Published September 7, 2011 - 1:00pm
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Texas A&M is not a small addition to the SEC. When it formally joins next year, A&M will be the second-largest and best-endowed (financially) school in the conference. Florida is the largest SEC member in terms of student enrollment at around 51,000. A&M has about 46,000, which puts it comfortably in second place (Georgia is third at around 36,000).
In terms of endowment, A&M dwarfs the rest of the SEC. At over $5.7 billion (as of 2010), the A&M endowment puts it in the company of elite private universities like Penn, Northwestern and Chicago — and ahead of all public universities save Michigan and Texas. The next-closest SEC school is Florida, with a reported endowment of about $450 million, less than 8% of A&M.
Texas A&M is the oldest public university in Texas, opening its doors in 1876, seven years before the University of Texas. A&M’s flagship campus in College Station encompasses 5,200 acres. There are satellite campuses in Galveston and Doha, Qatar. A&M is the second SEC member, after Vanderbilt, to belong to the American Association of Universities, an invitation-only group of 61 prestigious research universities. A&M also hosts the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, housing the archives of the first President Bush.
A&M was originally founded as a military college and military service was required of all students until 1964. Even after service became voluntary in 1965 (and the school went co-ed) A&M remains one of six senior military colleges in the US (Virginia Tech is another). Aside from the academies, A&M produces more military officers through its ROTC program than any other university in the nation. The A&M mascot, a purebred collie named Reveille VIII, is legally the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets.
Texas A&M football dates back to 1894 when the school played its rival Texas for the first time, losing 38-0. In 1899, A&M played its first game against a fellow future SEC member, stomping LSU 52-0. The Aggies had their first undefeated campaign in 1902, when it finished 7-0-2 under coach J.E. Platt.
In 1903 A&M joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the grandfather of the modern SEC. A&M would fall in and out of conference affiliations over the few years until co-founding the Southwest Conference in 1915 along with Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Rice, Texas, and Southwestern. A&M won its first SWC title in 1917, finishing 8-0 without giving up a single point. In 1919 A&M again went undefeated (10-0) without giving up a point, earning a de facto national championship.
Overall Texas A&M won 17 SWC titles and the 1939 Associated Press national championship, which culminated in a 14-13 Sugar Bowl win over co-SEC champion Tulane. In 1996, A&M and its three Texas brethren left the SWC to merge with the Big 8 to form the Big 12 Conference. The Aggies played in the second Big 12 Championship, losing 54-15 to Nebraska, and won the third championship in 1998, defeating Kansas State. It would prove to be A&M’s only Big 12 title.
A&M’s Kyle Field opened in 1927 and currently seats 83,002, which makes it the median for all SEC stadiums and the 13th largest stadium in the NCAA. Kyle Field hosted the first college football game to be broadcast on radio, the 1921 rivalry game against Texas. The stadium is nicknamed “Home of the 12th Man,” a reference that dates back to 1922, when student (and former player) E. King Gill was called to stand on the sideline ready to enter the game if necessary due to injuries suffered by the A&M squad. A statute of Gill was later erected to the north of Kyle Field.
The 12th Man Foundation is Texas A&M’s official booster organization. The not-for-profit organization reported over $93 million in assets as of August 2010 and returned about $31.4 million to the university to fund scholarship and athletic programs.
Prior to joining the SEC, Texas A&M’s strongest ties to the conference were probably its rivalries with Arkansas and LSU and its relationship with former Alabama coaches Bear Bryant and Gene Stallings. The Texas A&M-Arkansas rivalry (aka the Southwest Classic) started in 1903, when the Aggies defeated the Razorbacks 3-0 at College Station. Starting in 1927 the Southwest Classic was an annual event, until it was interrupted in 1991 when Arkansas left the SWC for the SEC. The Classic resumed in 2009 at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, where it will be played for the third consecutive year on October 1. Arkansas leads the series 40-24-3 with the Razorbacks winning the last two games.
As noted above, A&M and LSU have a rivalry dating back to 1899. It was an annual match from 1942-1975 (including the 1944 Orange Bowl) and again from 1986-1995. The schools last met this past January in the Cotton Bowl, a 41-24 LSU victory, improving its overall record over A&M to 27-20-3.
As for the coaching connections, Bear Bryant, the winningest coach in SEC history, spent four seasons as A&M’s head coach and athletic director in between his SEC stints at Kentucky and Alabama. Bryant’s first Aggies team, in 1954, finished a dismal 1-9, with the only victory coming against Georgia. Bryant produced winning teams the next three seasons, including an undefeated 1956 SWC championship team. Bryant left for Alabama after the 1957 season.
Gene Stallings played for Bryant at A&M from 1954-1956 and later worked as a defensive assistant at Alabama. In 1965 Stallings returned to coach his alma mater for seven seasons. Stallings only produced one winning season, a 7-4 team in 1967 that won the SWC title and defeated Bryant’s Alabama team in the Cotton Bowl. After leaving A&M in 1972, Stallings spent the next two decades in the NFL before returning to coach at Alabama, where he won the 1992 SEC and national championships. Stallings recently completed a term on Texas A&M’s board of regents.