Jackson Rushing was born and raised in Austin. Grew up a Longhorn fan. Went to the University of Texas. Earned not one but three degrees from the school.
Safe to say he's hooked on the Horns.
Thing is, he sees both sides of the Red River Rivalry. Sees it every day. Sees it up close, actually.
Rushing is an art history professor at Oklahoma.
“It's different, I can tell you that,” he said of being a Texas fan living in Norman and working at OU.
But has the rivalry become even more different for Longhorn fans this year?
For the first time in more than a century, Texas is a one-rivalry team. Gone is Texas A&M. Gone is College Station from the Big 12 map. Gone is that traditional Thanksgiving showdown between the Longhorns and the Aggies.
Texas and Texas A&M first played in 1894, and in a football-mad state, their rivalry became the granddad of them all. But now, it's anyone's guess when they might meet again on the gridiron.
“With the absence of the Aggies,” Longhorn quarterback David Ash said earlier this week, “I guess (OU) is our only rivalry that we have right now.”
So, does that mean Texas fans are going to direct all of their vitriol toward OU? Does that mean this Red River Rivalry is about to get even more intense?
“I think it is already maxed out in terms of intensity,” Rushing said.
Maybe he's right.
This rivalry has long been heated. OU-Texas has been so good through the years that it survived no matter what league the teams called home. They competed when they were in the same conference (Southwest, 1915-19), when they were in different conferences (1920-95), then again when they were in the same conference (Big 12, 1996-present).
But since the turn of the century, this rivalry has been in its heyday. And that's been because of the programs' success. During the decade of the 2000s, there were five instances where the OU-Texas winner eventually played in the national championship game.
The importance of the game in the national championship chase has fanned the rivalry's fire.
Meanwhile, the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry cooled a bit.
The Aggies fell on hard times, fumbling through the end of the R.C. Slocum era, then stumbling through nearly a decade with Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman. Even though the Aggies still beat the Longhorns during those struggles, the game lost some of its luster.
Still, it was a huge deal.
So, too, was its end.
“For most of my life, the A&M game was the big rivalry,” Rushing said. “That was the game.
“We'd rather eat rocks than lose to the Aggies.”
DeLoss Dodds doesn't exactly agree. Or at least that's what the Texas athletic director said. A year ago when conference realignment was bucking and taking college football for a ride, he contended that OU had always been the chief rival, not Texas A&M.
Of course, he said, the Texas A&M game had been great. Sure, the Longhorns might agree to play the Aggies again some day.
But playing the Sooners?
That was something the Longhorns had to do.
Megan McKibben remembers feeling that way. While she was at Texas getting her degree, the OU game always felt way important than the A&M game. Maybe it was because the A&M game fell over Thanksgiving break when students were scattered while the OU game was smack in the middle of the semester.
“You're thinking about this game all week,” she said of the Red River Rivalry. “This is a week you marked on your calendar before school started.”
Like Rushing, McKibben now lives and works on the north side of the Red River. She's used to grief from Sooner fans. She's accustomed to awkward stares when she wears her burnt orange cowboy boots, complete with the Longhorn insignia.
But she insists the OU rivalry holds no added significance than it did before Texas A&M's departure to the SEC.
It was already her team's biggest game.
How could biggest get bigger?
“This rivalry was already important,” she said. “It will just stand and be important all by itself now.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.