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Two days before Texas A&M kicks off the 2012 campaign and officially becomes a football member of the SEC, it’s clear that the SEC is already having a substantial impact for Aggie athletics.
Yes, tickets have sold better than ever before, A&M billboards have sprouted up across the state marking the area as SEC territory, donations have rolled in, and recruiting has been amazingly successful. But perhaps the best sign of A&M’s success is this, the University of Texas is waging a campaign to convince the rest of the country that it’s an SEC team as well. That’s despite the fact that Texas was actually too scared to join the SEC when it had the chance.
Instead of actually joining the SEC, Texas is trying to become a shadow SEC team — the Longhorns are waging a campaign of disinformation — they want to play SEC style football without playing against SEC teams.
Which is what cowards want to do, beat up on the weak while claiming to be strong.
Oh, Texas coaches, fans, and players won’t admit it because it pains them more than barbwire raked across bare skin, but there’s no doubt: Texas is jealous as hell of A&M’s move to the SEC.
Listen to Mack Brown of late, he’s suddenly seen the bright SEC light. (Of course that’s because he’s standing in a tunnel about to be flattened by an onrushing SEC train, but that’s merely details).
In a cover story for ESPN the magazine Texas’s head coach bragged about how much his team has become like the SEC, “I look at the SEC and recognize that’s how they’ve won,” Brown told the magazine. “At Texas, you don’t want to lose a game just because your QB is having a bad day. That’s why I hired three SEC coaches.”
Wow, three whole SEC coaches? That almost cancels out the fact that, you know, your biggest rival actually joined the SEC.
Later on the article continues, “Brown knows it could be 2013 before the Longhorns truly begin to resemble the SEC prototypes they’re modeling themselves after.”
In the past week Houston and Austin newspapers have also noted the clear goal of the Longhorns, emulate the SEC.
This isn’t by accident.
Mack Brown and Texas are trying to be an SEC team without actually being an SEC team.
Because the Aggie leap to the SEC has been more effective than the Longhorns ever imagined it would be.
The Aggies haven’t just left the Big 12. They’ve smartly wedded their brand to the SEC’s brand. The result? A power couple marriage. Both A&M and the SEC have become stronger thanks to the union. A&M can sell itself as the only SEC team in a football mad state of over 25 million people. You want to stay at home and play in the best conference in America? There’s only one way to do it now. A&M isn’t just selling its own strong brand, ti’s lassoing an even stronger brand, the SEC’s.
Meanwhile, the SEC teams now have an opening into Mack Brown’s fertile recruiting territory. It isn’t just A&M that Texas has to compete with, it’s the entire conference. You think Texas kids are going to miss that nationally televised opener against Florida on September 8th? I don’t think so. You think those same kids might miss that Texas game against New Mexico airing on the Longhorn Network? Uh, yeah.
How about that A&M game at Alabama that will probably air on CBS? You think that Texas battle of titans with Iowa State on the same day will do comparable numbers?
How about that home game against LSU that CBS will definitely be airing live to the entire nation? You think Texas-Baylor will have the same national cachet?
Or Auburn or Arkansas? All of these will be nationally televised SEC games.
Texas is seeing that A&M’s SEC sales pitch is effective. Why? Because the SEC is the second most valuable football brand in the country after the NFL. Yes, the SEC has won the last six national titles, but it’s also sent the most players to the NFL during that period. What’s scary about SEC dominance? The quality of players is actually increasing. You think the SEC was good the past six years? You ain’t seen nothing yet. According to 24/7 sports five of the top ten, six of the top 12, and 11 of the top 21 classes in the nation are SEC schools right now. Hell, every school but Kentucky is presently ranked in the top 30. The connection in the mind of recruits is clear, the best players play in the best conference, the SEC, and then move on to the NFL.
The SEC has become the default minor league for the NFL.
So how do you combat that powerful brand connection that A&M’s move to the SEC created?
You try and cloak yourself in that same brand, you wage a public campaign espousing your desire to bring the SEC to the Big 12. You become an Aggie in Longhorn clothing.
Texas is making a clear and concerted effort to convince everyone that it will be playing the same brand of football as the SEC.
Only, here’s the catch, you can’t play SEC football against yourself.
SEC football teams are so strong because the competition is so good, because the rivalries are so intense, your school’s game is lifted by SEC gridiron combat.
Just like the NFL is only as strong as its weakest link, so too it’s true in the SEC.
And the Big 12 is a conference full of weak links. The weakest link of all? The school that’s trying to pretend it’s not even in the conference it destroyed.
No matter what artifice Mack Brown tries to sell, the result is going to be all hat no cattle: Texas is the fake SEC, A&M is the real SEC.