of October”. These match-ups continue even though half these teams play in the SEC East and the other in the SEC West.
Other schools have managed to keep their beloved rivalry game despite conference realignment. Florida still plays Florida St, Georgia still plays Georgia Tech, Florida St. still plays Miami, South Carolina plays Clemson and BYU still finds time to play Utah in the “Holy War” (this game will stop for two years but will be resumed).
BYU vs Utah is an interesting case. Utah went from the Mountain West to the PAC-12 and BYU ended up becoming an independent team. BYU initially was a little ticked off that Utah went to the PAC-12 and was going to end the series. In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the game looks like it will continue to happen but not at it’s traditional end of the season date.
So why do some of these traditional rivalry games continue while others die off? You could point several directions but the most logical has to be at the administration. You could go other ways and claim that there isn’t enough room on an already tough conference schedule but in all reality, if these schools want the rivalry game to continue then they will find a way to make them happen. A lot of this you’d have to think just comes down to spite.
You’re going to that conference and cashing in without helping us? Oh yeah! Well we’ll just cancel the rivalry so there!
Sometimes you don’t really think about until you hit Thanksgiving and realize that Texas isn’t playing Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. Nebraska isn’t going to battle Oklahoma. West Virginia isn’t going to have their annual slobber-knocker match up against Pitt. Then they get replace with games like TCU vs Texas and West Virginia vs Iowa St. Really?
The flip side to this of course is the rivalry games that continue seem to be that much more special. Michigan is still going to play Ohio State and the old “Iron Bowl” is still going to happen when Alabama and Auburn smack each other in the mouth on Saturday.
What would the fans and people do if these didn’t happen?
Some traditions do come to an end but in the world today with the world being as global as it is isn’t it nice to have something you can rely on like you’re traditional college football battles on Thanksgiving weekend? If it’s a real economic issue, wouldn’t more people show up to watch mediocre Pitt v West Virginia then the .500 Iowa St vs West Virginia?
In case you were wondering, the longest running rivalry in college football is Lehigh vs. Lafayette. They have played the game since 1884 and have met 148 times.