From Yell practice to establishing a vice-grip bond among its students and alums that is normally impossible at large state schools, Texas A&M is renowned for its traditions, up to, but not including, its custom of losing big football games.
However disappointing you think your team is, I’ll put our Aggies up against any of them. No school sells/offers more as a football power and limps home with its tail between its legs quite like Texas A&M.
As a big-time program in a talent-stacked state, the Aggies’ demands and expectations are in line with the rest of the unreasonables who comprise the money behind big college football programs; the saddest part is that A&M’s grandiose expectations have never been realized.
John James Fisher’s greatest task will be to convince his players they can defeat No. 2 Clemson on Saturday at Kyle Field, No. 1 Alabama in two weeks, and anyone else in the way. His task is to convince his players, without results, they are on the same plane as the best teams in the nation. Because there is no reason for Texas A&M not to be among the best teams in the nation.
John James, fix this. That’s why you will be paid $75 mil’ guaranteed: to make winning a national title as much a part of Aggie traditions as sawing Varsity’s horns off.
And, if they can, Texas A&M will win the trophy the wonderfully delusional people of Aggieland covet more than a good husband for their daughters. A real national title. Not a fake one, for which the Aggies are famously known.
Fisher must convince his team it can do something no A&M team has accomplished since before World War II. So many good men have tried, and all of them failed. The last to do it was Homer Norton’s 11-0 bunch... in 1939.
I asked John James on Wednesday during the SEC conference call how he convinces a group of men to change a culture, and the tradition, in College Station.
He gave me the standard coaching cliche “minute by minute” answer, and added, “You build a culture of how we do things that allows them to have success.”
He continued: “They don’t worry about success. They don’t worry about winning. They worry about playing well. They worry about preparing well. They worry about controlling the things they can control. And the outcomes come. You gotta trust the process.”
That dreaded “P” word: Process.
Every coach has one, it’s just a matter of if his works. John James’ process worked at Florida State, in part because the tradition of winning the nation’s biggest games was embedded long before his arrival.
There is no such tradition of winning the nation’s biggest games in College Station.
A&M’s last national championship was nearly 80 years ago, the era when there were so many polls teams that finished 5-6 could claim some sort of national title. In today’s era, with fewer polls, teams normally claim their version of the RePossessedDrugCzarsLuxuryCars.Net Bowl championship.
John James has not been in College Station long enough to know how difficult the A&M job is, but he has been around big-time programs from LSU to Florida State to know that rich, powerful boosters are brain-dead the world over.
Yes, it would help John James if Nick Saban immediately quit, but since that does not appear to be on the immediate horizon, Fisher has to do what so many men before him could not, with the added fun of doing it in the most difficult division in college football.
A&M, which is a 12-point dog to Clemson, paid Fisher $75 million to not necessarily win this game, but these types of games. Sooner rather than later.
The hardest part of the job for Fisher is not just winning these types of games, but convincing his players they can. Then, and only then, will the Aggies’ tradition change.