Indulge me for a moment and watch that entire video from November 9, 2002. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve watched that, let’s discuss some of the finer points of that game:
-Playing the #1 ranked, legendary team from the annals (anals?) of college football
-Freshman phenom QB
-Oustanding defensive effort
-Complete game on both sides of the ball
-Kevin Sumlin (!)
-#1 driving to win with a TD, only to be intercepted by A&M
-Legendary coach, playing for a punctuation to his Hall Of Fame career
Up until that last point, we could be discussing the Aggies’ 29-24 win in Tuscaloosa over #1 ranked (and seemingly impervious SEC king Alabama) with freshman phenom Johnny Manziel, with A&M’s Wrecking Crew making its presence felt in the defense-dominated SEC in a very complete game with Kevin Sumlin on the sidelines. However, the comparisons stop right there. It’s a description of A&M’s last win over a #1 team in 2002.
Tip of the hat to RC Slocum. Now, take a seat, coach.
Now that we’ve established that the 2012 29-24 win over Alabama is eerily similar to that 2002 30-26 win over OU in exactly 10 years and ONE damn day to the calendar date, I’m going to postulate for the sake of my argument:
10 years exactly passed of A&M epic suckitude between program defining wins. I’m going to give you a second on that point, as well.
To cap the comparisons and get to the story, at the time of the 2002 game, the decision to fire RC was already in place, and the decision to hire Dennis Franchione, the hottest coach in college football, from Alabama was all but done. That 2002 win barely gave any pause to the decision makers of RC’s and A&M Football’s fate for the next decade. And then what happened?
-Fran starts his tenure at A&M by not even meeting with his Alabama squad, which causes riots in the streets of Tuscaloosa as they burn his image in effigy. Probably would have used the real thing if they could have gotten him, but his bobbleheads had to suffice. Ominous.
-Fran brings over his entire staff, and the media is quick to jump on the coattails of the resurgent Aggie program
-Bill Byrne is hired as AD of Texas A&M. He has the reputation as “Dollar Bill”, an AD who focuses on non-football sports and who raises the ticket prices for events beyond what fans are comfortable with.
-However, the talent at A&M was pretty thin, and despite the huge win over #1 OU, people inside the program started grimacing at first glance of the roster
-Fran then creates a cult of personality, headed by a biographer he brought over from Alabama named Mike McKenzie, who quickly begins a PR campaign centered around Fran and Fran wholly instead of A&M or the team. Need proof? Go find the program for the 2003 spring game at A&M. It’s all about Fran. He sets up his own website, sets up a blog before blogs were cool for his WIFE to share recipes and water-retention tips, and
-A&M struggles mightily in year one under fran, going 4-8 and getting beat by #1 OU 77-0 in a game where OU’s quarterback was KNEELING THE BALL IN THE THIRD QUARTER.
Holy shit. What have we done?
Did we sell our souls for that 2002 victory? For hiring Dennis Dingdong Franchione away from Momma as a payback for Bear Bryant?
I’m not going to recount the entire decade for A&M, but it’s been rough, Ags. Very rough. We were blown out AT KYLE by Iowa State. Then lost to Baylor in OT(Baylor!) as Fran turned the former freshman phenom QB into a veer-running option quarterback. Abject and total failure. 2005 started with an embarrassing loss in the Cotton Bowl to Tennessee. Then another losing season in 2005. We climbed back to 9-4, which was good enough for 3rd in the Big 12 South, then another shit year as Fran not only breaks NCAA rules by selling his own insider newsletter to select donors and the president of the 12th Man Foundation and Bill Byrne (both of which knew about the newsletter, so don’t let them try to say they didn’t), but it’s used as an excuse by Byrne to get Fran fired. A&M had the chance to baptize the program and get it out of the pit of shit in the Big 12 if they go out and hire an outstanding college football coach.
Bill Byrne then made a deal with a group of donors to reclaim control of the program if Byrne would go along with hiring one of their buddies as the new coach. In exchange, they would erase the reported $16-30m deficit Byrne had racked up by building new track facilities and falling way short of his capital campaigns. He arrogantly dismissed Fran in his final press conference by literally swiping the microphone away before Fran was finished talking and announced that he was conducting a “nationwide search” for the next football coach. We now know that it was a total fabrication, as the deal was already in place to get Mike Sherman (Mike Sherman!), a wayward coach who managed to have a losing season at Green Bay WITH Brett Favre and no other head coaching experience. He had been out of college football since the mid-90’s. Instead of going with a program changer at head coach, they went with the coaching equivalency of a dead fish.
