Texas A&M will officially become a SEC school on July 1, 2012. The Aggies join college football's premier conference as a member of the SEC's Western Division.
From a Texas A&M point of view, here's an introduction for SEC fans on the Aggies' tradition, history and what to expect when fans come to College Station in the future.
On behalf of the vast majority of Aggies — 50,000 current Texas A&M students, 345,000 living former students and maroon-blooded fans throughout Texas and beyond — thanks for allowing us to build our dream home in your prestigious neighborhood. We don’t plan on moving again. Ever.
Many of us have been enviously eyeing your well-manicured hedges, massive homes and incredible weekend block parties/tailgates for a couple of decades. In 1990, when Arkansas announced it was leaving the Southwest Conference, A&M coach R.C. Slocum and various high-ranking university administrators seriously discussed the possibility of becoming the 12th SEC member — even before South Carolina. “At that time, it was rumored Texas was most interested in the Pac-10,” Slocum recalled recently. “We decided within our little group that the SEC was a better fit for us culturally. I was totally for it.”
Unfortunately, some lawsuit-threatening state elected officials were not, and A&M was essentially forced to move into a less attractive subdivision. The Big 12 was an improvement, but it was not the cultural fit of the SEC. Like so many of you fine folks of the Deep South, we love Southern hospitality, good barbecue, cold beer, women in sundresses, pickup trucks, Saturday night games, dog mascots and dominating defenses.
We made some friends in our old stomping grounds, including our fellow movers from the “Show Me State.” But we had to endure the shenanigans of the most arrogant homeowner in college athletics.
He pushed us too far when he had a fling with Miss ESPN, took over the Big 12 Homeowners Association and flaunted it on his own TV network. He’s looked down his nose at us since 1894, and after about 117 years — we’re not always the quickest decision-makers — we realized it was time to part ways. We’re leaving a dysfunctional situation behind, and we’re extremely excited about the new digs.
We’re well-acquainted with some of you (we’ve played Arkansas 68 times and LSU 50), and we share many common bonds. Bear Bryant did an amazing job in College Station in the 1950s before “going home to Mama.” Emory Bellard and Jackie Sherrill coached in Aggieland before Mississippi State; and Tennessee legend Gen. Robert R. Neyland was a baseball letterman at A&M in 1911.
Former Tennessee All-American Herman Hickman, speaking to a gathering of Texans, once said: “Tennessee gave you Sam Houston and Davy Crockett; you gave us Bob Neyland. Now the score is even.”
Speaking of war heroes, A&M has a proud military history, and this is one of the most patriotic places in the country. But don’t be misled to believe this is still an all-male, military, cow college.
In 1876, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas opened its doors as the first public institution of higher learning in Texas. For many decades afterward, participation in the Corps of Cadets was mandatory. That’s when many traditions at the all-male school began, such as yell leaders instead of cheerleaders. But don’t believe the negative recruiters from our old neighborhoods. You don’t have to be in the military or major in farming to attend A&M.
Since World War II hero Gen. James Earl Rudder made the landmark decision to allow female students in the mid-1960s, this 5,500-acre campus has taken on a far more curvaceous beauty. Today, the 2,100-member Corps represents four percent of the student body, while females comprise nearly half of the 50,000 students. The students are football fanatics, as A&M reserves an SEC-leading 30,284 student tickets at Kyle Field.
A&M is also now one of the nation’s top research institutions and a member of the Association of American Universities. And the best days are ahead — thanks in large part to the national exposure A&M is receiving as a member of the SEC.
We know competing in the SEC will be brutal, as A&M hasn’t beaten an SEC school in football since 1995. The Aggies have won national titles in women’s basketball, men’s and women’s track & field, men’s golf and women’s equestrian in recent years, but there hasn’t been a football national crown since “The Grapes of Wrath” was published in 1939.
But the right coach (Kevin Sumlin) may finally be in place, and hopefully the new neighborhood will be mutually beneficial for us all. We’ll bring a big media market (there are 24 million Texans), numerous traditions and passionate fans (2012 season tickets sold out in five minutes in March), and we’ll borrow from the SEC’s brand to recruit the best players in our state to the best conference in the country.
We vow to represent the SEC brand with class, and we look forward to hosting you all soon. It will take you a while to understand our quirky yells, but you’ll undoubtedly appreciate our friendly campus and acres of tailgaters.
Just don’t ever expect to beat us in an Internet poll, and don’t expect the hospitality to extend to the field. We’ve had tough times lately, but when the stars are aligned, Kyle Field — home of the heat index and the “12th Man” — is one helluva tough place for opponents.
Thanks to the new energy from our move to the SEC neighborhood, the stars may be aligning again, which means the Aggies could soon be as tough on the field as we are in Internet polls.
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