Rice and Texas A&M will open the 2013 college football season. Mark it down in ink and make your travel plans now.
For the first time since 1995, two of the original eight schools who created the Southwest Conference in 1915 will return to a place that has seen them create some memorable moments both on, and off the field.... More on that in a minute.
With the shifting sands of conference membership anything but settled, future schedules are a tenuous listing at best. Rick Greenspan and the Rice Athletics administration have sought to turn this uncertainty into opportunity in order to ensure that the Owls will have at least one road game that can be counted upon to guarantee significant revenue.
The Aggies game in 2013 and the previously-announced game at Notre Dame in 2014 have addressed this need in the immediate future, and with the topsy-turvy reality of the times, these are but two of the games that are truly locked in.
But those are issues that will remain fluid for an extended period in the future. Let's get back to reuniting the Aggies and Owls and the return of a matchup that thrilled Owls fans for generations.
The two first met in 1914, and one year later they joined with six other schools to form the Southwest Conference. Two years later, their fledgling rivalry gave would give the Owls mascot its name.
A group of A&M students kidnapped the large canvas representation of an Owl that was used as Rice's mascot during games. Rice students hired a private detective to locate their taken symbol, and upon discovering its whereabouts, the detective telegraphed back to Houston that "Sammy is fairly well and would like to see his parents at 11 o'clock", the recovery mission was confirmed.
While A&M enjoyed the greater measure of success in the early years, Jess Neely's arrival on campus would mark the dawn of an extended period of dominance by the Owls.
Neely was winless in his first five tries against A&M, but beginning in 1945 he would reel of 10 consecutive wins over the Aggies, as he build Rice into a program that won three conference crowns and was ranked in the final top 20 five times.
Paul "Bear" Bryant ended that skein in 1955 and two years later, he brought a powerful and undisputed #1 team into Rice Stadium for a later November showdown in front of a standing-room only crowd of 73,000. King Hill would put on all around performance in front of a national audience that he would earn first-team All America honors. It was his extra point kick after the Owls touchdown in the first half that would stand up and deliver on of the most memorable wins in Rice history.
Former Houston Chronicle columnist Mickey Herskowitz, a longtime Bryant friend and biographer, recalled in an interview for the "100 Years of Rice Football" documentary how deeply the loss impacted Bryant, even years later when he returned to Houston:
In later years, the series again more to the Aggies favor, but the Owls could always be counted upon to deliver a stunning blow, perhaps no more so than in 1973 when Al Conover reached deep in to his bag of special teams tricks and thwarted a spirited Aggie comeback with a kickoff return by Carl Sweirc.
Rice's last win in the series came in 1980 when Ray Alborn led the Owls in to College Station and escaped with a 10-6 wins, part of an undefeated SWC road schedule for Rice that year. In the years that followed, A&M would roll on to win 15 straight to give them their current advantage of 50-27-3.
Ironically, that streak began in 1981 on the strength of the right arm of Aggies quarterback Gary Kubiak, who threw six touchdown passes to lead A&M to a 51-26 win over Rice. When the two teams take the field in 2013, Kubiak's son, Klein, will be a senior wide receiver for the Owls.
The last two games between the two were rugged defensive affairs, with A&M winning 7-0 in College Station in 1994 and 17-10 at Rice Stadium in 1995. Such scores are not so common place in the wide open world of 21st century college football.
After nearly 20 years, two foes will get familiar again, at least for one season. Sammy can return to the city that gave him his name and countless generations of Owls will have a moment to recall games of the past.
We've barely scratched the surface of those memories.
The floor is open for your submissions....