When Texas A&M switched conferences from Big 12 to the SEC in 2012, there was much stipulation about how and why. Through the last few years, the debates have subsided but the conference switch has also changed college culture and students’ perspectives toward football.
Anyone who has attended a Big 12 game can vouch that the game day atmosphere had a country Texas school vibe, which has changed a bit around College Station since the entrance into the SEC. Because of the move to SEC, spectators have noticed differences in attire and a shift toward classy fashion, like bowties and certain game day dresses.
“Each of the SEC schools has its own personality and culture,” said Jason Cook, senior associate athletic director in external affairs. “You don’t see bowties at every SEC school. We have certainly brought a Western vibe into the league, while many of our students and fans have embraced some of the traditions of the Deep South. The great thing is that the SEC has been extremely accepting of what Texas A&M has brought to the conference across the board.”
Many may think that a fashion transformation also indicates a change in football culture altogether. However, Texas A&M is known for staying rooted deep in the Texas way of life.
“Texas A&M will always represent the state of Texas, regardless of what conference we’re in,” Cook said. “You can’t change geography and history. What we’ve seen more than anything else is significant growth in Aggieland since the SEC move, with more and more visitors coming here from other SEC schools.”
Besides the two different personalities of conferences merging to create an atmosphere unique to College Station, incoming students have raised another question: Why does the War Hymn still mention Texas University, even though we don’t play them anymore? “I have been saying since we moved to the SEC that it is embarrassing to sing the Way Hymn about UT when we are playing other schools,” said Paula Miller, associate chair in undergraduate programs within the Department of Health and Kinesiology. “There are enough clever people on this campus and former students who could craft some different lyrics that are more pertinent or use the first verse of the song.”
Though many students have wondered about this question, most have not looked into the reason behind it. And it goes back to campus’ deep-rooted Texan pride and the Ol’ Army convention of maintaining traditions. “When we moved into the SEC in 2012, President Loftin facilitated a discussion with the student leaders at the time,” said Cook. “They were adamant that the words to the War Hymn should not change. Texas A&M’s traditions are always held in the hands of the students. That’s one of the things that makes Texas A&M so unique.”
Lastly, a technical matter the shift entailed was representing Texas A&M and its values to a new conference and a new set of schools, as the Aggie brand is prevalent throughout the state of Texas and is known across the nation.
“The biggest branding change was linking Texas A&M to the SEC, which is the strongest brand in college sports,” Cook said. “Being the only SEC school in the state of Texas provides so many competitive advantages. We promote Texas A&M’s affiliation with the SEC whenever we get the chance, as Texas is now SEC Country.”
Looking into campus culture that followed the shift in conferences, it is apparent that much has changed in terms of dress and a vibe of Texas as part of the South instead of Texas as a potential independent country. But despite the change, values and traditions have remained as they were. Game day atmosphere still exemplifies campus’ Texas southern-rooted lifestyle along with the intent to move forward and evolve as a student body.