The Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions will be heading back to the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 1977. The Lions will be matching up with the East Central Tigers on Oct. 18 for the first game of a three-year agreement between the teams and the stadium.
“I think it will be a unique experience,” said Lions head coach Scotty Conley, who has been a part of Cotton Bowl games in the past.
Conley coached with the University of Texas from 1982-86 and took part in four Texas-Oklahoma matchups.
“It’s very significant in my career – the unique atmosphere of the Texas-OU game during the state fair time,” said Conley. “So I’ve got very strong memories and I look forward to our players and our coaches having some similar opportunities, and it will be very historical being our (current team) first game there.
A&M-Commerce has played six games overall at the Cotton Bowl with the first dating back to 1948 when the Lions defeated West Texas A&M, 13-7. The team also played there in 1950 and from 1974-77, having won all six. The 1974-77 matchups were all with Prairie View A&M to open those respective seasons.
Playing at the Cotton Bowl for the first time in 31 years can give A&M-Commerce a chance to connect with the surrounding areas.
“For the university I think it’s more recognition within the metroplex area that we can use, certainly as a recruiting tool, not only for athletics but for the entire university,” said Conley.
The weekend before A&M-Commerce takes the field at the Cotton Bowl, the AT&T Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma will take place. The Lions can only hope they will follow the success of this and other annual series played in the stadium as well.
Prairie View A&M and Grambling State also play in the stadium each year and will play again this season on Oct. 4. State Fair of Texas President Errol McKoy reported that the Grambling-Prairie View A&M game started with an attendance of about 18,000 and grew to 65,000 last season. He also said, “we think the long-term potential is there for this game, too.”
The matchup between A&M-Commerce and ECU has the Lions playing as the home team in all three years. The Lions hold an 11-5-1 series advantage over East Central, including last season’s 43-21 rout over the Tigers in Ada, Oklahoma.
While the current plan has the Lions playing at the Cotton Bowl for three years, there is a possibility more games could be played at the stadium in the future.
“Hopefully, I think, what we’re looking at is after these three years, we’ll see it’s a mutual, beneficial situation for the Cotton Bowl association as well as our university,” said Conley.
While the games at the Cotton Bowl will bring recognition to the university, it could also give alumni from the metroplex a chance to see their alma mater play.
“We have so many alumni in the mextroplex area that might come to a game there that we haven’t been able to get to Commerce, but if they come there and see the type of team we’re putting on the field, then maybe they will start driving to Commerce to see our games,” said Conley.
Conley also said “I appreciate the work (athletic director Carlton) Cooper has done in working on this arrangement and having the idea to do it, the foresight to do it. I like the fact that we’re going to try to play there every year.”