The Big Mac Blog

Aggie legend defends the decision to move to the SEC

Gene Stallings, here pictured with his dog Buddy in 2012, is convinced Texas A&M’s move to the SEC was the best thing for the school, and bolstered by Johnny Manziel.
Gene Stallings, here pictured with his dog Buddy in 2012, is convinced Texas A&M’s move to the SEC was the best thing for the school, and bolstered by Johnny Manziel. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Three years have passed since Texas A&M left Texas, and because nobody in Aggie nation will ever knock anything the Aggies ever do allow me to speak on behalf of many a Texans - the Aggies in the SEC stinks.

This is not some old-timers Southwest Conference rant.

The move may have been for the right reasons, and makes the Aggies a bunch of money, but as a long-time resident who prefers regional rivalries, these SEC Aggies makes them feel like an out-of-state school. The second-largest land grant institution in the great state a Texas with 100 years of athletic history against other Texas schools feels weirdly adrift playing Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, Florida and the rest of the SEC.

I am reminded of this disconnect as TCU will play Texas A&M in the NCAA baseball tournament this weekend; winner goes to the College World Series. The best-of-three game series begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday at TCU.

Former Aggies football player Gene Stallings, who played under then coach Bear Bryant and was a “Junction Boy”, and later went on to coach the Aggies as well as the St. Louis Cardinals and University of Alabama, was a member of the A&M Board of Regents when the decision to leave the Big 12 was made.

Not a real surprise but he remains in support of the decision.

“When I was on the Board of Regents then, several of the people on it really wanted us to go to the Pac 10,” Stallings told me this week in a phone interview. “I did not think we had anything in common with the people on the West Coast. I did not think it was good judgment to play teams that were two time zones away. I felt like if we are going to change we should be along the line of people that played good football in the SEC.

“I felt there were going to be four major conferences, and I felt like the SEC would last. I didn’t want A&M to be left in the cold. I didn’t know if the local conference (the Big 12) was going to make it. I knew the SEC would. I really thought it was the right thing for us to do, and I do believe it’s worked out that way.”

The reason it worked as well as Stallings believes rests primarily on the right arm, and feet, of Johnny Manziel.

“Manziel came along at the right time. He was an exciting player,” he said. “I cannot remember a game more important in Texas A&M history than when they beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa (a 29-24 win over then No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 10, 2012). That game right there solidified the decision to join the SEC. I think now everybody is happy. I know there was a little skepticism at the beginning, but I think it’s worked out for the best.”

The reasons behind the decision were reasonable, logical, and made perfect sense. As a giant school in a power, cash conference such as the SEC, there was no way it was going to fail. What did not happen as feared was the Big 12 did not fall apart, but still Texas was granted the type of power one school should not possess in a conference. No one school should have its own TV deal, as UT does with ESPN for the Longhorn Network.

As a fan, I do not care about any of those reasons. As a fan, it does not feel like Texas A&M is even in Texas any longer. I hate that Texas A&M plays its logical, regional rivals either not at all (see Texas football), or once a season in sports such as basketball, kickball, chess, and Connect-4.

Aggies v. Toads is a reminder of what was, and what should be.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof