Aggies head coach Mike Sherman consoles his players after a loss to LSU -- a feeling they should get used to.
Aggies head coach Mike Sherman consoles his players after a loss to LSU -- a feeling they should get used to.

As It Tries to Bolt the Big 12, The Joke's On Texas A&M (Again)

A Texas A&M Aggie, a Texas Longhorn and an SMU Mustang are handed blindfolds and cigarettes. Asked for their last words, the Longhorn attempts to distract the firing squad by screaming "Earthquake!" The Mustang yells "Tornado!" Shrieks the Aggie, "Fire!"

Here's all you need to know about the nauseating jealousy that prompted Texas A&M's recent attempt to get the Southeastern Conference to open its doggy door to the mangy, attention-starved Aggies: In July, the state once again held its annual 7-on-7 high school football championships in College Station. For a full weekend, Texas' best skill-position players converged on A&M's campus. Though certainly not illegal, the event amounted to a gold-plated recruiting opportunity with blue-chip quarterbacks, receivers and running backs being wined, dined, housed and entertained in the Aggies' backyard. The championship games were even played on A&M's Kyle Field.

And you know who complained about it? No one. That's right. Not even Texas.

And yet here the Aggies are, engaged in another round of burnt-orange-based bitching, trying their best to bolt the Big 12 Conference for the SEC. A&M, it has become clear, can't stand the fact that it's been lost in its rival's shadow. While Texas shrugs indifferently at the recruiting edge afforded A&M with the 7-on-7 tournament, the Aggies just can't stomach the Longhorns' latest toy: ESPN's Longhorn Network. The Aggies moaned so loudly about it being used as an unfair recruiting tool that the Longhorn Network, set to launch August 26, will not broadcast high-school games as planned. It will, however, still provide Texas with $300 million over 20 years.

The Aggies can't beat 'em, so they've decided to leave 'em.

The SEC released a statement over the weekend saying it would not immediately welcome A&M. But that's likely to change by mid-September. The only thing holding up the transaction is the fear of pending litigation from a Big 12 that only 14 months ago emerged from the losses of Nebraska and Colorado — according to commissioner Dan Beebe — "with more cohesion than ever." Whoops. The Aggies are (eventually) leaving the Big 12, and they're taking shreds of dignity and honor with them. And make no mistake: It was A&M that approached the SEC.

Why did the Aggie lose his job at the M&M factory?

Kept throwing all the Ws in the trash.

The Aggies are simply envious of Texas' success. How else could you explain a desire to join a conference where you're going to have your shaved heads routinely bashed in? Five of the six teams in the SEC's Western Division — where A&M will land — are in this year's Top 20, and the SEC has produced college football's last five national champions in LSU, Florida (twice), Alabama and Auburn. Last non-SEC team to win it all? Texas, of course.

The Aggies are supposed to compete with that? With a program that won its only national title in 1939, earned its lone Heisman Trophy (by John David Crow) more than 50 years ago, has lost five consecutive bowl games and has never even sniffed a BCS game? A&M, this year ranked in pre-season Top 10 for the first time since 1999, won its only Big 12 championship in 1998. The Aggies haven't been nationally successful or regionally relevant since the days of Jackie Sherrill, R.C. Slocum and the Wrecking Crew defense.

Meanwhile, as Texas has won more championships (four) and earned more Heismans (two), it's also lapped the Aggies' financial bottom line. Last year Texas' football program made a profit of $70 million; A&M's entire budget was $65 million. So with the Longhorn Network the rich get richer, and the have-nots run and hide behind an adopted family.

Why don't Aggies enjoy their drinks over ice?

Because the one with the recipe graduated.

The reality is, A&M needs the Big 12 more than the Big 12 needs A&M.

While the Aggies will pay a buyout fee of as much as $30 million for breaking a Big 12 contract it signed just last summer, the conference, based in Dallas, will more than survive. Granted, in a perfect world A&M would stay and the annual Longhorns-Aggies game would remain a Thanksgiving-night tradition. The teams have been playing since 1900, the third-longest rivalry in college football.

"The board has strongly conveyed to Texas A&M its unanimous desire that it remain a Big 12 member," the conference announced recently, "and acknowledged its value to the Conference."

Instead, the Big 12 in 2012 might be down to nine teams. Invitations to schools like Houston, TCU or even Brigham Young could be looming.

"A lot of people are worried about A&M leaving," Texas coach Mack Brown said last weekend on ESPN Radio. "But Texas will be fine. I think the Big 12 will be fine."

Give credit to Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville. Way back in June 2010, with the ink not dry on the Big 12's new Magna Carta, he was already doubting the conference's shelf life because there was "too much disparity between all the teams." Tuberville arrived in Lubbock from the SEC, where network revenues are distributed equally. If Alabama strikes a similar Roll Tide Network, Auburn would get its fair share. Socialism be damned, the Big 12 is left with $90 million a year from Fox and $65 million from ESPN — but no way to capitalize on the success or the brand of its biggest program.

There could be an even bigger plan in the works for Texas. DeLoss Dodds, the Longhorns' athletic director, and Jack Swarbrick, the AD at Notre Dame, not long ago came together on a series of four Texas-Notre Dame games, starting in 2015. But they also have done some big-picture daydreaming. With the Irish and their NBC TV network anchoring, they've imagined a new North conference that would include Missouri, Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina and Pittsburgh. Alongside Texas and its ESPN TV network in the South: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor and Houston.

Didja hear about the Aggie who broke his leg while raking leaves?

Fell right out of the tree.

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but it's maddening that A&M prides itself on honor, tradition and loyalty and sees no way out of this mess other than to bail. The 12th Man. Reveille. The bonfire. Only seniors wearing boots. The band's precision. Hullabaloo, Caneck, Caneck. Whoop! When the Aggies run from Texas like scorned little girls, all their traditions will add up to a load of Bevo's bullshit.

Truth is, the Aggies regret not leaving the Big 12 last summer. They pledged unity, only to watch the Longhorns and their network kick mud into their face for the last time. Leaving the Big 12 is not best for A&M, but the school's inferiority complex runs all the way from white jumpsuited Yell Leaders to AD Bill Byrne and even to Texas governor Rick Perry, who's been pushing the rumor of A&M's departure.

A&M to the SEC-ede? Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

What are the first two lines to Texas A&M's "Aggie War Hymn"?

Good bye to Texas University; So long to the orange and the white.

Actually, that one’s no joke.


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