When Texas A&M University announced their intention of leaving the Big 12 Conference on August 31st of 2011, there were mixed reactions. Many Aggies had been anticipating the potential transfer to the Southeastern Conference and were excited and enthusiastic about the declared resolve. In this moment it was likely that many of them, blinded by their aspirations for the future competition, overlooked the fact that they would be leaving behind their history in the Big 12 and a 117 year old rivalry with the University of Texas.
Then there was the reaction from the Big 12. Many teams, particularly those in Texas, appeared hurt and offended by Texas A&M’s departure. The University of Texas appeared particularly vulnerable through their forced display of indifference toward their long time rival. In attempting to schedule future non-conference games between the University of Texas and Texas A&M, UT has proven decidedly disinterested.
“They chose to leave,” remarked UT basketball coach Rick Barnes. “They made the decision. We didn’t. They didn’t want to play us or anybody in the Big 12.”
Recruits throughout the state of Texas have felt similarly. In fact, many incoming freshmen began worrying about a future with A&M, considering much of the appeal for enrolling at a school within Texas is the hope to compete against friends and fellow Texans while remaining nearby. The return, however, is that the heightened level of competition offered by the Southeastern Conference will give recruits the hope and opportunity of credible recognition and broader publicity.
The Big 12 Conference remains bitter, however, particularly with the simultaneous withdrawal of the University of Missouri to join the SEC. With the declaration of Missouri’s departure, the “Big 12” inherently became the “Big 10” (a conference name already in use and with a less catchy number).
On a brighter note, Missouri’s trade to the SEC alongside Texas A&M has made the Aggie transfer slightly less difficult. For one, it divided the heat A&M was taking from the Big 12 in half. It also served as a post-Big 12 partner to assist in the assimilation of Texas A&M into the SEC, a conference with 10 of its members joining the conferences at its foundation in 1932. The two others, University of South Carolina and University of Arkansas, joined the conference in 1991. Thus the pairing of the A&M and Mizzou has indeed been mutually beneficial.
However, how the two schools will compare in athletic performance within the SEC is another subject entirely. Missouri, also known as the “Show-Me” State, is under a load of pressure to show the Southeastern Conference, as well as the nation, what it has to offer. Texas A&M, on the other hand, has already offered a boost in publicity and a strong promise of increased revenue for the conference.
Entering the Southeastern Conference as one of fourteen schools, Missouri’s past financial budget for university athletics looks to be less than 10 of the other universities. In fact, Florida’s athletic budget, the leader in spending at the SEC, more than doubled Missouri’s at a whopping $113 million. Missouri’s past revenue, at $59 million, is ranked at 11th among the Southeastern conference. This puts them in the immediate bottom half concerning their financial capabilities within the SEC.
Texas A&M’s budget has been steadily growing, estimated at $75 million for 2012. While the switch to the SEC has projected to financially injure the Big 12 Conference as a whole, Texas A&M is instead looking forward to increased revenue through their competition with SEC schools, as well as through equal distributions of Southeastern Conference funding (whereas A&M received meager portions of Big 12 distributions).
Beyond the financial and athletic scope of the University of Missouri, the post-Big 12 school brings much more to the SEC table.
The University of Missouri was founded in 1839 in the city of Columbia, Missouri to be the first institution of higher education west of the Mississippi River. Though significantly smaller than Texas A&M (the 6th largest University in the nation), Mizzou is still the largest school in Missouri, enrolling over 30,000 students in 20 different colleges. Like Texas A&M, Mizzou is largely recognized for its research, being the home of the world’s most powerful nuclear research reactor.
Missouri is also the public university ranked highest in the state by U.S. News and World Report. Overall, however, Mizzou is 90th in the nation (a full 32 positions lower than Texas A&M).
The traditions of Missouri are a proud distinguisher of the University. Tiger Walk and Prowl is one tradition that takes place at the beginning of each school year as a welcome and orientation for new students. The university’s official song is over 110 years old, still sung proudly at almost all university events. And the University of Missouri also claims to have been the origin for the “Homecoming,” a tradition rapidly adopted by universities and high schools across the nation.
Texas A&M has traditions to compete, and holds fast to the values that keep their traditions thriving. However, the University holds a deep respect for the independent and original cultures of other universities.
Upon entering the Southeastern Conference, the University of Missouri’s mascot, “Truman the Tiger”, will be potentially overshadowed by LSU’s “Mike the Tiger” (a live Bengali-Siberian mixed breed tiger). Missouri, however, is not prone to backing down. And it’s likely that this Flagstone University of the “Show-Me” state, side-by-side with their fellow post-Big 12 A&M Aggies, will indeed be ready to show the SEC what they are made of.
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