Aggies all in as proud SEC members
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- On the second day of Texas A&M's official Southeastern Conference membership, new athletic director Eric Hyman stood in front of the McFerrin Athletic Center before hundreds of Aggies and offered them a brief lesson about getting along with their new conference mates.
"When you're through competing against an SEC team and an SEC school is playing in an NCAA basketball playoff, women's, men's, or a football game, what do we say?" Hyman asked the crowd. "'S-E-C! S-E-C!'"
Hyman, formerly the AD at South Carolina who was officially introduced Saturday as the man who will lead Texas A&M into its new league, led chants of "S-E-C" on Monday morning as the Aggies raised the flags of their fellow SEC schools in front of McFerrin, marking another first in their historic journey.
The Aggies became official members of the SEC on Sunday after spending the past 16 years in the Big 12.
"A lot of my time went into this; time well spent, though," Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said. "This is a window for everybody to see Texas A&M. Visibility is now being enhanced ... in that people will be able to see Texas A&M on national television week in and week out, not just in football, but in every sport. That gives us a platform that we haven't had before, to be able to showcase not just athletics, but our entire university and all we do so well here at Texas A&M."
Football coach Kevin Sumlin, who was on hand to watch the student-athletes raise the flags, said that joining a conference as powerful and successful as the SEC carries a lot of weight for his program and the university.
"It means something," Sumlin said. "It depends on how you measure it, but certainly if you look at (the SEC) from a football standpoint, how many draft choices over the last 10 years, six straight national championships, you look across the league -- just this year -- basketball national champions, softball, on and on and on across the board, it's hard to argue that it's not the best league in the country."
Speaking from experience, Hyman, who was at South Carolina for the past seven years, said he believes Texas A&M is in a good position as it enters the conference but that it won't be a cakewalk. Hyman replaced Bill Byrne, who retired on May 8.
"Going into the SEC and knowing Texas and the support, the love, the loyalty, the connection that people have to this university, we have hope," he said. "We have a chance. Is it going to be easy? No. It's not going to be easy, trust me. But it's going to be fun."
As for SEC lessons, Loftin has caught on quickly.
"I don't think any other conference goes out and yells 'A-C-C! A-C-C!' or 'Big 12!' or 'Pac-12!' or 'Big Ten!'" Loftin said. "You don't hear that at games. But every SEC game I go to, that's what I hear. I hear not only the schools shouting out their name, but also I hear 'S-E-C.'"