COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets parade around the field prior to the final game of the 117-year-old rivalry between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Texas Longhorns at Kyle Field on November 24, 2011 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
Four (Five!) times this year, and, well, every year, NU plays an out-of-conference opponent. The question arises: who are these guys? Some people only want to know who they are in a football sense, but, to truly understand our opponents on the gridiron, you have to know where they come from, so football strategy can wait. I plan on getting to know these universities a little bit better with posts on each college, mainly with info gleaned from their wikipedia pages.
Next on the Chopping Block: Texas A&M.
Where: College Station, Texas. About three hours east of San Antonio, three hours south of Dallas, and - gulp - two hours north of Houston, College Station is a big ol' college town situated pretty equidistantly from places where there are things besides a college, and also two hours from Austin. The University itself was founded over 60 years before the place was officially "College Station", a city name along the lines of "State College", "University Park", and other places whose founders were tremendously uncreative. I'm from New York. I long someday to drop something as potent as the acid the guys who founded New York and thought it was reminiscent of York, England took directly before deciding that. There's virtually nothing else there besides Texas A&M.
Size: 36,952 undergrads, or 4.38 Northwesterns. That's an awful lot of Aggies.
Stadium: Kyle Field, which, incidentally, could also be a person's name. Kyle Field can purportedly only hold 83,002 in its three decks, but that blatantly isn't true: The UT game this year had an attendance of 88,654, and last year's Nebraska game saw attendance go over 90,000. (Yes, this is larger than the population of College Station.) A&M fans pride themselves on being the "12th man", which is something every football team yells at its fans but Texas A&M has made into a cult, in part because one time a 1920's football coach thought his team would run out of players and called a former football player-turned-basketball player from the stands into uniform and in part because, well, they have a three-decked stadium and they like making it shake, and in part because, as has become clear over the course of reading about Texas A&M, most people who are fans of the school are unabashedly insane and that's not necessarily an insult. Regardless, Kyle Field is "home of the 12th man". It's also home of this trick shot video that I still believe was doctored, made by the world's douchiest guys ever who also serve as evidence that Texas A&M people are insane, occasionally in good ways.
Mascot: The, uh, Aggie. As you know, an aggie isn't a thing. Texas A&M once stood for "Texas Agricultural and Mechanical" - even though it started out not offering agricultural training and also
currently doesn't offer it either (ed. note: fixed, due to comment below- the school did change its name to reflect a curriculum change but still offers Agriculture.) so "Aggies" it is. This decision was clearly made by the same dude who decided they should call the town College Station. He also had a dog named "Dog" and enjoyed eating oatmeal. I can't find out who the first "Aggie" school was, but it's since been monikered by other schools with questionable agricultural connections such as New Mexico State, UC-Davis, Utah State, and North Carolina A&T. Technically, the school does also have a mascot, a rough collie named Reveille - they are currently on Reveille VIII - but the dog is not an Aggie, per se, in the same way Georgia's mascot is a Bulldog and the animal they have representing the school is a bulldog.
Mascot if I ran the school: The Mechies.
Notable alums: Because of Texas A&M's military background, quite a few army-related people, including recently former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served as president of the school and also once outed himself as a Aggies message board poster before assuming his duties as Secretary. Instead of focusing on things that Texas A&M alum Rick Perry says and causing a politics fracas, let's just remember that in the absence of Loretta and his Lundys, we should all take our betting advice from his namesharer, Dick Perry. In non-running the world (or at least attempting to) fields, Lyle Lovett and Rip Torn went to A&M.
Current NFL Players: Actually, I might have to discontinue this feature from future posts since I just found out the CBS Sports Alumni Tracker (which I had previously used to tally all NFL players from each college) is way out of date, i.e., lists Johnny Jolly (currently in jail) as a Aggie in the NFL but not Von Miller. Whatever, Shane Lechler is the most important one.
Difference between the amount of times Texas A&M has been to the NCAA Tournament and the amount of times Northwestern has: 12, including tourney runs ever year since 2006. A&M doesn't have a rich basketball history - probably the most well-known player before the year 2000 from A&M was R.C. Buford, who you might know from his job as GM of the Spurs rather than his playing days - but starting under Billy Gillispie started to contend annually for tourney berths. I pretty genuinely thought Acie Law IV was gonna take them to the Elite Eight in 2007, but, nah. Deandre Jordan is nasty.
Elsewhere in Aggie sports: A&M won their first women's national basketball championship last year, which, well, is pretty impressive! They have back-to-back-to-back championships in both men's and women's outdoor track and field, which leads me to believe they have one team of superhuman current seniors, who may or may not be transsexual, on their track and field teams and that all of them require light from the sun to produce glucose by method of photosynthesis, thus their lack of indoors national championships. They're in the Big 12, so they're good at baseball, and are the alma mater of Chuck Knoblauch, who (drops dead after errant Chuck Knoblauch throw from the 1999 regular season hits me in the head)
Why these people are crazy: Here's a Wikipedia page for all of Texas A&M's traditions, most of them related to football: You'll notice that there's a crapload of them. From the yell leaders - the male cheerleading corps that doesn't do flips or anything, just stands and makes weird hand motions and coordinates various chants - to the Cadets to all that other stuff, well, there's a lot of it. For whatever reason, people associated with Texas A&M seem to have a weird, obsessive relationship with A&M. It's tough to put my finger on why, but it seems like nobody's a casual A&M fan. If you're going to be one, you have to wholeheartedly support it and that means doing all this crazy stuff that you read on that page. Maybe I'm wrong based on two weeks of having to think about them, but that's my initial idea. It's kind of adorable. (Also, I did a double take when I got to "elephant walk". I never had to do that in my frat, but, uh, someone should tell Texas A&M it's not what they think it means.)
Fake Soldiers (or not): Not being a Texan - or even a lifelong college football fan - my first exposure to Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets was the SI piece about Mike Leach at Texas Tech, where he repeatedly referred to A&M fans as "fake soldiers". So I kind of always assumed they were. To a certain extent, he's right: The Corps of Cadets does not mandate military service. Founded simultaneously with the school, the Corps of Cadets is a student military organization that functions on a class basis like many military institutions do, and was mandatory for all A&M students until the school became co-ed in the 1960's. And although they aren't mandated to serve in the military, 42 percent of cadets do receive commissions in the military after graduation and the school produces more officers than any besides the military academies. They attend all the games and do lots of weird stuff.
Giggin' on Em: The Aggies don't beat teams, they, uh, gig them. It comes from when they used to be in the conference with the TCU Horned Frogs, and someone said that they would "gig" the frogs, which I guess is what you do to frogs, involving taking your thumb and, like, killing a frog with your bare hands. To be honest, I prefer to believe that this tradition initiated with the 1993 Shaquille O'Neal album cut "Giggin' on Em", but well, that's the story, and Aggie fans are still making the same hand gesture decades later.