Want proof? He lost his first game EVER to Arkansas State AT KYLE FIELD. Then won 4 games total in his first year as coach and had a losing subsequent year. He hired a defensive coordinator that lasted all of a month in College Station before quitting, then hired a coach out of retirement. Without a string of victories in 2010 spurred by 1st round pick Von Miller, Mike Sherman was on his way to A&M’s first back-to-back-to-back losing seasons since forever ago.
We were the butt of jokes across the country. Every two-bit hack beat writer from Houston to New York took shots at A&M anytime they could, and it was well deserved. All the while:
-Texas Tech wins 2 more bowl games from 2002 than A&M even plays in, including an 11-2 season where they finished tied for first in the conference. At one point, Tech won 7 of 8 games against A&M and almost tied the all-time series
-Baylor, after almost a decade of winning a single conference game per year in the Big 12 and almost 15 years of losing seasons, somehow manages to get a Heisman winner.
-Texas wins a national championship and plays for another.
-Oklahoma, who was 3-8 in the last season before Stoops arrived, lost a single game to A&M. They won 8 of 9 and played for multiple national championships
-Oklahoma State gets a record-setting donation from a former basketball player at Texas A&M who transferred to the school.
That’s all in our division. Not to mention that we didn’t win a single bowl game during the Lost Decade, lost multiple games by double digits, some of which were epic whippings that spurred on even more jokes, and finished the season ranked only once (ONCE!) in Mike Sherman’s lucky Von Miller year.
Enter: R. Bowen Loftin.
Our Bowen Loftin.
R Badass Loftin.
The little man with the bowtie and brass balls the size of Hearne pushed us to the SEC, a move which is fought vehemently by Bill Byrne who promised our sisters in Austin that he’d “deliver” A&M to the newly forming Pac-16 conference that Texas was orchestrating. If not for Loftin, Ags, we’d be playing in Palo Alto and not Tuscaloosa. Think about that for a second.
Even the move to the SEC was met with derision and jokes, where writers such as Ivan Maisel, Pete Thamel, Pat Forde, and tv personalities like Mark May went out of their way during our last Big 12 to make fun of us for making the move and saying that we’d never compete against the big bad SEC. Baylor and Texas fired off a PR campaign to run negative press against us, and Mike Sherman somehow managed to lose the last conference game ever against Texas to FCS-worthy quarterback Case McCoy. That loss might end up as our saving grace, but man it stings.
If not for a complete whipping of Tech and a thrashing of Baylor, the entire last season in the Big 12 would have been a disaster. Fortunately, after Sherman was rightfully jettisoned, A&M did something they hadn’t done since 2001…they won a bowl game.
So, when Sherman is rightfully fired (never should have been hired in the first place), Bill Byrne does his best to make the university look bad by calling his buddy, Kirk Bohls, who leaks the firing before Sherman is informed. Of course, anyone with half a brain knew Sherman was going to be fired, but still…there’s ways to do things, and typical Byrne he did his best to make the university look bad. Bowen did the right thing by letting Byrne save face and exit slowly before the official move to the SEC. During that time Byrne rallied members of his staff to bad-mouth the president of the university (!) on message boards in an attempt to discredit Loftin and get him fired.
Enter: Kevin Sumlin
Enter: Mike Slive
Re-Enter: R. Badass Loftin’s gigantic brass balls that were turning to gold thru alchemy-in-academia form
We were told that A&M was weak, thin, and had a piss-poor defense with no players good enough to play in the SEC. We were told that the offensive line was bad, and couldn’t stand up to the speed and size of the SEC. We were told that A&M could never compete with the LSU’s and Alabama’s of the world.
Well, guess what…there aren’t “LSU’s” and “Alabama’s” of the world. There’s LSU and Alabama. We played one to the last minute, driving to win before an interception ended the game, and just marched into the other’s house and marched out in Scooby Doo costumes and with their women on both arms. We’ll discard those girls before we get to the state line though. Use, abuse, then refuse. Just like we did to their football team.
