About a year and a half ago, I wondered why Texas A&M would remain in the Big 12 when doing so seemed destined to keep it in Texas’ shadow and only extend its national perception as Texas’ little brother. Before the conference switch, Texas A&M’s following within the state of Texas easily rivaled that of UT, yet A&M’s national standing fell far behind.Bringing teams like Florida and LSU to town and securing games with top 10 teams outside of Texas seemed to be an obvious way to raise the university’s exposure. I couldn’t have imagined it working out nearly as well as it has so quickly. The early season close loss to Florida at home fit my guess — big game with much wider exposure than the typical September A&M game. Knocking off #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa? A Top 10 Ranking? A Heisman Trophy for a freshman QB? Stunning. Not only did the Aggies step out of the Longhorn’s shadow, but they cast their own in the direction of Austin with a less than powerhouse Big 12 and Texas’ struggles within it this year.
The victory over Alabama drew a big yellow circle around why bolting the Big 12 for the SEC made sense. No game within the Big 12, not even victories over Texas or Oklahoma, would have come close to securing the national media spotlight like that. Essentially, the move had already paid off and then some. In spite of thinking this at the time, I didn’t fully grasp the implication. When Johnny Manziel’s name started appearing in Heisman discussion, I dismissed it. He’s a freshman and A&M is good but not great. When he won, it offered the best possible validation of the conference switch. There is no way that he wins, if with the same numbers, if the Aggies had stayed in the Big 12. He’s not even on the short list. There have been several upper class Big 12 QBs with similar or better numbers who didn’t win and some were only lightly considered.
Of course, making a highly advantageous coaching change figures prominently in all of this, and 2013 and beyond may not be as sweet to the Aggies. Nonetheless, the Longhorn’s desire for their own network doesn’t look so alluring now. I still can’t figure why BYU and Florida State are not in the Big 12 and don’t know if the hangup is at the conference or school level.