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Texas A&M says ‘Howdy’ to SEC

Texas A&M says, “Howdy,” to the Southeastern Conference’s West Division and Missouri provides a rousing tigers’ roar to the SEC’s East Division. The two newest SEC members should provide plenty of impact and additional excitement for the 2012 football season.

     To put it mildly, Texas A&M and Missouri are delighted to be SEC members. They are joining the premier athletic conference in the nation and are the envy of thousands. For the unknowing reader, the SEC has won the last six Bowl Championships.

     A&M’s decision to migrate from the sinking Big 12 Conference to the SEC at first drew mixed reactions. The beloved Aggies were often considered the ugly stepchild when matched against the Texas Longhorns. To say there are hard feelings between the two schools is an understatement.

     Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said he believes the SEC is the perfect place for the Aggies to prosper. They are moving from  regional recognition to national notoriety.

     Aggie head football coach Kevin Sumlin agrees. “There is no better, no higher level of competition in college football than the SEC.”

     Located in College Station, Texas, Aggieland is unique. That’s 90 miles northwest of Houston. Legendary Bear Bryant once worked there as head coach.

     Aggie colors are maroon and white. Former Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill once coached there.

     The team’s official mascot is Reveille, She arrived on campus in 1931 as a stray dog. Currently, Reveille VIII is a full-blooded collie.

     Reveille should get along real well with MSU’s Bulldog and Ole Miss’ black bear.

     Here’s a mind-boggling number. There are 49,861 students at A&M. That’s the sixth largest university in the nation.

     If you have ever lived in Texas, you’re familiar with the thousands of Aggie jokes. However, A&M is ranked No. 19 nationally on the academic ladder.

     A&M is famous for its 12th Man, which refers to the entire student body, past and present. The tradition originated in 1922, after several injuries against national powerhouse Centre College had left the Aggies with just 11 healthy players.

     Student E. King Gill came out of the stands, suited up and stood ready to play on the field if needed. The spirit of this “Twelfth Man” continues, as  current students stand during the entire game to support their team.

     Some other popular Aggie traditions:

     “Gig ’em,” is the battle cry. It came to life in 1930, prior to a football game against the TCU Horned Frogs. Aggie Pinky Downs shouted, “What are we gonna do to those Horned Frogs?”

     Downs then gave the crowd a thumbs up sign and shouted, “Gig ’em.”

     For the unknowing reader, a gig is a sharp-pronged metal fork attached to a long stick. It is used for hunting frogs.

     State and Ole Miss fans will be introduced to A&M’s famous corps of cadets when they visit College Station. A&M began as an all-male military institution. Today’s membership is voluntary, but the Corps of Cadets has more than 2,000 members, male and female. That’s the largest uniformed body of students outside the U.S. military academies.

     A&M also boasts the Midnight Yell. At midnight, the night before each home game, Aggies gather for the special Yell Practice at Kyle Field. Yell Leaders  lead the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band , current and former students, plus fans on a spirited march into the stadium. They then lead the crowd, which often numbers over 25,000, in a series of yells.

     Obviously, Aggie spirit is special.

     The Aggies invade Ole Miss Oct. 6, so the stadium should be a sellout. For sure, the Rebels will have their share of the Lone Star State, after hosting the Texas Longhorns Sept. 15.

     State welcomes the Aggies to Starkville on Nov. 3.

 

     The Missouri Tigers also abandoned the Big 12 in favor of the SEC. They were Big 12 members for 18 years.

     The campus is located in Columbia, Mo., and claims an enrollment of 33,805 students. Residence in the SEC’s East Division could change in a few years if the SEC adds more members.

     These Tigers don’t have any national championships in their history book but they are a solid, well-financed athletic department. They have a large television market and that should help other SEC schools recruit in the Show Me State.

     An SEC logo already adorns midfield. Head football coach Gary Pinkel is fired up about the move. Stadium renovation is under away and 6,000 seats plus luxury suites will be welcome additions.

     Stadium capacity will increase to 76,000, to accommodate increased ticket demand. That would rank the stadium 10th in the SEC.

     Pinkel expects SEC membership to work as a recruiting bonus for prospective athletes. They have the opportunity to play in the strongest football conference in the USA.

     Mizzou hosts Georgia in September and Alabama in October. Instead of facing Big 12 powers Texas and Oklahoma, the Tigers will tackle SEC giants Alabama and LSU. Neighboring Arkansas looms as a hot rivalry.

     Money matters in big-time college athletics. Last year the SEC distributed $18.3 million to its 12 schools. Mizzou has its hands open wide.

 

     Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tgoetz@dailyleader.com