Sumlin was the spark that the program needed back in 2002 that Fran couldn’t deliver b/c he was tied up in the smell of his own asshole and in 2007 while Sherman was too busy picking out Tommy Bahama shirts to wear on gameday to focus on recruiting. Sumlin wasn’t the only coach that could have succeeded at A&M, but he is one who did. Wins cure all, and Kevin Sumlin is a winner. He’s fierce but fun. He can recruit, he can motivate, but most of all he can relate, something RC, Fran, or Mike Sherman couldn’t do.
What a perfect fit. Funny what hiring a pedigree college football coach can do instead of an NFL reject. See: Weis, Charlie at Kansas.
After all that, we are still left with the simple fact that an entire decade passed between epic asswhippings of #1 teams. In that time, A&M has experienced the lowest of the low, the most cruel of cruel jokes, and a seemingly endless line of our foes who got to take unmitigated nutshots at us over and over again. It’s been rough, but look what happened since September:
-Barely lost to Florida, a top 10 team
-Epic win over hapless Arkansas who started the pre-season top 10
-Come from behind win in Oxford
-Grudge win over LaTech after the school postponed the game intentionally to get more experience before playing us
-Barely lost to LSU, again driving to win on the last series before throwing an interception
-Record-setting asswhipping over hapless Auburn in their house
-Record-setting asswhipping over #15 Mississippi State in their house; this was never even a game in which many of the genius sportswriters predicted it as the game when A&M would be “coming back down to Earth” and State would be showing the world that Johnny Football couldn’t stand up to the real defenses in the SEC.
-Marching into to Tuscaloosa against the best team in all of college football and winning wire to wire. And let’s be clear about something: it was a resounding defeat, not only by Johnny F*cking Football, but by the Wrecking Crew defense that popped loose a fumble, three interceptions, and sent their bruiser running back to the bench with a head-rattling hit. Referees didn’t win that game…sound coaching, precise execution, and Sumlin’s swagger won that game against the best team in all of college football. Alabama is still the best team, regardless of where they are ranked today.
As an aside, a $5m dollar coach should NEVER lose to a $2m coach, and if it does somehow happen, then your $2m coach should no longer be a $2m coach. Sumlin’s about to get paid handsomely and rightfully. Wouldn’t surprise me if he gets to $3.5m, and it’s well deserved. Same goes for his light-out assistants, who might be as good as any in the conference or even the nation. We are building a $500m new stadium…I think we can find a couple extra bucks for this staff.
Two weeks ago, worthless sports talk radio hosts were debating whether or not Alabama could beat an NFL team (which is as worthless as any topic ever covered on sports talk radio). Two weeks ago, AJ McCarron only had to finish out the year to get the Heisman trophy. Two weeks ago, A&M was still the punchline to jokes by idiot sports writers who had still not admitted that they know nothing and only have a job covering college football because they use correct grammar. Two weeks ago, Johnny Manziel was a “fun player” but couldn’t stand up to the LSU’s and Alabama’s of the world.
Two weeks later, he’s the best player in football. Despite those aforementioned writers coming crawling back with pencil and paper in hand to write a feature story on us, Johnny Manziel should win the Heisman. He’s the best player in college football, and there should be no debate. Johnny Manziel should win the Heisman, and anyone who disagrees is an idiot. A blithering, shit-ball rolling idiot.
Here we sit, with a top 10 ranked team and a 19-year old phenom at quarterback that should win the Heisman trophy in his first year as a college football player. A year ago, they told us we couldn’t compete in the SEC. Now, we are part of the elite. A year ago, we had a single bowl win in a decade. Now we are in the mix for an AT-LARGE BCS bid, which would be our first since winning the conference in 1998. The sky is the limit, and it appears that everything we went thru in the last decade is slowly becoming a waving memory in our rear-view mirrors. We aren’t the best team in college football, but Texas A&M can beat any other team in college football. We will finish the year with as many as 11 wins in our first SEC season.
It’s been a long, hard road, Ags, One that few teams if any have had to ever endure. We crawled thru a Brazos River-sized tunnel of shit and came out on the other side smelling of maroon and white Roses. The sky is the limit for this team that still has players on it that sat thru Mike Sherman’s second losing season in a row. We are a top 10 program in recruiting, budget, and now performance. And that’s the way it should be
Now that the crawl is over, and the program gets back to the dominance of two decades ago, the only question I have for all of you is:
Was it worth it?