The last time the Texas A&M Aggies played the University of Alabama (UA) in an NCAA football game it was 1988 at Kyle Field. Alabama gained an immediate upper-hand, finishing the game with a victorious score of 30 to 10. Since then, the Alabama Crimson Tide has won five national titles, including the their victories in 2009 and 2011. And on November 10th, 2012 Texas A&M is scheduled to play the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.
It might be too much to hope for a victory against the ruthless surge of the Crimson Tide. But Aggies have been characterized for their ability to upset national polls: particularly for schools like the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns. Only the end of the SEC’s football season can reveal whether this tradition will carry over.
There is no misconception regarding the wealth of athletic talent in the American South. In recent years, as well as consistently throughout the history of the NCAA, the Southeastern Conference has been recognized as one of, if not the most competitive conference in the nation. Yet, football is not all the Universities of the SEC like Alabama have to offer. In likeness to Texas A&M, the University of Alabama is a school rich in history, tradition and higher education.
Alabama was founded in 1831, a full 45 years before Texas A&M. However, the development of the University can be traced back to 1818, before Alabama had even been admitted into the Union as a recognized state. The cultural imprint left by this “Capstone” University left a lasting mark on the early southwestern frontier. Today, it is the largest (in terms of enrollment) and oldest of all higher educational institutions within the state of Alabama. The university offers 13 different programs of study that lead to bachelor’s, education specialist, master’s, and doctoral degrees. They also claim the only publicly supported Law School within the entire state.
Going beyond the scope of Football and school history, it is interesting to compare both universities academic standings. University of Alabama has ranked consistently in the top 50 of public universities by U.S. News and World Report, and landed the placement of 31st by the 2011 ratings. While this is a laudable positioning compared to most SEC institutions, Texas A&M outranks the Red Tide in both public and overall national educational rankings. A&M placed a full 12 positions above Alabama in the Public University rankings, and is currently ranked 58th overall (compared to UA’s overall rank of 79th).
Texas A&M University has just over 200 buildings on their 5,000 acre campus, making it one of the largest college campuses in the nation. Alabama, however, manages almost 300 buildings in a campus less than half the size of Aggieland. The Red Tide is situated in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a city of similar size to the home of Aggieland: only College Station has been ranked by Money Magazine as the most educated city in the state of Texas, and 10th most educated in the entire nation (owing momentously to the University and the scope of its research). In fact, in 2004 Texas A&M received nearly $570 million in research funding, dwarfing Alabama’s 2010 income of $68.8 million. After this Texas A&M has been held as one of the top 20 Universities in the Nation for research, helping pave the way for medical and scientific development.
Tuscaloosa, on the other hand, has become a nationally famous town, owing both to its quirky pronunciation and the ever growing renown of Alabama’s Crimson Tide football team. This nationally recognized athletic team can actually be considered the heart of much of UA’s tradition: a tradition of winning.
Alabama football team, started in 1892 (two years before the founding of the Aggie football team), has won 22 SEC titles and 14 national championships (including polls). Their mahogany-red and white colors strike a confusing resemblance to the Aggie blood-maroon and white, and their home stadium has been known to drown in a sea of their ‘Red Tide’ color scheme. Alabama’s traditional rivals are primarily Auburn University (a similar state feud to the one maintained between University of Texas and Texas A&M) and the University of Tennessee.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, one national championship and one Big 12 Conference championship (although they won 18 Southwestern Conference championships before switching over to the Big 12 in 1996). And while A&M also has a history of traditions richly invested in their athletic competitions, their military background and unique values provide for a set of traditions that simply cannot be matched in any university throughout the nation.
Alabama may have their colors and history of football victories, but A&M has elephant walk, Silver Taps, the Memorial Student Center, the Association of Former Aggies and the Aggie Ring, along with numberless other traditions that students hold close to their hearts.
Plus, the Aggies have Basketball. And track. And swimming and tennis and all their outstanding women’s programs. Let’s not forget there are more sports than just football that will be competing for the SEC title, and if the Aggies lose in one sport, their known to rebound in others.
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