By Jan Hubbard
When Texas A&M tired of being an obedient stepchild to its larger-than-life neighbor the University of Texas and stormed defiantly out of the Big 12 into the SEC, it seemed like the ultimate Aggie joke.
We’ll show those Longhorns. They won’t be bossing us around anymore. We’ll leave a conference where we have won one title in 15 years and go not only to a conference that has produced the last six national championships, but also the toughest division in sports – a division that includes the last three national champions.
When that happened, the age-old question became popular in Austin: How many Aggies does it take to screw in a lightbulb? But for college football fans, there was an even larger issue. A&M’s exit from the conference was more erosion of the tradition that makes sports so great. It’s bad enough that the Aggies and Longhorns would no longer compete in the same conference.
They would no longer play each other, either.
And anyone who believes the two schools will agree on playing somewhere down the road should understand that in terms of roads, we’re talking about the Pan-American highway. And that’s about 29,000 miles. By the time the two teams agree to meet in the regular season, Johnny Manziel will be a grandfather.
The ugliness, however, has evolved into something very surprising – especially for the Aggies. Texas A&M has not simply survived in the SEC, it has flourished. The Aggies have handled the more difficult schedule fabulously with their only two losses coming at the accomplished hands of ranked teams Florida and LSU.
More significantly, the Aggies made their first trip as a member of the SEC West to Tuscaloosa and defeated the unbeaten, No. 1 team in the country – defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
Texas, meanwhile, has home losses to West Virginia and TCU and was battered by Oklahoma in an embarrassing 42-point loss in Dallas.
It’s too early to say the Aggies have had the last laugh.
But they certainly have the first one.
And even more deliciously, since neither team will make the BCS games, we might even see them in a bowl. How great would it be to see UT-A&M in the Cotton Bowl at JerryWorld with 90,000 angry Texans taunting each other?
I was privy to a few of those taunts on a recent Facebook posting when Aggies and Longhorns began tossing barbs. It was an argument that perfectly captured the moment, which currently favors the Aggies and Manziel, the A&M quarterback who is likely to become the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy.
The Texas defenders relied more on history, pointing out the Longhorns have a 76-37-5 advantage in the series.
But no one from UT wanted to compare quarterbacks. While the Longhorns have struggled for three years to find a worthy successor to Vince Young and Colt McCoy, the Aggies have the best player in the country. And the guy has a minimum of two more years in college and could stay for three while the Longhorns have to suffer the indignity of knowing that they let another great Texas quarterback slip away.
UT coach Mack Brown followed up his non-recruitment of Robert Griffin III by not pursuing Manziel. With the Longhorns’ history of dominating the state, they should have had both.
Those of us who still miss the Southwest Conference and the many rivalries that existed between not only Texas and A&M, but also Texas Tech, TCU, SMU, Baylor, Rice, Houston and Arkansas are still saddened by the Aggie-Big 12 divorce.
But for at least one season, it has turned not only good, but great.