Texas A&M University President Mark Welsh III announced last week that the university will not reinstate Aggie Bonfire, a former tradition that was a part of the school’s culture for 90 years.

The first Aggie Bonfire on campus took place in 1909, and it became an annual event, held each year in the days leading up to the traditional Thanksgiving game between rival schools Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin.

“Bonfire symbolizes two things: a burning desire to beat the team from the University of Texas, and the undying flame of love that every loyal Aggie carries in his heart for the school,” a campus handbook from 1947 read.

However, the tradition came to an end after a devastating bonfire collapse on November 18, 1999, that claimed the lives of 12 individuals and left 27 others injured, some severely. A study commissioned by the Texas A&M administration to investigate the 1999 tragedy concluded that deficient construction overseen by inexperienced student workers was the primary factor that led to the collapse. A Bonfire Memorial now marks the spot of the tragedy.

The longstanding rivalry between the Aggies and the Longhorns remains, even though the two teams have not faced each other on the field since 2011. Over the past decade, Texas A&M has played in the SEC, while the University of Texas at Austin has played in the Big 12 conference. With the Longhorns’ upcoming move to the SEC in 2024, the two teams will again have a chance to settle their differences on the gridiron.

Last fall, Texas A&M formed a committee to study and recommend ways to commemorate the return of the storied football rivalry game with UT Austin. One recommendation was to reinstitute the bonfire tradition with an engineer-designed, contractor-built bonfire on the West campus, but ultimately, Welsh rejected the idea.

“… [A]fter careful consideration, I have decided it is not in the best interest of Texas A&M and the Aggie Family to bring Bonfire back to campus,” Welsh wrote in a letter to the Aggie community released on June 4.

He noted that most of those who reached out to him about the subject opposed reinstituting Aggie Bonfire.

“Among those who supported bringing Bonfire back, most highlighted the bonding experience and leadership and organizational skills learned by student body participants during the cut and build phases of Bonfire. Therefore, if students weren’t organizing, leading, and building the Bonfire, then they didn’t think we should bring it back,” Welsh continued.

“The committee was also clear in its position that the only legally viable option for the return of the campus Bonfire was for it to be an engineer-designed, contractor-built project. After careful consideration, I decided that Bonfire, both a wonderful and tragic part of Aggie history, should remain in our treasured past,” Welsh wrote.

“The lives of the 12 Aggies lost and 27 injured on Nov. 18, 1999, are commemorated at the Bonfire Memorial, and that sacred place will remain the centerpiece of how we remember the beloved tradition and the dedication of those involved in the tragic 1999 collapse. I look forward to joining many of you at Bonfire Remembrance this year at 2:42 a.m. on Nov. 18 to honor our fallen Aggies on the 25th anniversary of their loss. We will continue to hold them and their families close at that event and always,” Welsh concluded.

Welsh added that he would announce new activities in the fall to celebrate the return of the Aggie-Longhorns football rivalry game.