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New horizons

Chandler Smith: SEC provides unparalleled platform

Published: Monday, May 7, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

Few words over the course of the 2011-12 school year resonated quite as powerfully as Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive’s introduction to A&M as the SEC’s 13th member.

The ecstasy that followed represented the Aggies’ triumph in a two-year grudge match to free itself from the confines of the Big 12 and the shackles of marketing redundancies.

Arguably, no A&M administrative decision will have quite the seismic impact on the University since women were admitted in the early ’60s. And while the thought of admitting women was met with disdain and reluctance by the long-time all-male military institution, the move to the SEC was embraced wholeheartedly by a vast majority of the student body and former students.  

The attitude of A&M’s passionate constituency regarding this conference switch shows Aggies have begun to welcome a concept they had been so fearful of before — change.

A&M, with its administration, former students and student body, has clearly shown the nation its willingness to rebrand and redefine itself on an unparalleled platform. Century-long rivalries with Texas and Baylor are being scrapped, football coaches are being replaced, facilities are being upgraded and athletic directors, even successful ones, are being questioned.  

From a marketing standpoint, the move was a masterstroke of genius. According to the 2011 Nielsen ratings, SEC football had nearly 4.5 million viewers — more than one million more viewers than the second-place Big 10 conference and more than two million more viewers than the Big 12. Add the fact the Big 12 just inked a $2.6 billion television deal with ESPN, and there’s no telling how much the SEC will make after adding the nation’s third most populous market to its collection — the state of Texas.

Marketing, though, is but the first step. Then there is recruiting.

By offering the greatest level of competition — and, by no coincidence, the greatest level of exposure — recruits theoretically would be chomping at the bit to play in the SEC. With Texas being one of the nation’s recruiting hotbeds, A&M’s exclusive offer as an in-state SEC school has and will pay huge dividends. A Rivals top-15 football recruiting class added to a historically strong basketball class is but the tip of the iceberg of A&M’s recruiting potential.

Finally, winning and reestablishing rivalries await. Bear Bryant connections exist with Kentucky and Alabama. Arkansas, a long-time SWC rival, should continue to be a memorable series. Most notably, the LSU rivalry has been on hiatus long enough. Cotton Bowl aside, the Aggies and Tigers haven’t met on the gridiron since “Lectric” Leeland McElroy torched LSU in ‘95 — the last regular season game of one of college football’s most heated hole-in-the-wall rivalries.

 Without a doubt, it’s an exciting time to be an Aggie. Welcome to the SEC. 

 

Chandler Smith is a sophomore communication major and sports editor for The Battalion

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