On Monday, July 2, Texas A&M University will commemorate its official entry into the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with a flag-raising ceremony at 10 a.m. outside Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium, close to Kyle Field in College Station. Texas A&M officials said, “President R. Bowen Loftin and Dr. John Thornton, Interim Director of Athletics, will make some brief opening comments.”
July marks substantial changes in “sports as usual” at Texas A&M. For the past two weeks, Texas Aggie Marketing staff have been introducing students, faculty, and former students to the history and pageantry of the new “sister schools” of the SEC. Day 1 was the University of Kentucky, founded in 1865, which joined the SEC in 1932, when the conference was created. Kentucky enrollment is 28.094 students, and is the current NCAA men’s basketball champion.
Day 2 was the University of Alabama, which holds special regard: “Texas A&M and Alabama share a legend; Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant led both schools to numerous championships.” The “Crimson Tide” school colors are crimson and white, and the school has an enrollment of 31,747 students. Founded in 1831, the University of Alabama joined the SEC in 1932.
Aggie fans met Vanderbilt University on Day 3 and learned about the school in Nashville, Tennessee, founded in 1873. Aggies learned that Vanderbilt (the only private school in the SEC) has a code similar to the Aggie Honor Code: “Every incoming class signs Vanderbilt’s Honor Code, which then hangs in the campus student center.” With a present enrollment of 12,859 students, Vanderbilt joined the SEC in 1932.
Day 4 introduced a school that needed little introduction: Louisiana State University. The Aggies and the LSU Tigers have met many times before, and football contests have been more than heated over the years. The Baton Rouge campus was founded in 1853, today has 28,985 students enrolled; LSU joined the SEC in 1932.
The University of South Carolina, whom Aggies met on Day 5, was a 1991 entry into the SEC, founded in 1801 with a present enrollment of 31,928 students. The school is known as “Carolina” rather than USC (the acronym of the University of Southern California). “Texas A&M Bush School of Government & Public Service, Andy Card, is a South Carolina alum.”
Day 6, Auburn University was introduced; founded in 1856, Auburn joined the SEC in 1932 and has an enrollment of 25,469 students. With school colors of a distinctive burnt orange and blue, the Auburn student greeting on campus is “Hey” to the Aggie “Howdy.”
Mizzou is the nickname for Day 7’s entry, longtime Texas A&M Big 12 opponent, the University of Missouri, located in Columbia, Missouri. Founded in 1839, with an enrollment of 33,805 students, the Tigers are a 2012 entry into the SEC, along with the Aggies, into the SEC. Just as “Aggies remove their hats in the MSC, the living memorial to all Aggies who have given their lives in service to their country, the Tigers’ similar tradition is to take off their hats and speak quietly while passing through Mizzou’s Memorial Union archway as a show of respect for alums who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
Mississippi State, whom Aggies met on Day 8, was founded in 1878, joined the SEC in 1932, and is located in Starkville, Mississippi with a present-day enrollment of 21,424 students. Former Texas A&M women’s basketball Associate Head Coach, Vic Schaffer, is now the Head Coach for the MSU Bulldogs women’s basketball team, so attendance at mutual games should be high-spirited and enthusiastic. “Mississippi State is home to the largest veterinary school in the nation,” notes the Aggie factboard.
The Tennessee Volunteers also have familiar school colors of orange and white, which are guaranteed to produce a fight. The University of Tennessee, Day 9’s entry, was founded in 1794 and joined the SEC in 1932. The school’s enrollment of 27,523 is small, but “The University of Tennessee existed as a college before Tennessee was even a state.”
The University of Arkansas are home to the Razorbacks, a longtime Aggie rival from days gone by, Day 10, joined the SEC in 1991, Founded in 1871, and with an enrollment of 23,199 students, the “name of every graduating Arkansas student is inscribed on the “Senior Walk,” A brick pathway that runs through campus.” That lovely tradition might not be feasible at Texas A&M with an enrollment that is essentially twice as large of any of the other SEC member schools.
The football powerhouse of the University of Florida, Day 11, is located at Gainesville, Florida, and was founded in 1853. The Florida Gators became part of the SEC in 1932 and have an enrollment rivaling Texas A&M’s with 49,589 students enrolled. “Researchers at the University of Florida invented a drink that has become a fixture on sidelines everywhere: Gatorade.”
Day 12 introduced “Ole Miss,” which is the only name the University of Mississippi seems to go by. The school, which joined the SEC in 1932, was founded in 1848, and is today a public, coeducational research university with an enrollment of 20,844 students. Their colors are, interestingly, “Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue,” as their identity. The Rebels are noted for tailgate parties to end all tailgate parties (not that Aggies don’t have a lock on those). “Ole Miss is home to the Grove, a 10-acre area of land in the center of campus that has been called ‘the Holy Grail’ of tailgating sites.”
The University of Georgia, located in Athens, Georgia, was founded in 1785. Day 13’s school joined the SEC in 1932, with a present-day school enrollment of 34,855 students. Freshmen on their campus, for many years, “were forbidden to walk under “the arch,” which has been a part of the school since 1864.” Even today, many freshmen will not pass underneath it, out of respect for a tradition that is not as strictly observed. As the Aggie mascot is always named Reville, the Georgia mascot, an English bulldog, is always named Uga.
Sunday, of course, is the July 1st entry of Texas A&M University into the SEC. Aside from Missouri, who joins this week as well, 10 of the other 12 SEC schools have been there from the beginning of the SEC. The University of South Carolina and the University of Arkansas joined in 1991, and now have a tenure of 11 years.
As the SEC flag is raised high above the campus of Texas A&M, the public is invited to attend. Flags from all 14 schools in the SEC will be raised “on the flag poles in front of the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium, by Aggie student-athletes representing the 20 intercollegiate sports sponsored by Texas A&M. A brief reception will follow in the lobby of the track stadium. Parking is available in Lot 62 off of Wellborn Road, but the West Campus garage, across the railroad tracks from Kyle Field, is a better bet to get an available space.
Texas A&M Aggie athletics fans are raring and ready to enter the SEC in all sports. With so many student-athletes trying out for outdoor game spots for the 2012 Olympics, once again, all eyes in Texas are directed to College Station this year, which will now host an entirely new group of fans, in the good old Aggie style. Gig ‘em SEC!