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Texas A&M Football: Breaking with Tradition

For years, Texas A&M University was viewed as the jealous little brother of its rival down the road in Austin. But the school and its football program have snubbed that characterization, broken with tradition and gone their own way.

But a sense of hope has always followed Texas A&M Aggies football - hope that they could clobber their big brothers in Austin; hope that they could gain ground on the national scene; and now hope that they can make ground in a bigger, tougher conference.

Early Years and Dana X. Bible

That hope was once reality as Aggies football grew in its early years. Then known as Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, or Texas A.M.C., the school fielded its first football team in 1894, under the head coach F. D. Perkins. They went 1-1.

The Aggies struggled through good and bad seasons for two decades before entering the newly established Southwest Conference and benefitting from the services of one of the early college football kings, Coach Dana X. Bible.

Bible came to College Station in 1917 and immediately made the Aggies a dominant force. That 1917 team was unscored upon during a 7-0 season that got Texas A&M its first conference title. After a stint in the service during the 1918 season, Bible returned to A&M in 1919 and picked up where he left off.

The 1919 Aggies outscored their opponents 275-0 on the way to a 10-0 season and another SWC title. Though there were a number of teams picked by competing college ratings systems at the time, that A&M team is now recognized as national champions. Interestingly enough, the Aggies opened the season with a double-header, stomping Sam Houston State, 77-0, in the first game and downing Southwest Texas State, 22-0, later in the day.

Bible also began what would become tradition on game day at A&M. In the 1922 Dixie Classic, a postseason bowl, the Aggies took the field with just 18 players against heavily favored Centre College. Suffering three injuries during the game, Bible feared more injuries and feared having to forfeit the game for lack of players. So he called on reserve halfback, E. King Gill, who was in the press box keeping stats. Though A&M would not need Gill to win the game, students took notice. Ever since, A&M students stand throughout football games to show their willingness to play if needed.

Bible’s last great team was the 1927 version that went 8-0-1 and was retroactively named national champs by ratings expert Jeff Sagarin.

 

 

Another National Champion

Bible left Texas A&M football in sterling shape, having posted a 79-19-9 record at the school, with five Southwest Conference championships and two national titles. His record was impressive enough for Nebraska to lure him in 1929, and later, Texas.

In 1934, Homer H. Norton took over an A&M program that had fallen on hard times again. Norton took a few rebuilding years to shape up the team. But when he did, the Aggies won big.

Norton’s 1939 squad was one of the greats, going 11-0 and claiming an undisputed national title after defeating Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.

The Aggies also won the Southwest Conference Championship the following two seasons, and went on to complete his 14-year reign at A&M with an 82–53–9 record.

Texas A&M would have some great coaches over the next decades, including Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings, Emory Bellard and Jackie Sherrill. They would help them to another seven conference titles and nine bowl appearances.

The R.C. Slocum Years

But R.C. Slocum still stands as the winningest coach in the school's football history. Slocum took the helm for Sherrill in 1988, being promoted from defensive coordinator.

Starting from 1989, Slocum led the program for 14 seasons, compiling a record of 123–47–2. He never had a losing season, won three Southwest Conference titles, and ushered the program into the Big 12 era, where he led teams to a division title and a league title.

During a stretch from 1991 to '94, Texas A&M tickets were popular because the school had possibly its best football teams ever. The Aggies won three straight SWC crowns, going unbeaten in the league each season. A&M's "Wrecking Crew" defense led the conference in four statistical categories from 1991 through 1993 and led the nation in total defense in 1991.

 But the program was also wracked in scandal. In January of 1994, the NCAA placed the A&M program on five years’ probation and prohibited them from any TV coverage and postseason play for the coming season. The NCAA found that nine players, including star running back Greg Hill, had accepted money for work they did not perform at summer jobs.

That prohibited one of the school's best teams ever from getting exposure for one of their best teams ever. Only folks who bought tickets to Texas A&M football games could witness a 10-0-1 team that was tied only by SMU. But they played no one ranked higher than 15th in the national polls, and themselves were ranked no higher than No. 6.

The NCAA sanctions set the program back for a couple of years, but the Aggies bounced back to an 11-3 season in 1998 and another league title.

Slocum stepped down after a 6-6 campaign in 2002, and Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman would coach teams to relatively mediocre seasons until the school's break with the Big 12 in 2011.

Another League

That was when the school got swept up in the major conference realignments of the time. It would not only mark the end of their rivalry game with Texas, but move the Aggies to a different conference. The cause: Texas A&M was unhappy with rival Texas' Longhorn Network deal and the Southeastern Conference liked the idea of opening its own TV market to cities in Texas.

So A&M became a member of the SEC, their first season being in 2012. That was also the first year that Coach Kevin Sumlin headed up the program. After a sterling 11-2 campaign and 41-13 trouncing of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl that season, the program dipped a bit from there. Playing a tougher SEC schedule, Sumlin's teams could post no better than .500 records in the league, and after a 7-6, 4-4 2017, the coach stepped down.

The school paid top dollar to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State, and after a 9-4 2018, prospects of high value Texas A&M football tickets have returned to College Station.

 

 

 

Aggies Football Facts

Venue

Kyle Field, College Station, TX – Capacity: 102,733*; Opened: 1927

*- Kyle Field has undergone several expansions and renovations, starting in 1953. It was expanded to its current capacity in 2015.

Players With Major National Awards

Heisman Trophy (Most Outstanding Player)

John David Crow – 1957

Johnny Manziel – 2012

AP Player of the Year

Johnny Manziel – 2012

Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman)

Luke Joeckel – 2012