College Football Realignment: Why Texas A&M Should Join the SEC
With the announcement that Texas A&M requested a list of procedures to leave the Big 12, it appears that the Aggies move to the SEC is imminent.
Texas A&M was in the Southwest Conference for 82 years and has been in the Big 12 Conference for 15 years. The demise of the SWC and the creation of the Big 12 involved maximizing revenue streams for the member institutions.
This next round of college football realignment seems to be driven by similar motives.
Let's discuss why leaving the Big 12 and joining the Southeastern Conference is in the best interest of Texas A&M University.
Increased Television Revenue
When Texas A&M looked at joining the SEC in the summer of 2010, the Big 12 promised to pay A&M a $20 million per year share of the conference television revenue.
In 2011, each member of the SEC will receive $18.3 million in revenue from the conference television package. Florida and Arkansas have separate agreements for their third-tier rights that pay them $3 million and $6 million per year respectively, in addition to the conference package.
There is a clause in the SEC television contract that the conference can renegotiate the contract if additional members are added to the conference. With Texas A&M and the 28.2 million viewers in the state of Texas added to the SEC, member schools could see $30-34 million per year from the conference television package.
Increase in Attendance
The SEC fans travel better than any other conference fans.
Texas A&M averages right around 80,000 fans per game at Kyle Field. With teams like Alabama, LSU, Florida and Tennessee visiting College Station, you will likely see the Aggies expand Kyle Field to a capacity of 90,000 and sell out most games.
An extra 10,000 fans per game means an extra $1 million in revenue per game. That means an average of $7 million extra per year from ticket sales alone.
A&M spent $3.98 million on the women's basketball team last year. The extra revenue from home games at Kyle Field could pay for multiple women's sports.
Better Matchups for Fans
If you were a fan who would you rather see, Texas A&M against Alabama or Texas A&M against Iowa State?
Texas A&M fans would be treated to marquee matchups almost every week in the SEC.
Home and road games against Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, LSU and Florida would be a treat for A&M fans and should draw more national media interest attention to the program.
The SEC features the best venues and tailgating atmospheres in the country.
Would you rather go visit Death Valley or Waco, TX? Would you rather visit The Swamp to play Florida or Jack Trice Stadium to play ISU? If A&M joins the SEC, Aggie fans will be able to tailgate at The Grove in Oxford.
Aggies would be able to eat ribs at Dreamland Barbeque in Tuscaloosa. One would have to think that discussing football with the locals at Dreamland would beat the heck out of discussing the newest A&F catalog with a frat boy at Crickets in Waco.
The Swamp, the Grove, Death Valley, the Vol Navy, playing between the hedges and the calling of the Hogs all sound more enticing than a football game in Lawrence, KS.
Football Is Not the Only Sport
Much of the discussion involving why Texas A&M should not join the SEC centers around football. Amazingly, A&M and the SEC schools play more sports than just football.
Texas A&M has won eight national championships in the last three years. If A&M were to enter the SEC in 2012, the Aggies would automatically be one of the top three programs in the conference in men's basketball.
A&M would compete with Tennessee as the top team in the conference in women's basketball. A&M would feature the top men's and women's track programs in the conference.
The Aggies just went to the College World Series in baseball and would be competitive in the top college baseball conference in the country. The Ags soccer program is consistently ranked in the top 10 in the country.
Texas A&M would compete for conference titles in the SEC in every sport in 2012.
The Re-Branding of Texas A&M
Texas A&M has always been in the same conference as Texas. If Texas A&M joins the SEC, the media will be forced to view A&M separately from Texas.
A&M would be considered on their own merits and not in comparison with their younger brother in Austin.
A&M would be able to forge its own identity and its own brand in the state and nationally by separating from all the other schools in Texas.
High school football recruits want to play in big-time ballgames, and they want a chance at the NFL.
If A&M moves to the SEC, the Aggies would be able to offer recruits an opportunity to play in the best college football conference in the country. They can also offer the 350 recruits, who the state of Texas produces every year, a chance to play in the best conference in the country while staying in state where your parents and friends can drive to watch you play.
Texas A&M has had some recent success recruiting in Louisiana and Florida. A move to the SEC will give A&M greater exposure in those states and access to those recruits. High school recruits know that five of the top 10 picks in the 2011 draft played in the SEC. They know that three of the last four Heisman Trophy winners played in the SEC.
It is a recruiting advantage to play football in the SEC.
The SEC Offers Stability
The Big 12 lost two teams in 2011 and could lose another in 2012. If anyone else leaves the conference after A&M joins the SEC, the conference will collapse after 15 years of existence.
Contrast that with the SEC who has been around since 1932. The Big 12 is teetering on the brink of collapse while the SEC is as strong as it has ever been.
Given the choice, why would anyone stick with a conference that is likely to break up within the next five years over a conference that is the epitome of stability?
In the SEC Everyone Is Equal
In 2012 in the Big 12, Texas A&M, OU and Texas are scheduled to make $20 million per year in television revenue. Everyone else in the conference is going to get $14 million.
The Big 12 is the only major conference in the country with unequal revenue sharing. While A&M will benefit from that, it does not make it right. Incidentally, the Big 12 is also the only major conference in the country that keeps losing members.
In the SEC, Vanderbilt is paid and treated the same as Alabama. This "rising tide lifts all boats" theory has made the SEC the top athletic conference in the country.
SEC Is a Better Cultural Fit for A&M
The SEC is a better cultural fit for Texas A&M than the Big 12.
The SEC is made up of Southern schools with conservative values, who love their football and love their traditions. That fits A&M to a tee.
SEC fans are as passionate about football as any fans in the country. Aggies can relate to that passion for football and their school. When A&M wins a football game, the freshmen in the Corps Of Cadets dump the Yell Leaders in the Fish Pond.
When Auburn wins the fans roll Toomers Corner. Texas A&M fits in a conference where football is not life and death, it is more important than that.