Last week I told Texas A&M fans what to expect in the SEC. After spending a couple of days in College Station and attending the Texas A&M vs. SMU game, I want to tell SEC fans what they can expect when they head west.
Is all this premature given the SEC hasn’t announced an invite to Texas A&M? No. There’s no doubt in my mind A&M is headed to the SEC.
In no particular order, here’s what SEC fans need to know:
- The festivities start Friday evening for a Saturday game. Tailgates begin to spring up around Kyle Field and to the east and west. Hang around until midnight and attend Midnight Yell. Unfortunately, I missed out on the Midnight Yell experience because I was traveling from the Ole Miss game, but you better bet I’ll be there next time. Midnight Yell can trace its roots back as far as the early 1900s. It’s held at midnight the night before a home game, Thursday night for away games and even at a planned location at all away games the night before the game. The Yell Leaders (explained below) lead the crowd in practicing the various yells and discuss how A&M is going to beat their opponent. Afterwards the lights go out and everyone kisses their date.
- The Aggies don’t have cheerleaders for football, they have Yell Leaders. Three seniors and two juniors are elected each year (in an election I’m told draws more voters than student body elections) to be part of this group. They lead the ENTIRE crowd in yells, not cheers. It’s loud, y’all. The football program details twelve yells, complete with hand signals. I spent the second half of the game on the field and those yells reverberate around the entire stadium. I can’t imagine what it would be like if Kyle Field was a full bowl and the noise was contained. One of many reasons the athletic department should reconsider their renovation plans and make them expansion plans now that they’re changing conferences.
- To say Texas A&M is steeped in tradition is the understatement of the century. Basically, the entire second half of the football program is spent explaining all of their traditions from Midnight Yell to the Aggie Ring to what they call “Aggie jargon.”
- They have their own language here. A full-page in the football program details “Aggie jargon.” For example, they all University of Texas “t.u.” A “Red Ass” is a person/activity full of Aggie spirit. There’s also the “wildcat,” which is a yell that is specific to class year. The list goes on and on. I recommend buying a program so you can fully understand what’s happening around you while you’re in College Station.
- The stands shake. When the Aggies sway, Kyle Field sways. Be prepared a kickoff and between the third and fourth quarters. I was warned the press box would shake. I’m pretty sure it was at least a 3.0 magnitude earthquake in there. I got my feet on solid ground down on the field for the third and fourth quarters.
- You’ll hear a lot about the Twelfth Man. Who is he? Look around you when you’re in Kyle Field – you’ll be surrounded. All Aggies are the Twelfth Man. In a 1922 game against Centre College, A&M went through all their reserve players in a tough fought battle. They found out a former player, who was playing basketball at the time, was in the press box helping reporters identify players. They asked him to come down and suit up. He never entered the game, but he accepted the call to help his team. According to the football program:
He came to be known as the “Twelfth Man” because he stood ready in case the eleven men on the gridiron needed him. That spirit of readiness for service, desire to support, and enthusiasm helped kindle a flame of devotion among the entire student body; a spirit that has grown vigorously throughout the years. the entire student body at A&M is the Twelfth Man, and they stand during the entire game to show their support. The Twelfth Man is always in the stands waiting to be called upon if needed.
- A&M’s military roots run deep. You might have gotten a sense of that from the story above. To understand more about this aspect and how it makes them a great fit for the SEC, read my significant other’s account of our visit. Here’s a sneak preview:
For roughly 80 years Texas A&M was an all-male school with compulsory membership in the Corps of Cadets. This was essentially a military academy. West Point in East Texas. While women and minorities are now welcome on campus and participation in the Corps is voluntary, Texas A&M remains a university with a military soul. The fundamental doctrines of military life – sacrifice, commitment, unity – remain a way of life here. Aggie fans never found that in the Big 12.
- They’re extremely hospitable! Chadd and I were invited to dozens of tailgates, and I feel confident we could have walked up to any tailgate we passed and joined in. Be prepared for lots of barbecue straight from the smoker, beer, margaritas and even vodka-soaked cherries and watermelon. I’m told tailgating is only about 6-8 years old at A&M, but they’ve figured it out pretty quickly. It’s more spread out than some of the SEC games I’ve been to (SC and Ole Miss come to mind), but that’s because buildings are spaced pretty far apart on this enormous campus. If you’d told me I was at an SEC school while tailgating, I would have believed you. SEC fans will love coming and being a part of the gameday atmosphere in College Station and will be welcomed.
I haven’t even come close to covering everything I witnessed in College Station. SEC fans, you’ll just have to make your own trip and experience it for yourself!
I leave you with a slideshow of pictures I took on gameday. If you can’t see my face for my hair, it’s because winds were 25-40 MPH all day (not typical for College Station I’m told, but due to a tropical storm):
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