Goodbye to Texas A-and-M. So long to the maroon and the whi-i-i-ite. Hullabaloo disconnect, disconnect. All their exes live in Texas. Yes, the Texas Aggies – again intimidated by the Teasips, this time by the Longhorn TV network — have picked up their inferiority complex and left. They are departing the Big XII athletic conference to join the Southeastern Conference, there to do annual battle with South Carolina, Kentucky and, the big rivalry, Vanderbilt. I can hardly wait. Fortunately, for tradition’s sake, the Aggies will still be playing UT in those orange and white uniforms – the University of Tennessee. But somehow it won’t be the same.
If you are not a sports fan but only pay state taxes to cover part of the costs of these schools, I’ll explain. For 82 years there was the Southwest Conference made of up to eight Texas schools plus our illegitimate cousin, Arkansas. In 1994, UT, A&M, Texas Tech, with Baylor added for its GPA, joined the Big Eight to form the Big XII. (XII is the only Latin most coaches know). That left SMU, TCU, Rice and UH adrift, bouncing from one conference to another. After last season, Nebraska and Colorado left for other conferences. Now A&M has split for greener – as in money – pastures. Aggies are the nicest people in Texas, but don’t ever marry one. With them, it’s “for better or I’m gone.”
Why all this changing around? The real and only reason is TV money for football. Nothing else comes second. The Big XII has a $1.17 BILLION deal with Fox Sports. UT alone has an athletic budget of $167-million this year, more than any school in the nation.
Now why you non-sports folks should care: In an op/ed piece by former Gov. Mark White, he quotes noted Texas economist M. Ray Perryman’s research group which estimates that the negative annual economic impact of A&M leaving the Big XII at between $217.2 million and $589.5 million, and the loss of between 3,050 and 8,329 jobs, depending on one of two scenarios. “In scenario one, A&M would leave the conference and the rest of the Big XII would remain intact. The second scenario assumes the departure of A&M and the dissolution of the Big XII.”
This is outrageous. How can we teach those young students holed up in College Station about loyalty when their leaders betray fellow Texans for a cheap buck, or maybe several million? Fish (that’s Aggie freshmen) are taught the value of A&M traditions. Yeah, they got a great tradition with Auburn. Let’s restore Bonfire before our big game with those Florida Gators. Will the administration please report to conference headquarters? Please drive to Houston, take a flight to New Orleans, then hop a mosquito sprayer to Mobile, rent a car and drive the 211 miles to Birmingham. See you in a couple of weeks.
We took those Aggie football players – virtually all are Texas born and bred — from the age of 12 and turned them into major league players. We showered them with equipment, uniforms, coaches, cheerleaders and bands. They played in high school stadiums most colleges would envy. When they got to Aggieland, same thing only add several zeros to the costs. Now, when they are finally making money for us, they will be turning the stadium’s stiles in Athens, Ga., while their fans will be spending money there, and the SEC will be reaping the TV cash. A&M has played football against UT, Texas Tech and Baylor a combined 313 times. That’s a lot of money made, a lot to lose. Incidentally, I can voice my opinion because I’m an honorary Aggie. At the time they presented me my plaque, they said, “It’s an honor reserved for those who deserve the very best…and almost got it.”
Oh, ye sons of the Alamo! (hang on, I’m just getting started) would the taxpayers from Marfa to Mexia pay for the Corps of Cadets to march up the main street of Lexington, Ky., if there is one, when you could march up Congress Avenue on your kamikaze mission to take on the Longhorns? Will the agriculturalists in Aggieland, who can grow moss on a rolling stone, turn their attention from cattle to cotton so their team can play in the Weevil Boll?
The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is the best collegiate band on Earth. Each halftime they march on the field, looking like chocolate syrup spreading across a pool table. Hey, Starkville and Tuscaloosa, pay attention. No, they’ll be corning their fritters and marrying their cousins. If those Fightin’ Famers want to break away, we expect a big check for damages, or we’ll sue. What’s more, they will be ostracized as traitors to Texas. As we noted before, maroon is also a verb.
So what do the other schools in the conference do? Since every college in America seems to splitting for another conference for big TV bucks, the options are many. The Big XII could bring in other schools such as UH, which has had its nose pressed to the candy store window for years. TCU is showing football respectability after decades of serving as the opponent’s homecoming game. SMU could start hiring good halfbacks again.
We could stay in-state and put Austin College vs UT-Austin, Sam Houston State vs. the University of Houston, Baylor against Mary-Hardin Baylor. UTEP against UTSA, UT-Dallas vs. the University of Dallas. Texas A&M-Commerce against any other Texas A&M at (fill in the blank – there are dozens). But note there is no University of Texas at Houston. UTAH would confuse sportswriters, most of whom think Condoleezza Rice is served with soy sauce.
Maybe we could lump all schools with the same nickname in one conference. Of course, the Baylor Bears would have 29 other schools to play. There are seven Aggies. The SEC alone has two Bulldogs and two Tigers, which must be confusing. The TCU Horned Frogs would stand all alone, with the Heidelberg College Student Princes, the Sweet Briar Vixens, the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes and my favorite, the Cal-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs. Oddly enough, those school names were never copied.
Here is my sure-fire plan to restore football glory to the state of Texas, stoke rivalries and turn big bucks on ticket sales. We get a few colleges together like, say, SMU, TCU, UH and Texas Tech. We add Baylor and Rice to give the conference some class, and UT and A&M for the big crowds and heavy money. We call it, get this, the Southwest Conference! Now, is that a stroke of genius or what?
Ashby is unsportsmanlike at firstname.lastname@example.org