ARLINGTON -- Four Texas A&M billboards have gone up in the Metroplex in the past weeks, proclaiming: "This is SEC country."
On Tuesday, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive visited his new territory to address the Fort Worth/Tarrant County A&M club.
"Howdy," Slive said boisterously to a group of more than 230 Aggies at the 1010 Collins Entertainment Center in Arlington. "Did I get that right? When I say howdy, what I'm really saying to you all is welcome. Welcome to the Southeastern Conference."
A&M President R. Bowen Loftin was at the luncheon with new Aggies athletic director Eric Hyman and Richard Box, chairman of A&M's board of regents. Former A&M and Mississippi State football coach Jackie Sherrill also attended.
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Slive highlighted A&M's fit in the SEC on multiple levels, academically and athletically.
"By adding Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference, we have acted in the long-term best interests of our league," said Slive, who was appointed as the SEC's commissioner in 2002. "By any measure that you want to use, Texas A&M is one of the nation's outstanding institutions of higher learning."
After listing multiple SEC and Texas A&M facts and figures -- from grade-point averages to rankings and championships -- Slive talked about how A&M will fit into the SEC's historic atmosphere.
"There's another component to what makes the marriage of Texas A&M and the SEC perfect, and that's tradition, culture, passion and with the spirit that is Texas A&M," said Slive, who referenced Aggies traditions including muster, midnight yell and the 12th man. There was laughter when he added the Dixie Chicken, a renowned bar close to campus. "This is the kind of pride and passion shared by your fellow members of the SEC."
To Hyman, Slive's visit to North Texas exemplifies the SEC's family environment.
"I think it speaks volumes as to how excited the SEC is to have Texas A&M," said Hyman, a former TCU AD who took over at A&M two weeks ago. "Of course, it's both ways. Texas A&M is just as excited."
Slive normally doesn't visit alumni groups.
"He doesn't normally do this," Hyman said. "It's just his embracing Texas A&M. The symbolism of it speaks for itself."
With A&M's season opener postponed because of Hurricane Isaac, its first game will be a monster SEC matchup at home against Florida on Sept. 8.
"Things are at a fever pitch," Hyman said of the game. "There is so much enthusiasm. There is so much excitement. There is so much energy going on right now. It will be a wonderful place to be."
Slive will attend the first quarter of the Florida game in College Station before leaving to attend Missouri's first SEC game against Georgia that night. He plans to attend his first A&M yell practice the night before.
"Someone is going to have to prop me up until midnight," Slive said to more laughter. "That's awful late for me."
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760