For both the Missouri Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies, this year has been dominated by conference realignment and both are playing their final season in the Big 12 before taking their talents to the SEC. The Aggies will be the only conference rival the Tigers will keep heading into next year. While most schools this year are paying their final visits to Mizzou Arena as conference opponents, this will only be the last time the Aggies and the Tigers, ranked fifth in the AP poll, square off as Big 12 basketball opponents. With the conference move getting closer by the day, it’s important to know who will accompany Mizzou into the SEC.
Texas A&M was established in 1876 as the land-grant college of Texas granted by the Morrill Act of 1862. The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (Texas A.M.C.), as it was known at its founding, was the first public higher education institution in the state of Texas. In its first years, the college accepted only men and required them to join the Corps of Cadets (the school’s student military organization which remains today and is A&M’s oldest organization). Texas A.M.C. placed a great emphasis on military development, but also offered programs such as scientific agriculture, engineering, and language.
Enrollment in early years reached 500 before it saw a considerable dip to 80 in 1883 when the University of Texas at Austin opened. When it originally opened, A&M was supposed to be a branch of the University of Texas, but UT was never given any authority over A&M. The two schools clashed over funds from state legislature until an agricultural experiment station was built at A&M to provide the school additional funds.
Despite the added competition, A&M was able to develop into its own entity while still emphasizing the Corps of Cadets along with education. The school was very involved with military during World War I, with 49% of graduates enlisting in the military, along with the entire senior class of 1918. Following the war, A&M expanded quickly and developed strong agriculture, engineering, and military science programs. When World War II began, A&M again played a significant role in the military, providing over 20,000 men who served in combat. A&M again saw growth after the war, and was designated a flagship school of the Texas A&M University System in 1948, clearly separating themselves from the University of Texas System.
The name “Texas A&M University” was adopted in 1963. A&M stands for “Agricultural and Mechanical”, though they are symbolic representations of the school’s past rather than what the school actually focuses on. The University continued to grow, and is one of the largest schools in the country today. Fall 2011 enrollment was counted at 49,861, which made it the seventh-largest public university in the country. The campus, one of the largest in the country, is located in College Station in eastern Texas. There are countless opportunities for students to get involved on campus, with over 800 student organizations. In addition to the Corps of Cadets, the Singing Cadets is another storied organization, dating back to 1893. The group consists of about 70 male singers, and is known as “the voice of Aggieland”.
As far as academics go, Texas A&M ranks among the best public universities in the country. It offers over 120 undergraduate and more than 240 master’s and Ph.D programs in nine different schools ranging from agriculture and life services to veterinary medicine. A&M’s most prestigious schools are its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business School, and College of Engineering. Each has several undergraduate programs ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report.
Texas A&M takes pride in the many traditions it celebrates, which include the Corps of Cadets and the Aggie Ring, which is given to a student after graduation and serves as a lasting symbol of Texas A&M. Another tradition, which A&M’s website describes as “its most solemn and most visible tradition” is Muster. On April 21, students and alumni gather at A&M’s basketball arena to honor any current or former student who died in the past year with a candlelight vigil, a “Roll Call for the Absent”, and a 21-gun salute.
Several traditions involve the Aggie football team, which is without a doubt the most popular sport on A&M’s campus. While most schools have cheerleaders on their sideline, A&M has yell leaders, five upperclassmen elected by the student body to stand on the sideline at Aggie sporting events and lead the crowd in cheers. They can be spotted by the all white uniforms they wear, and take center stage at another tradition, Midnight Yell. The night before a football game, students gather at Kyle Field and are led in cheers and songs by the yell leaders and the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band to prepare for the next day’s game. This helps foster in the spirit of the 12th Man, arguably the Aggies’ most well known tradition. It is the name given to the student section at football games, and helps make Texas A&M one of the more difficult places to play in the country.
The Aggies compete in the Big 12 Conference, though spent most of the 20th century in the Southwest Conference before it dissolved in 1996. They have won a total of 13 national championships in the 18 varsity sports offered, including both men’s and women’s track and field national titles in 2009 and 2010. A&M’s football team has one national title, coming in 1939, and has appeared in 33 bowl games, winning 14 of them. This season’s Aggie team was expected to contend for the Big 12 title, ranking No. 8 in the preseason AP poll. However, they finished a disappointing 7-6 including their bowl victory over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Their record also included a dramatic 38-31 overtime loss to Missouri in College Station, the Tigers’ second victory there in as many seasons.
Texas A&M’s basketball program has had a resurgence in the past six years, making the NCAA Tournament each year. Before 2006, the last time A&M reached the tournament was 1987. They also have seen success on the women’s side, capturing the 2011 NCAA national championship, defeating Notre Dame 76-70. The resurgence continued last year, when the Aggies finished 24-9, 10-6 in conference play, and earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After the season, which ended in a loss to Florida State in the first round of the tournament, head coach Mark Turgeon left to be the head coach at Maryland. He was replaced by Billy Kennedy, formerly coach of Murray State.
Despite the coaching change, this year’s Aggie was again expected to be among the contenders in the Big 12, ranked No. 20 in the AP preseason poll. However, they have gotten off to a slower start than expected, going 10-6 and losing their first three Big 12 games before defeating Texas Tech 67-54. Their style is in sharp contrast to Missouri’s high octane offense, which ranks fourth in the country at 83.9 points per game. The Aggies rank first in the Big 12 in scoring defense, at 57.5 points per game, but are last in scoring offense at only 62.4 PPG. Not being able to generate enough offense to win games has been the reason for the team’s struggles early in the season. They have four players who average double digit scoring, including junior forward Khris Middleton (13.2 PPG) and junior guard Elston Turner (13.2 PPG), but face a steep dropoff in scoring, with no other player averaging over 5.7 PPG.
Mizzou has not beaten Texas A&M since 2004, but it appears that this will be their best opportunity to end that streak. A&M is strong defensively, but their offensive struggles are what have brought them to a disappointing start to the season. Missouri, on the other hand, has made their name on offensive efficiency, shooting 51.2 percent on the season, second nationally. Mizzou has also played very well at home, winning 61 of their past 64 games at Mizzou Arena. The Aggies won’t be able to match Mizzou in a shootout, so if Mizzou’s offense can get past A&M’s tough defense, the Tigers should get a victory against their future SEC foe.