One year ago today Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference.
If I’d written here one year ago that A&M would have a quarterback win the Heisman trophy, would go 11-2 with a road win over national champion Alabama and a blow out victory over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and would announce a $420 million stadium expansion to add 20,000 seats, y’all would have told me I was crazy.
Yet all that happened.
Combine that with Kevin Sumlin’s recruiting success and a top five 2013 preseason ranking, and It’s officially the high water mark of Aggie athletics, it has truly never been better to be an A&M football fan.
How has A&M made this past year the best in the program’s history?
Well, a major part of that success has been A&M’s embrace of the SEC brand in the state of Texas.
Outkick told you that A&M was a sleeping giant, but even I’m shocked how quickly the Aggies have awoken. The holy trinity of Aggie athletics — Manziel, Sumlin, and the SEC — all arrived at the exact right moment.
But how much value has moving to the SEC actually unlocked in the past year and more?
That can be difficult to determine, especially with a major athletic program like A&M’s.
That’s why I decided to use TexAgs.com, the largest independent team fan site in the country, to chart the growth of Aggie athletics as an SEC member. TexAgs provides a small business window onto a seismic move in college athletics.
A&M’s move to the SEC was, in the words of lead writer and one of the site’s writers, Billy Liucci, “Just monstrous for A&M.”
Liucci said he was out to dinner with friends in 2011 when one of the people at the table, one of his top sources on A&M news, and he got into a discussion about A&M to the SEC. The rumored move to the SEC the year before had sent the TexAgs message board into a frenzy. Now rumors of yet another impending SEC move had kicked back up.
“I asked him what were the chances it didn’t happen and he wasn’t even willing to say it out loud,” Liucci said, “he put his hand underneath the table and made a zero with his fingers. That’s when I knew that it was for real.”
As the A&M to the SEC rumors dashed around TexAgs, Liucci watched the numbers skyrocket.
“Our site just exploded,” Liucci, “everywhere I went people wanted to talk SEC.”
According to Brandon Jones, another of the owners of TexAgs.com, since the SEC move was announced in the summer of 2011 TexAgs has grown revenues at a 48% clip.
“There was a very real monetary value attached to the SEC move for us,” said Jones, who admitted that as soon as the SEC rumor hit, “It was hard not to consider the business implications. I wish I could just be a fan, but it was massive for us.”
From the final year of the Big 12 to now, TexAgs revenue has more than doubled. And while subscriptions are up 30% — TexAgs now has 9500 subscribers and this accounts for 65% of overall revenue — site traffic has surged, an average of 500,000 unique visitors a month and over 220 million pageviews during the 2012 football season sent ad revenue, which makes up 25% of revenues, soaring as well.
TexAgs has also added a daily radio show that airs for three hours on weekdays — and includes a one-hour TV show simulcast.
The final kicker? The site has found itself able to organize trips to SEC road games. This year TexAgs.com will charter a plane for 104 Aggie fans to take weekend trips to Arkansas and Ole Miss. Last year’s trips were to Alabama and Ole Miss.
“We went to Ole Miss last year too,” said Jones, “people loved it so much we’re going back again.”
Asked about fan trips in the Big 12, Jones laughed, “Those trips are not possible in the Big 12. People don’t want to go to Kansas or Iowa.”
With the massive influx of enthusiasm and interest, TexAgs sent nine people to SEC Media Days last year. That’s a substantial portion of the 14 full-time employees (there are 8 part-time on the content side) who now work for TexAgs.
On the one year anniversary of the SEC move the site has its own relocation plans, moving into a 6,000 square foot new home base that overlooks the A&M practice facility.
TexAgs is soaring just four years after the most difficult time in the site’s history.
“Right after Mike Sherman lost his opener to Arkansas State we lost 200 subscribers in a weekend,” said Gabe Bock. “Fans said if the team was going to suck, why should we spend money to follow them?”
At the site’s most difficult time, as Sherman’s Aggies floundered in 2009, TexAgs made summer payroll by $5.
Now, revenues are soaring and the SEC move has accelerated the site’s ambitions.
“Everything good for A&M is good for the site,” said Jones, “and the SEC has been better than we could have hoped.”
Asked for his review one year into the move, Liucci laughed, “If I’d predicted everything that was going to happen, they’d have locked me up in a maroon straitjacket.”
“In year three,” Liucci said, “I thought we could be this good, but last year I would have been happy going to a bowl game and beating Arkansas and Mississippi State. Just showing that we could compete.”
Instead the Aggies are hosting the biggest game in college football come September 14th against Alabama and TexAgs.com will be ready to handle the onrush of message board posts and pageviews.