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Texas Longhorns Football: It’s Time to Stop Playing on Thanksgiving

Texas playing football on Thanksgiving is a time honored tradition – one that has outlived its purpose.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Long ago and far away, Thanksgiving meant carving turkey, watching the Green Bay Packers play the Detroit Lions and then watching Texas play Texas A&M.

Simpler times all the way around. Three basic channels.  Traditional rivalries filling traditional TV timeslots at the end of November.

No more.

The NFL has co-opted Thanksgiving, scheduling a triple-header to please its three network partners. Most of college football has wisely ceded the day to the pros. ESPN needs content so they insist on scheduling a game in prime time. FOX has a new baby - FS1 so it to wants a college game to fill its time slot as well.


Doesn't mean Texas - or any elite program - should cooperate by putting its fans out on a holiday for the sake of appeasing its TV partners. It isn't worth the trouble it puts the fans through for the (relatively) small ratings that the games draw.

The early returns for last Thursday show that the A&M-LSU contest drew 2.9 million viewers, more than double the number -- 1.3 million -- who tuned in to watch TCU curb stomp Texas.

Meanwhile 23 million viewers were watching Seattle-San Francisco on NBC.

I'm sure Aggies will take great joy in the comparative numbers. Congratulations, you poked your (former) rival in the eye with a stick, while drawing about half the audience your game with LSU would have drawn had it been played on Friday or Saturday.

There are several reasons to account for the disparity. ESPN is a brand name that is seen in 115 million homes. FS1 is the new kid on the block in about 90 million households. While TCU is still in the running for a play-off spot, playing a 6-5 Texas can't make up for their small fan base or their relative weak draw among the general college football fan base. The SEC will still bring more of those fans to the TV sets.

But again, the numbers don't justify taking on the most powerful professional sports league in the country.

Texas' stubborn insistence on playing every Thanksgiving at home is also a drag. Getting students to stay in town every other year? Maybe. Getting students to stay in town year-in-year-out to watch Texas play Texas Tech or TCU? I doubt that sits well parents of students or season ticket holders for that matter.

So stop trying to create artificial "rivalries" with two different programs for every other year.  Stop sabotaging your own attendance by insisting on playing on Thanksgiving night every year.

Start building a new tradition by moving to Thanksgiving weekend.