“The eyes of Texas are upon you”, that’s the song they sing so well
Sounds like hell, so good bye to Texas University
We’re going to beat you all to … Chigaroogarem , Chigaroogarem
Rough, Tough, Real stuff, Texas A&M
Saw varsity’s horns off
— Excerpt from Aggie War Hymn
(Editorial Note: In case there are TSE readers with A&M loyalties out there, I have no rooting distinction UT and A&M. I grew up in Texas, but was a fan of non-Texas teams like USC (state of birth), Arkansas (my Dad’s state of birth), and Oklahoma (bunch of North Texas players)).
As has been well publicized now (See Dan Wetzel Yahoo! Sports column), the Big 12 Conference received a reprieve of its death sentence. Every account that I have read credits the University of Texas’ willingness to forgo a move to the PAC 10 being the deal maker. Big 12 schools like Iowa State and Baylor and even Kansas (much to their own bewilderment as a basketball power) were totally at Texas’ discretion. Oklahoma may or may not have had some options. Texas A&M, on the other hand, likely could have moved to the SEC and out of “Varsity’s” shadow but went along with the save-the-Big 12 plan.
Within the state of Texas, UT and A&M are nearly equal titans with a rough geographic split southeast to northwest. The idea of A&M living in UT’s shadow would be fighting words to some. Yet, the “War Hymn” in its unidirectional focus, ironically evidences the “little brother” mentality. Outside of Texas, A&M’s public image and name recognition falls way below that of UT in spite of an enrollment of nearly 50,000 students, an endowment of about $5 billion dollars (ranked 7th in 2009), and some highly ranked graduate programs such as in economics. The “ag school” moniker and vibe may account for some of this along with fewer football national championships.
This UT as the “big dog” viewpoint comes out vividly in the media. The Wetzel column barely takes passing notice of A&M’s opportunities. Even within Texas (see Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle), the coverage of the Big 12 outcome focuses all on the choice by Texas to save the conference and UT’s interest in their producing their own athletic network.
That’s why A&M’s decision to dutifully fall in line with Texas’ choice comes as somewhat of a surprise. I think I understand the Aggie world pretty well and know that there is genuine loyalty to Texas (the state, not UT) that almost certainly enters in as well as the longstanding rivalry with UT. Yet, here was the chance to go way beyond a mere win over Varsity, but to truly “saw Varsity’s horns off.” A move to the SEC might have, in the long run, put A&M in a better position for national recognition than Texas, especially from a football/basketball standpoint and to emerge from UT’s shadow. A&M would be divisional rivals with Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn while also hosting Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Texas, on the other hand, would be hosting Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, maybe Oklahoma, and every once in while, USC — about the only matchup other than Oklahoma that would stir interest in the state of Texas.
Of course, A&M may get another chance down the road. While the Big 12 commish is saying that current ESPN and Fox money for TV contracts will continue with the 10-team version of the conference, one wonders how stable such revenues will be.