- Damon Sayles, RecruitingNation
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Texas A&M blew an 18-point lead in the second half of a 42-38 loss to Arkansas on Saturday, its third straight loss to the Razorbacks and seventh straight loss to an SEC opponent.
Is this what the Aggies have to look forward to as they prepare for membership in the SEC?
Effective July 2012, the Aggies will no longer be affiliated with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State or the Big 12, and several prominent Texas high school coaches feel that the Aggies' secession from the Big 12 is a mistake once recruiting and fan traveling is factored in.
Ask Corpus Christi Calallen coach Phil Danaher, now in his 41st year of coaching, and it's all about tradition. Danaher thinks A&M playing in the SEC opens the door for recruiting, but whether recruits want to see A&M's current losing trend continue against SEC opponents is a big concern.
"If they don't do well in the SEC, I think you'll see kids in Texas wanting to stay in Texas," Danaher said. "A&M's a very fine academic school, but as far as athletics go, the kids are seeing if they can be successful in the SEC. If so, I think it will benefit them, as they will have the same opportunities they had in Big 12. I don't see where this will help A&M much, but I can see where it could hurt if they don't win."
The last A&M win against an SEC opponent occurred 16 years ago against LSU, and its last win over Arkansas was in 1991.
Danaher, John Outlaw (Lufkin) and Dave Meadows (Katy/Morton Ranch) are three coaches who combined have nearly 100 years of experience and are closing in on 1,000 victories. When news originally broke of A&M leaving the Big 12, all three coaches, traditionalists by nature, immediately thought of A&M's rivalries against Texas and Oklahoma and the possibility that those rivalries would be lost.
A&M supporters will argue that new rivalries will bud in the SEC, such as the border war with Arkansas. All three Texas coaches, however, countered that argument with the additional travel that fans will have to make. Rather than a doable drive to Austin or Norman, Okla., fans would have to fly to big road games, particularly against Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.
Kids who go to Texas or any other school in the state go because they want their families to be able to see them in person on a regular basis. I understand why A&M's doing what they're doing, but the fans in Texas prefer to watch their teams on the road playing in state as opposed to Florida and South Carolina.
”-- Lufkin (Texas) HS coach John Outlaw
"Rivalries with Texas and OU, that's worth something," Meadows said. "It's inviting, like a kid with a new birthday toy. Plus, I think in the long run, fans aren't going to appreciate having to fly so far."
Outlaw added: "Kids who go to Texas or any other school in the state go because they want their families to be able to see them in person on a regular basis. I understand why A&M's doing what they're doing, but the fans in Texas prefer to watch their teams on the road playing in state as opposed to Florida and South Carolina."
All three coaches believe the lone positive to A&M joining the SEC involves additional player exposure. Some of the standout players from Texas will get more nationally televised opportunities to raise their professional stock against some of the elite athletes in the country.
The biggest drawback in A&M's secession, however, is the effect on tradition. The days of A&M playing Texas or Oklahoma simply for state or border bragging rights could be a thing of the past. All three coaches have had players in college come back and talk about the experience and joy of being in a stadium tunnel with teammates preparing for a huge rivalry clash.
"I'm very traditional. I hated to see Southwest Conference break up," Danaher said. "By nature, most people don't like change. I believe in tradition; that's what carries programs on, the tradition that's established. You'd hate to see that disappear."
Meadows added: "I coached Von Miller and Cyrus Gray in high school [at DeSoto, Texas]. If this would have happened in the middle of their careers, I would have been irritated. I think this is going to cheat some of the kids out of history and tradition. Some say this will give our kids a chance to play in the SEC. I think we've got players who already have those chances."
Damon Sayles covers recruiting in the Midlands for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Texas high school coaches are not sold that going to the SEC is the best move from a recruiting aspect for Texas A&M.