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North Texas versus SMU: The Rivalry (Or Is It?)

In a game played by schools only 30 miles away, one school wants to call it a rivalry. The other? Not so much.

Sarah Glenn

Everything says this game should be a rivalry.

The schools are separated by 30 miles, give or take. They both compete for the same recruits, for the same TV market, for the same respect given to Texas, Texas A&M and now Baylor in the Dallas-Fort Worth Market.

A 9-4 North Texas team in 2013 was paraded around the Metroplex just like the 2009 SMU, which finished 8-5 and went to their first bowl game in twenty years. In both cases, adoration of both teams was usurped by attention focused on their bigger brothers, Baylor in 2013 (and Johnny Football), and Texas in 2009.

Both schools have enjoyed prominent periods in their football histories- North Texas in the 1960's, 1970's, and early 2000's, and SMU in the 1960's and 1980's, and both fell on down times as well.

Both schools feature prominent football legends: Don Meredith, Eric Dickerson and Doak Walker at SMU, and Mean Joe Green, Abner Haynes, and Ray Renfro at North Texas.

Both coaches share a head coach- Hayden Fry spent 10 losing years at SMU, before coming to what was then North Texas State, and taking the program to unprecedented heights, though he never went to a bowl game, despite back-to-back years of 10-1 and 9-2 in his final years at the program.

It should be a rivalry - private, Methodist school in the heart of University Park (where the uber-rich in Dallas live), versus the big, small but mighty former teacher's college turned burgeoning university in a formerly small town at the north edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. A matchup that former North Texas coach Matt Simon said in 1994, after a two-year break in the series:

I'd like to play because I think we could beat them, and my players feel the same way. If they'd like to play on a Safeway parking lot... just give us a date and time."

To outsiders, it's a lopsided series, with SMU leading 28-4-1 all time. The past 4 matchups, however (played in 1990, 1992, 2006 and 2007), have the teams deadlocked at 2 games apiece

UNT fans want SMU to be their rival. SMU fans say TCU is their rival. However, SMU fans speak of UNT in a way an older sibling speaks of his fast rising brother. Older UNT fans say SMU was the reason the school didn't receive a bid to the Southwest Conference in the 1970's. Older SMU fans pine for the days when their conference schedule included Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech.

Academically (and it pains me to say this as an alumnus of North Texas), the schools are a world apart. SMU has a prestigious law school, and the Cox MBA program is one of the top 20 in the nation. UNT has always been known for its arts program. The students who apply to both schools come from different backgrounds (though transfers happen frequently between the two schools). Denton likes to bill itself as a little Austin. University Park likes to bill itself as a little..... Wall Street?

This is game that award-winning Dallas broadcaster (and UNT alum) George Dunham says is "personal". SMU fans try to play the game off as nothing more than another game, but if they lose all hell might break loose on Mockingbird Lane.

One school says it's a rivalry. One school says it isn't. So you tell me, is the first game of a ten game series between the teams the start of something bigger?