Texas A&M Football: Why the Aggies Will Surpass Texas in National Relevance
As Texas A&M works towards its "official" transition to the SEC later this summer, the state of Texas will continue to morph and refine itself into a different shape from a national perspective.
The presence of both the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies in the state has basically forced a "divorce" where both sides aren't willing to budge an inch. Overall, the dominance that UT has been experiencing the past decade or so is finally being threatened by the boldness of A&M and their jump to the SEC.
Whether the Longhorns will be able to retain control is still undetermined, but the way things are going for each university right now, it looks as if A&M is making some progress. The Aggies' recruiting gains and future financial outlook in their new home has given many fans and analysts a positive outlook on A&M's future.
Now the entire state sits on the brink of the abyss. Both programs have multiple reasons why they will soon take over Texas in full, but neither has any idea which will emerge on the top of the mountain.
We take a look at five reasons why Texas A&M will win the war, bringing in glory and dominance to College Station for the first time in decades.
Cash Revenue Influx
The University of Texas has evolved into the richest public institution in the country. Their $300 million 20 year ($15 million annually) network deal with ESPN has only served to improve their overall standing financially, allowing the Longhorns a significant advantage over any other school in the nation.
The Big 12 conference uses an unequal revenue-sharing set-up, allowing Texas to reap the largest portion of the league's yearly income due to the fact that they are the most powerful in the conference.
Texas A&M, in addition to three other universities, used this unfair "dividing of the income" reasoning to leave the Big 12 and move onto the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12, all equal revenue-sharing conferences where, for example, the National Champion Alabama, receives as much per year as Vanderbilt, a consistent bottom-dweller.
Focusing in on the SEC, the conference made a solid $205 million in 2011 ($17.1 per school), ranking them fifth amongst the rest of the national leagues. The addition of Texas A&M and Missouri, however, bring in big-time markets such as Houston, Dallas-Forth Worth, St. Louis and Kansas City, allowing the SEC the opportunity to renegotiate their TV contracts and possibly jump into the top two conferences in payout per season as soon as 2013.
Furthermore, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is in the process of setting up a massive money-maker in the SEC Network. The TV-based goldmine would help the league compete with the Big Ten and (newly configured) Pac-12 Networks, pushing the SEC in the top of the financial conference rankings.
All in all, by the end of all the TV contract negotiations, the SEC should come out on top, or very near the top, financially. For Texas A&M, that means a payout of around $35-$50 million per year, jumping the Aggies above, or at least tied with, their bitter in-state rivals.
The massive influx of revenue for the university would allow for the construction or renovation of A&M's athletic facilities. Better facilities results in a stronger recruiting edge as well as higher performance on the field.
SEC Network Visibility
As mentioned before, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is in the process of building an SEC Network which would, essentially, work to "even the score" with the Big Ten and Pac-12 counterparts. The newly introduced Pac-12 network is projected to possibly more than double each member university's annual payout.
Put simply, Mike Slive and his conference want a dip into the pool of money as well.
The SEC Network will not be on-air till, at the earliest, 2014, but the wait will be more than worth it. Considering the conference has won the last six national titles and is, by far, the strongest league on the field, the new SEC Network should attract huge contract deals that will launch revenues through the roof.
Besides the massive influx of cash each university will receive (see last slide), the network would also allow all 14 programs first and foremost coverage for a national audience to key in on.
While Texas does own their new-born Longhorn Network, the ESPN-bred TV goldmine isn't producing results as projected. The LHN was supposed to put Texas' brand on the map like nothing else, but it has, so far, struggled to even pick up any kind of viewer base.
The SEC Network, however, wouldn't be about just one program. Each of the 14 universities would receive high caliber attention on a network that has millions of viewers every day. Not to say that Texas and their fanbase is lacking, but the SEC fanatics down in the "deep south" outclass every other conference by a mile.
Texas A&M would be a featured program on a consistent basis for a national audience. The spread of the Aggie brand merged with the SEC Network would be, essentially, exponentially greater than what Texas has done with their own individual, failing LHN.
Preperation for Postseason Competition
"Competition breeds perfection" is a football maxim by any real fan's standards; the quote embodies the culture of the SEC. The conference is dominated by top-notch programs who, instead of being ruled by one giant, is battled over by 14 every season.
