‘100-year decision’ puts A&M on national stage
Published: Monday, July 2, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07
And so it begins. Texas A&M University officially joined the Southeastern Conference, the premier athletic conference in the country, effective Sunday — thus closing the University’s latest chapter in its rich, tradition-laden history.
With the move, the Aggies will seek to attain something they’ve never possessed previously: a nationally recognized brand.
Certainly sacrifices were made in the process. A&M, renowned for the preservation of its cherished traditions, severed ties with fellow Texas rivals — including the Longhorns — to allow for the possibility of transition. Yet, the Aggies exclusive grasp of the formidable SEC brand presents a unique opportunity.
Jason Cook, A&M vice president for marketing and communications, said the SEC — thanks to sheer brand power — would carry the Aggies to a position of national relevance. He referenced University President’s R. Bowen Loftin’s declaration of a “100-year decision,” emphasizing the impact of the move.
“Anytime a president declares a 100-year decision, it’s very significant. In a way, this move is going to say that Texas A&M has arrived at a national level,” Cook said. “We see this as Texas A&M becoming a national brand because we are now able to associate with an extremely powerful national brand with the SEC.”
If television ratings are any indicator of exposure levels, the SEC is head-and-shoulders above the competition. According to the 2011 Nielson report, the SEC averaged 4,447,000 viewers per college football broadcast. By contrast the Big 12, A&M’s previous conference, averaged 2,347,000 viewers — more than 2 million fewer pairs of eyeballs.
Cook said the conference disparity in television packages.
“We are going to be able to
participate in [the SEC’s] national media contracts, which will allow our athletic
programs in our institution to be shown nationally. That is significant,” Cook continued. “For too long Texas A&M has been seen as a regional institution within the state of Texas. I think a lot of that is because of our athletic conference affiliation, whether it was in the SWC or even the Big 12, which is concentrated in a thin sliver in the center of the United States.”
One particular benefit the Aggies are already seeing in force is a significant boost in recruiting. Recruiting the best athletes often means the difference between winning and losing programs, and A&M has milked its conference affiliation to achieve high recruiting standards.
Loftin noted the SEC’s positive effects in recruiting efforts across the athletic department.
“[The SEC] gives us a true recruiting advantage because being recognized as the premier athletic conference in the country means athletes throughout Texas and beyond want to play at Texas A&M because we’re part of the SEC,” Loftin said. “It’s really been a great boost for our recruiting in all sports, not just football.”
The boost, specifically in football, is evident by glancing at leading national recruiting sites. Rivals.com and Scout.com list A&M as the No. 3 and No. 2 recruiting class for 2013 at the time of publication, respectively.
Loftin has noticed and said he received feedback indicating as much.
“Head coach Kevin Sumlin’s class of 2013 looks like a top-5 class right now, we’ve never been there before,” Loftin continued. “I’m hearing good things also from Coach Kennedy, Coach Blair, Coach Henry, golf, tennis and down the list.”
Still, right, wrong or indifferent, football largely contributes to the perception of the A&M brand through its success and exposure. Football is king in the SEC, as shown by its television numbers. Thus, A&M’s performance in the SEC will strongly influence national perception.
Former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach, who compiled a 7-3 record against A&M, believes the Aggies will be able to compete in the SEC West.
“A&M’s one of the greatest traditions in the history of college football and now they join a league with great legacy and tradition… I think it was a good move [for A&M] to go to the SEC,” Leach said. “I think A&M’s going to fare well in the SEC, it’s going to be challenging. If you win the SEC, you have a great chance to win national championships.”
Encompassing all athletics, new A&M Athletic Director Eric Hyman said Aggies will wonder why they hadn’t shifted to the SEC before now.
“It’s competitive as can be. All the Aggies will say, Why didn’t we come here two or three years ago?” Hyman said. “We’re the big leagues. I say that because look at the track record. Look at the success this league has had.”
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