- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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OK, now it’s official.
Missouri and Texas A&M are the newest members of the SEC. Actually, Sunday was their first day, but it was too hot in the South to do anything but find refuge in the shade (or air conditioning).
So, today, we officially welcome the Tigers and Aggies to the SEC and the SEC blog.
Something tells me they won’t be as warmly welcomed on the football field this fall.
This was already a killer league, and it just got tougher.
There’s a reason SEC teams have won six consecutive national championships. The commitment, passion and overall talent level in this league are unlike anything else in college football.
Either you adapt or languish near the bottom.
Do they always play by the letter of the law in the SEC?
In fact, the unwritten rule in the SEC used to be, “If you’re not cheating, then you’re not trying.”
The SEC’s critics (aka all of the other leagues that are weary of seeing the SEC win every year) insist there’s no “used to be” to it.
Commissioner Mike Slive has done his part to clean up the league and improve its image with regard to rules compliance, but there still have been more than a few high-profile investigations the past few years, not to mention appearances before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.
Nothing is sacred, and nobody is untouchable in this league. Coaches go from one SEC address to another. Even players have shown up elsewhere within the conference’s confines after washing out or running into trouble at their first stop.
That Cam Newton fellow did pretty well during his second tour through the league, and so did Auburn, the team that got him.
It’s probably fitting that Texas A&M introduced Eric Hyman as its new athletic director Sunday, the same day the Aggies became a card-carrying member of the SEC. Obviously, the Aggies are quick learners. They swiped Hyman away from South Carolina.
What’s the conference going to look like with 14 members, and will there ever be 16 members?
Slive insists the league is not looking to expand past 14. But if the right teams are dangling out there and genuinely interested in making the move, you can bet the SEC would pounce.
It will be interesting to see how the new schedule -- which won’t begin until 2013 -- pans out. There are new permanent opponents, and for the time being, the SEC still will play just eight conference games.
Somewhere down the road, I can see that expanding to nine conference games, which won’t be popular with the coaches.
One of those new permanent cross-divisional games is South Carolina versus Texas A&M, so Hyman will get to keep close tabs on his old school.
Texas A&M has a richer football tradition than Missouri. We football junkies know all about Kyle Field, the 12th Man, and how Aggies from all over that state come out of the woodwork on fall Saturdays.
Lately, though, success on the field has been hard to come by for Texas A&M, which is why Kevin Sumlin is in his first season as the Aggies’ coach. Going back to the 1996 season, they’ve only won two bowl games and have been ranked in the final Top 25 polls only once in the past decade.
Of the two newest SEC members, Missouri might be better positioned to have more success early. For starters, the Tigers will compete in the East and not the West, which is just a notch below the NFC East.
And if James Franklin’s throwing shoulder is healthy, Missouri also has an experienced quarterback who can get it done both passing and running.
Ultimately, both teams will have to recruit at a dizzying level if they’re going to contend for championships in this league. That’s where Texas A&M might have the edge. In the latest 2013 recruiting rankings by ESPN, the Aggies were No. 6 nationally. Of course, they had three SEC teams (No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Alabama and No. 5 Georgia) ahead of them.
It’s always a wild ride in this league.
But in the newly expanded world of the SEC, it should be as exhilarating as ever.
So hold on … with both hands.