COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M is using its move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference as a chance to reinvent itself from a regional brand to a national one.
But first the Aggies wanted to introduce themselves, or as they would put it, say "Howdy" to their new conference.
Roll Tide? War Eagle? Get ready for "Gig 'Em!"
In the last few months, one of the school's initiatives has been using its website, Facebook, Twitter and various SEC forums to educate people about A&M and answer questions concerning some of the unique traditions at this once all-male military school —the male-only Yell Leaders instead of cheerleaders, for example, and the 12th Man tradition.
"I always tell people that Texas A&M has always been an SEC school in terms of our traditions, our spirit and our passion," said Jason Cook, Texas A&M's vice president for marketing and communications. "We've just been positioned in the wrong conference."
If that sounds like a jab, well, it probably is. The school's departure from the Big 12 was at time acrimonious and dominated by a falling out of sorts with Texas, its biggest rival. The Aggies were worried about the future of the Big 12 after the departures of Nebraska and Colorado, and the creation of the Longhorn TV network by Texas and ESPN simply made things worse.
Texas A&M began exploring the possibility of joining the SEC a year ago to increase the school's profile nationally — as well as increase revenue.
Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, who led the charge for the move, has called it a "100-year decision" and believes the SEC is the perfect place for the university to flourish, not only athletically, but also in academics.
"There is absolutely no hierarchy within the SEC, every member is equally valued, at the table for every decision that's made and treated with genuine respect," Loftin says in a university video promoting the move.
There have already been some challenges associated with the move. Texas A&M had to scramble to fill its non-conference football schedule over seven months.
The most controversial change, of course, was the end of the annual game against Texas, one of the oldest and most storied rivalries in college football.
Aggies versus Longhorns had always been about more than football, carrying a hint of the culture war pitting the state's liberal intellectuals at Texas against the farming and military traditions of Texas A&M, which started as a military college and didn't allow women until the 1960s. The game, which was first played in 1894, is on indefinite hiatus after the Longhorns said their schedule is full through 2018.
At least the Aggies will get the exposure that comes with playing in the SEC.
"There's way more positives right now with what we're going into than anything to hold onto as far as not being excited," Thornton said. "I think the consensus is by far that the positives outweigh the negatives."
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