Why the aggies continue to believe that a move to the SEC would be in their best interest befuddles all logic and reason. Well, okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. I shouldn’t say it like that. There are “reasons”, but being aggie reasons, to say they’re flawed is like saying that Omar al-Bashir is simply “misunderstood”. Let’s take a look at some of the things I’ve heard bantered about on the interwebs by various ags in support of a move to the SEC.
Reason 1: “We’ll (a&m) be able to recruit at the Texas/OU level once we join the SEC.”
No – you won’t. I honestly don’t understand this argument at all. Let me see if I understand this correctly. Texas, OU, Texas Tech and oSu are going to be joining a super conference, getting a major television contract that encompasses 7 of the U.S.’s 20 largest television markets, are probably going to be a part of their own conference network; yet Texas a&m fans are convinced that the SEC is going to give the ags leverage in recruiting? Do you think Texas and OU are going to be on t.v. less once they join a league with USC and UCLA? Maybe the aggies are thinking they’ll fare better in recruiting once Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn, USC, UCLA, and Arizona St. all have conference in-roads to the state? I mean they haven’t fared well in recruiting battles with Texas, OU or LSU the past decade or so, but I’m sure once they’re taking on an additional half dozen or so major recruiting competitors things will get much easier. Oh and I feel obligated to point out that yes, bringing in the SEC teams might mean that instead of getting 23 of the 25 blue chips UT has targeted in Texas, they might only get 18 or 19. Of course the Horns and the Sooners will also be playing in the second most talent-rich state (California) on a semi-regular basis and due to brand identity will have their games across all sports broadcast and promoted with intense regularity in the California market. A market that has exactly ONE football super power. And that one has just been slapped in the face by NCAA, thus somewhat neutering them on the recruiting trail for the next two or three years. Somehow I think Texas and OU will find a way to make up the difference. In addition, recruits like teams that can win, which dovetails nicely into reason number two.
Reason 2: “The SEC plays the best football in America!”
Yes, yes they do. Unfortunately the aggies have struggled to remain competitive in a much weaker Big XII. Joining the SEC isn’t some magic potion. Just because you’re in a league with Florida and Alabama doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to begin playing football like them. There aren’t any Baylors or Iowa States to pad wins in the SEC. You might think you’ll be gaining a recruiting advantage by signing up with the SEC (you won’t), but any perceived advantage is going to be put to bed once those 3-8 and 2-9 seasons start piling up. And they will. Nobody stays on top in the SEC for an extended period of time anymore because it’s just too brutal; but there are teams that never even make it there. Just ask Mississippi State.
Reason 3: “We’ll make boatloads more money than UT in the SEC.”
No – you won’t. Look the SEC makes money hand over fist right now no doubt. But they’re basically locked-in with television rights. ESPN has already paid them. ESPN has already got the goods on an SEC network. That deals done. The pie has been served. Now you’re just talking about putting it on more plates. Might they be able to re-negotiate? Possibly. The Pac-10 on the other hand is about to get a brand new television deal. If they’re able to bring Texas and some of their cousins into the fold, the networks will be backing up banks (like, the actual buildings – vaults and all) to the SuperPac’s door. Even if the SEC is able to negotiate a better t.v. deal though, you’re still not going to make as much money as Texas. Texas leads the nation in revenue, is first or second in merchandise sales, and I suspect is one of the two or three highest rating producers in the country. None of that is going to decrease by Texas moving to a super conference. That’s why every conference in the country is basically promising anal if we go out with them.
Reason 4: “Going to the SEC will give us a chance to get out from under UT’s shadow.”
Ah, the real crux of the problem, imo. It appears that there are factions at a&m *cough, Dollar Bill, cough*, that are tired of playing second fiddle to the Longhorns and see a move to the SEC as the only way to “break out”. The problem with this is two-fold. For one, no one loves a loser, and that’s exactly what a&m is poised to be (at least football-wise) in the SEC. For another, if a&m actually succeeds in losing its connection with UT, it loses a major piece of itself. It is almost internet tradition to vainly argue whose fan base is more obsessed with whom, but let’s be serious for a moment. Texas a&m thrives on its rivalry with UT. If I had to guess I’d say about 50% of a&m’s traditions in some way or shape are in relation to the University of Texas. For a school that prides itself so much on its traditions I find it odd that a&m is willing to give them up. Yes Texas has traditions that are reflective of a&m, no doubt, but none approach the intensity or regularity of those that a&m reserves for Texas. And make no mistake, if a&m bolts to the SEC instead of group hugging it to the SuperPac, the two universities will be athletically severed for at the very least, the remainder of the current administration. I know a few Longhorns that would be very sad to see that rivalry die; but I don’t know any aggies personally that won’t be devastated.
So where does that leave us? Personally I hope the aggies do go to the SEC. I like the idea of the new SuperPac adding Utah instead. Let’s be frank, Texas is going to deliver 80% of the Texas market. Granted the remaining 20% is still a large populous, but I’d think the Utah/Salt Lake market is comparable. Plus Utah gives the new West SuperPac division some diversity and fresh blood. Also, they play better football. So they’ve got that going for them which is nice. I also think it’d be great to see yet another Texas rival mosey on to the SEC only to find the going rougher than a sheep’s life in College Station. I’m thinking a&m’s best case scenario in the SEC would be South Carolina. Worst case? Probably Mississippi State.Y'all have fun with that.
All that said I just don’t see it happening. I think at the end of the day the argument for going with Texas is just too strong for the aggie leadership to ignore. Not only will they be appealing to tradition (something aggies claim to love), but I think there’s enough of them that realize the danger in not joining Texas in a new conference, of letting Texas widen the financial and athletic gap even more, is too great to ignore. I don’t think there’s anyone currently at a&m that wants that as their legacy.