Countless jokes target the Aggie, but students and alumni at Texas A&M University aren’t laughing when it comes to respect for their traditions. Most schools have a fight song, a nickname and signifying colors, but at A&M these legacies are just the beginning. If you’ve pondered the meaning of “Gig ’em” or wondered why touchdowns provoke a peck on the lips, you’re not alone. As Texas’s first public higher education institution—dedicated October 4, 1876—A&M has amassed a wealth of rituals, and Aggies salute every one of them.

Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football Traditions

THUMBS UP Three possibilities explain the origins of this gesture. The first legend suggests that a “gig” referred to a minor demerit given during uniform inspection. Friends of an infamous gig-giving sophomore would egg him on with “Gig ’em!” According to the second story, “gig” was a frog-hunting term, so the Aggies yelled “Gig ’em!” to prepare for the 1930 game against the TCU Horned Frogs. The fist with the thumb sticking up became the Southwest Conference’s first school hand sign. Finally, the last account explains that many Aggies used the signal to hitchhike back to College Station.

AGGIELAND STAND In the spirit of the original twelfth man, students stand ready for service throughout the football games. In 1922 the players sustained so many injuries in the first half of a championship game that the coach feared there would not be enough men left to finish. He enlisted a reserve, E. King Gill, who had left to play basketball after the regular season. Although Gill didn’t get any playing time, he wore a teammate’s uniform and was the only man on the bench at the end. The Aggies won, and since then, fans stand to show the same support.

DOGGONE IT The official A&M mascot is much more than just a mascot—she is also the highest ranking member of the Corps of Cadets and a five-star general. Reveille I joined the Aggies in 1931 after a group of cadets hit a small dog on the road and brought her back to campus. She woke up to the morning bugler, started barking, and earned her name after the wakeup call. Reveilles of the past have always been buried facing the scoreboard at Kyle Field so that they will forever be able to see the (hopefully winning) score. (Once space and renovations made this tradition impossible, the Corps provided a television screen for the mascots-of-days-gone-by to keep up with their team.)

NIGHT TIME Midnight Yell practice (as it is known today) began in 1931 when the students and band held an unofficial gathering at the YMCA building for a morale booster. Now, the night before every home game, yell leaders escort the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and the student body to Kyle Field for yell practice, intended to inspire the twelfth man with old army yells and stories of beating the “ever-loving hell” out of past opponents. Midnight Yell is also held at appointed spots before away games. At the conclusion of the yell the lights are shut off, and all Aggies kiss their dates. Dateless Aggies flick their BICs and find each other by walking toward a light. The Aggies continue this pucker-up ritual at the actual game whenever A&M scores. The men kiss their dates, and in a sense, score along with their team.

ROLL CALL Aggies stand together every April 21 for Aggie Muster to honor the Aggie Spirit. This tradition of honoring Aggies who have died in the past year officially began in 1922, and every year family members or friends answer “here” and light a candle as each deceased Aggie’s name is read.

Other A&M facts

Corps membership has only been optional for Texas A&M students since 1965.

There are 31 stars on the Aggie Ring—”if you count the person wearing it.”

Texas A&M is the only academic institution to clone five different species: cattle, goats, pigs, a cat, and a white-tailed deer.

Texas A&M ranks among the top ten U.S. institutions in enrollment of National Merit Scholars.

A&M officially admitted women in 1963 on a limited basis. The university first accepted women on an equal basis with men in 1971.