A&M and Texas State University may have both lost their big games Saturday, but they celebrated new football eras.
There was apparently only one way to kick off a story about Texas A&M's first SEC game (and season opener) against Florida on Saturday, which the Gators won, 20-17.
"New league, same ol' story for Texas A&M," was the headline on Jimmy Burch's Fort Worth Star-Telegram game report .
And the Dallas Morning News 's headline played the same note : "New conference, new coach, same ol' story for Texas A&M."
And in case you didn't quite get it the first two times, here's a line from the story by Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle: "New conference. New coaches. New quarterback. Same old Aggies?"
"Texas A&M has a new coaching staff, new quarterback, new attitude and is playing in a new league," wrote Robert Cessna of the Bryan-College Station Eagle who—pat on the virtual back—did not use "old" or "ol'." He continued, "The Aggies, though, couldn’t change what it wanted to most, holding onto a lead."
Losing to Running out of time against the Gators wasn't good. But for Ivan Maisel, a senior writer for ESPN.com, this day was not about whether the Aggies won or lost, but the context of the game. As Maisel clairvoyantly argued:
It's the age of Twitter, and you want to boil these new Texas A&M Aggies down to 140 characters. You want to say something pithy and martini-dry, pull out your snark. New league but not a new result.
Texas A&M led Florida by 10 points, 17-7, and lost, 20-17, just as it did five times last season.
Go ahead, hit send, and move on. But you didn't just miss the point. You never saw it. At the end of the first Saturday of the rest of Texas A&M's athletic life, the result of the game didn't matter much at all. They held a coronation on this Texas flatland, a celebration of what this university has become.
Writing for a national audience, Maisel explained all of the changes A&M has been through since the 1950s, when Bear Bryant was still coaching and the university was all-male, while still keeping a culture that was ready for the SEC.
At Sports Illustrated , Pete Thamel took a similiar tack, writing that:
[T]his game will resonate much longer as an event, a day that both celebrated new life and finalized a divorce from an abusive relationship. A decade from now, we'll be able to tell if the move stemmed from institutional smarts or inferiority spite.
Thamel also got an email statement from Rick Perry, who said, in part, "If you want to be the best, you have to compete with the best." Thamel also revealed that Texas A&M 12th Man Foundation President Miles Marks' wife is now willing to buy orange clothes, "because the Longhorns are 'no longer a rival.'"
On a less sunny note, Thamel rehashed Aggie-turned-Oklahoma Stater T. Boone Pickens' skepticism about the move, and wrote that:
Texas A&M will enter the SEC tied for the league lead in NCAA major infractions cases. It shares that distinction with Auburn, another school in the shadow of its in-state rival that's tired of being viewed through a Big Brother prism.
Probably fair to bring that up, given last week's "cleanest program" billboard controversy (even if that message itself, which was not commissioned by the university, may have been tongue-in-cheek).
Of course, regardless of the final score, the Aggies won both half-time and the pre-game. Even a newly minted Texas Ex couldn't help but be impressed by yell practice on Friday, which featured an appearance from former student Robert Earl Keen Jr.:
Ouch. Kyle Field (at one-third capacity) is louder than I've ever heard the whole of DKR. : / twitter.com/MattPortillo/s…
— Matt Portillo (@MattPortillo) September 8, 2012
As the Chronicle's Harvey noted, public address announcer Scott DeLucia jokingly described Saturday's turn-out, the ninth largest in Kyle Field history, as "the largest SEC crowd ever."
"The atmosphere, passion and pageantry were off-the-charts good," wrote ESPN's Chris Low. "We're talking Baton Rouge, La., good; Tuscaloosa, Ala., good; and Athens, Ga., good. The Aggies are going to fit right in."
BOBCATS GET RAIDED
Meanwhile, in San Marcos, longtime Football Championship Series power Texas State played its first-ever home game as a member of the Football Bowl Series division, hosting Texas Tech on the heels of its historic upset at the University of Houston last week.
"Problem is you win one, they want you to win another one," Texas State coach Dennis Franchione told Austin American-Statesman sports columnist Kirk Bohls last week.
(Did this man really used to be the coach at Texas A&M?)
Saturday's game, the one that Tech refused to have aired on the Longhorn Network , was a big enough deal that the Statesman dispatched their usual Aggies beat reporter, Suzanne Halliburton, to San Marcos (the A&M game got an AP story to go with Bohls' coverage).
The Raiders stomped the Bobcats, 58-10. But it was still a cheerful group of people in San Marcos, with a sold-out crowd enjoying both the history and a newly renovated and expanded Bobcat Stadium. (The 33,006 attendees shattered the previous previous attendance record of 16,600.) According to Halliburton there were also roughly 150 members of the media on hand, "about three times as many as usual."
"This is a wonderful experience," Texas State athletic director Larry Ties told her during halftime.
But Franchione had another quip in him, as quoted by Chuck Carlton in the Dallas Morning News:
Sometimes there’s a difference between exposure and being exposed ...This was a tremendous evening for our community. I wished we could’ve played better.
"I’m thankful we don’t have to play a Big 12 schedule the rest of the year," Coach Fran