The Big 12 is nothing like the SEC. The dominance of programs such as Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska have boxed out up-and-coming—yet still smaller—programs such as Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Missouri for decades.
Since 1992, the SEC Championship has pitted the best of the West division against the best of the East. The big-time, national matchup has featured nine of the 12 programs in it at least once with Mississippi, Kentucky and Vanderbilt being the exceptions.
Texas A&M and Missouri will join the mix next season, adding solid competition to a conference that literally breeds perfection. The past six BCS National Championships have hailed from the SEC, leading many to declare the league the best ever built.
The Aggies have the opportunity to build a program amongst the top football universities in the country. Furthermore, competing against the likes of Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina every single season will provide more difficult tests than any Big 12 regular season-schedule could provide.
When Texas A&M enters the postseason, the Aggies will have chiseled experience against the top-ranked teams in the country, leaving their out-of-conference bowl competition a shadow compared to that of the best of the SEC.
While Texas A&M has never been "bad" at recruiting, their in-state presence has never equaled that the Longhorns. Mack Brown and Texas have consistently put up Top Five recruiting classes every single season, snaring the state's fertile five-star prospects.
However, many recruiting analysts, writers and prospects have begun to feel a change in the air, a certain static that hasn't been there before. The Aggies have received a massive boost on the recruiting front, bringing in star talent from around the state to play at College Station.
How has this recruiting shift occurred in such a short amount of time?
First off, there's the ever-obvious pitching edge the Aggies now have over the Longhorns. Texas A&M has the SEC; the conference produces brilliant NFL talent like chickens do eggs. The kind of consistent competition the league has to offer to incoming recruits greatly exceeds the kind of one or two game showdowns the Longhorns might get with Oklahoma and West Virginia every season.
Secondly, Texas A&M hired former Houston top-dog Kevin Sumlin to take over their head coaching duties. Sumlin has, so far, brought a youth and energy to this program that Aggies haven't seen in a long time. Sumlin owns a certain kind of "swagger" that resounds in prospects' minds; he gives off an aura of confidence like no other coach in the nation.
These two factors combined resulted in Texas A&M ending their 2012 National Signing Day with a huge pick-up in Texas decommit and the state's top wideout Thomas Johnson.
Furthermore, the 2013 Aggie recruiting class has been gaining steam ever since Sumlin snared big-time four-star tight end Derrick Griffin. The additions of Dallas' top recruits in ATH Laquvionte Gonzalez and QB Kenny Hill have also boosted this already solid group.
Recruiting in the state of Texas is taking a turn away from the burnt orange and towards the maroon and white for the first time in decades. Sumlin and his "swagger" will continue to be competitive with Mack Brown and Texas over every impressive prospect in the southwest from here on out.
On a side note, Texas' loss of the nation's top wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones has opened the door for Sumlin and the Aggies to pick up the big-shot from Sealy, Texas. A report from the Austin-American Statesmen declares that A&M is not only on the wideout's list of schools, but is in fact a front-runner to bring in his commitment.
While Texas A&M has made themselves a distinct national brand over the past few decades, Texas has consistently stayed one step ahead of the Aggies. The Longhorn powers that be, however, can't do anything about A&M slipping into the top conference in the country.
The SEC and Texas A&M paired up last bowl season to broadcast one resolute commercial to the college football world, declaring the Aggies separation from the Big 12 and inclusion into the Southeastern Conference. Many will recognize it as the one that continually played during every matchup an SEC squad was involved in.
The "spread" of the Texas A&M brand has become stronger for two giant reasons. First, fans and analysts don't associate Texas and their recognizable Longhorn with A&M anymore, making the Aggies a separate and more individual presence on a national scale.
Second, the Aggies are now conjoined with the SEC. The biggest brand of them all, the Southeastern Conference, is more well-known across the country than the Big Ten and Pac-12, both of whom recently changed their insignia.
The merger between A&M and their new home has created positive energy within homes of recruits and fans ranging from Florida to California. The A&M brand is, essentially, growing up.
Separation from the Longhorns in addition to strengthening with the SEC has pushed the Aggies into a national spotlight they have craved for decades. As long as A&M furthers their brand with success on the gridiron, strong recruiting and continued visibility on a widespread basis, Texas A&M will soon surpass their long-time rivals in national prevalence.