If the SEC Must Expand, We Must Get Texas A&M

It's no secret that this site has been skeptical, at best, about the idea of the SEC expanding in the current round of conference realignment. Year2 and I both like the current 12-team format for the league.

But -- and this is just my opinion -- if the SEC must expand, Texas A&M should be a lock. And it looks more and more likely that the SEC is very interested in expansion, and might in fact already be angling for teams, including Texas A&M. The Aggies are the only team that the SEC has to move quickly to get (save maybe Texas) that also has everything the league and fans should be looking for.

Tradition. Despite a mediocre decade in the 2000s, during which A&M was only four games over .500, and a truly dreadful decade in the 1960s, the Aggies are .598 overall. The program, which began in the 1894, has six decades with a winning percentage of at least .600, including ridiculously good decades in the 1910s (.816) and the 1990s (.776). The Aggies have a national title (1939), 17 Southwest Conference titles (two shared) and a Big XII title. They also have another two undefeated, untied seasons and an additional Big XII South crown. And using the system of a certain conference program, A&M has three additional, retroactive national titles (1917, 1919 and 1927). The Aggies are also successful in baseball, where they play in what SI once called the best college baseball venue in the country, with 4 College World Series appearances, 25 NCAA tournament berths and 21 conference titles. The basketball team has rebounded from a recent drought and has been in the NCAAs five consecutive seasons.

Shared history. Every SEC team except South Carolina and Vanderbilt has played the Aggies at least once. That, of course, includes 66 games against former SWC member Arkansas (A&M: 24-39-3), as well as 49 games against LSU (A&M: 20-26-3). But the games are not the only thing that ties the SEC and Texas A&M together; coaches do. Dana Bible coached the last three games of the 1916 season at LSU before going to College Station; Jackie Sherrill won three SWC championships before resigning from Texas A&M in 1988, then returning to coaching in 1991 at Mississippi State; and Gene Stallings served a mostly unpromising stint at Texas A&M from 1965-71, though his one winning season led to an SWC title, years before he won a national title at Alabama. Dennis Franchione most recently coached the Aggies after leaving Alabama. Oh, and some gentleman named Paul Bryant coached there for a few years before having some success coaching at Alabama.

Money. While the Texas A&M television market isn't a large one (Waco-Temple-Bryan, 89th), it's next door to the Houston market (10th) and near the Dallas-Ft. Worth market (5th). And it's a safe bet there are large numbers of alumni across Texas, one of the largest states in the nation. And it is increasing the number of alumni -- and, with that, ratings potential -- by huge numbers; with an enrollment of more than 48,000 students, it is the seventh-largest university in the country.

The case is clear: Culturally, traditionally and regionally, Texas A&M fits in the SEC. It makes sense economically as well. It would make a solid addition to the SEC, and the league will have no problem finding candidates for the 14th team we'll need afterwards.

I'd like very much for the SEC to remain at 12, but I'm not sure that's realistic or even possible. If we must add to the ranks of the conference, A&M is an easy choice. But the time to act is now.

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