What Sort of Tradition Would Texas A&M Bring to the SEC?

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Matthew 24:6

Between reports that Texas A&M turned down the Pac-10 and that Texas A&M didn’t turn down the Pac-10 and that Texas A&M may or may not have turned down the Pac-10, this situation contains more rumors than a Fleetwood Mac album, so our best bet is to take a break, take a deep breath, and deal with what we know. That brings me to this recent comment:

A&M is South Carolina but with off-field traditions and a few good

seasons

Lots of talk, very little on-field success

The Aggies might possibly be joining us in the Southeastern Conference, so it’s worth asking ourselves whether this comment accurately characterizes the program we may soon be welcoming into the fold. Is Texas A&M comparable to the Gamecocks at the time we added South Carolina to the conference?

In the 80-year history of the Southwest Conference, the Aggies captured seventeen league championships in football, fifteen of which Texas A&M won outright. Only the Longhorns could claim more conference crowns in their old stomping grounds, but the College Station club clearly dominated the later years of the SWC: Texas A&M finished alone in first place in the league six times in the last eleven years of the conference’s existence.

Texas A&M is the only team other than Oklahoma or Texas to represent the South Division in the Big 12 championship game, as the Aggies fell to eventual national champion Nebraska in 1997 and upset national championship contender Kansas State in 1998. In short, the would-be thirteenth SEC member has a much more storied championship pedigree than the Gamecocks, whose 1969 ACC title represents the only championship crown in South Carolina history.

In 1939, the Aggies capped off a national championship campaign with a Sugar Bowl victory over previously unbeaten SEC member Tulane. Between 1991 and 1994, R.C. Slocum’s Texas A&M squads went 42-5-1 and attended three consecutive Cotton Bowls. The Palmetto State Poultry had no comparable period of sustained success before entering the SEC, as South Carolina’s best run came during a 17-7 stretch under Lou Holtz in 2000 and 2001, when the Gamecocks posted consecutive Outback Bowl wins over Ohio State. Those Garnet and Black units certainly were good teams---I was in the stands to watch the Palmetto State Poultry defeat the Classic City Canines in both of those years---but they were not dominant in the conference the way the Aggies were throughout much of the 1990s.

In short, South Carolina took up football in 1892 and has posted a double-digit win total once, while Texas A&M first fielded a gridiron team in 1894 and has carded ten or more victories eleven times. The Gamecocks have gone winless four times and have gone undefeated once (in 1907), whereas the Aggies have completed a season with no victories once (in 1948) and have ended the autumn without so much as a single loss nine times.

Texas A&M also brings to the table an endowment of over $5 billion, as well as athletic facilities that include a football complex in Kyle Field’s south end zone and an indoor practice facility. The arena in College Station presently seats a little over 83,000; at the time they began Southeastern Conference play, the Gamecocks set a new attendance record in Williams-Brice Stadium in their 1992 opener against Georgia. That game was witnessed first-hand by 75,060 fans.

Lest I be accused anew of being "unnecessarily condescending" toward our SEC East neighbors in Columbia as part of my "MO regarding any opponent of the Bulldawgs," I should hasten to add that the Gamecock faithful view the Aggies as "a prize in their own rights." No less respected an authority than Phil Steele says the South Carolina "program is a sleeping giant," and, as a Georgia fan, I have a tough time disparaging any opponent whose games against the Bulldogs routinely are settled by razor-thin margins, as many of the Athenians’ meetings with the South Carolinians have been. Since 1993, nine out of seventeen series showdowns have been settled by a touchdown or less, including seven of the last nine. The Garnet and Black boast a better program than we wish they did.

However, there is no question that Texas A&M offers a more storied pedigree and a more solid program in 2010 than South Carolina offered when the Gamecocks were invited into the league in 1990. Certainly, the Aggies have had more than just a few good seasons, and they have had their share of on-field success. They will have that success again soon, and I hope they will have it in the SEC West.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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