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Column: Aggies are leaving Tiger in the dust

In MU’s SEC transition, moving too fast is better than too slow.

Derek Franks

May 3, 2013

It’s never a heartwarming thing to hear — that derogatory comment, “It looks like a high school stadium,” as spoken by the bro-tastic visiting Alabama fan walking directly behind me as we approached Memorial Stadium. But to him, and probably many others who have been blessed with the football palaces in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn., among other southeastern schools, that’s probably exactly what it looks like.

We’re trying to make it better, Alabama guy. It’ll be a really big high school stadium by 2015.

But by that time, we’ll already be left behind — way behind — by our counterpart newbie, Texas A&M.

On Wednesday, the school announced that it will soon be home to the largest stadium in the Southeastern Conference, which already boasts two of the highest capacity facilities in the country.

By the 2015 football season, Texas A&M’s Kyle Field will hold 102,500 fans, making it bigger than Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium and Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.

More importantly, it will dwarf Missouri’s football stadium by about 25,500 seats, even when MU finishes its $72 million dollar project, which will add 6,000 more seats by 2015.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to this whole joining the SEC thing, at least as far as football is concerned, sometimes I feel like the Aggies are just walking all over us and then lifting their hind leg.

It was bad enough watching Johnny Football end his campaign for a Heisman Trophy by running over the Tigers to the tune of a 59-29 win last season, a score that looks a lot closer than the game was.

No, the inaugural match-up of SEC newcomers was nothing for Missouri fans to be proud of. But it didn’t end there.

Over the course of last season, when I found myself carping and criticizing the football program’s disappointing and, let’s admit it, boring product last season, I couldn’t help but think that Missouri’s approach needs to change fast or the conference is going to swallow us whole. During many a debate, I heard the same ol' argument, “It takes time” and “There’s a transition period.”

Whenever faced with this argument, I debunked the theory quite easily by saying, “I don’t see Texas A&M going through a ‘transition’ period.”

It’s true though. You will find no “transition” happening in College Station. What you find is an athletic program taking the tall task of assimilating into an elite conference and hitting it straight on, full steam ahead. No, the Aggies didn’t go 2-6 in the conference, and they certainly didn’t blunder away losses to mediocre Big East teams, like Syracuse.

The Aggies finished tied with the second-best record in the SEC, won the Cotton Bowl, demolishing a powerhouse in Oklahoma and finished in the top 10 of college football.

But it’s what the Aggies are doing off the field now that is more telling of the two stark differences in direction here. Still, this is a very slippery slope. Texas A&M isn’t Alabama or LSU. They don’t exactly have a good track record. In fact, an article from The Dallas Morning News from just two years ago titled “How Do You Fix Texas A&M’s attendance problem?” points out that the school had trouble putting fans in the seats.

Sure, I don’t know how this stuff works. Perhaps they just looked at the money in the bank and said, “Hey, we can afford making it the biggest stadium in football” and went with it. But this may be going a little overboard. This isn’t "Field of Dreams.” Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.

The Aggies were riding on cloud nine last season. But did the same thing not happen in Auburn just a few years ago? Who’s to say that Manziel doesn’t up and leave and that Coach Kevin Sumlin won't be shown the door after a couple bad seasons? Auburn, whose stadium holds a similar capacity as Kyle Field currently, didn’t go off adding 20,000 seats on a whim. Ask Gene Chizik about that.

Still, the A&M expansion shows the mindset in Aggie-land is an aggressive one, and MU could gain from taking a little piece of that pie.

I think our school should consider more than just adding 6,000 seats. When the financial possibility presents itself, MU should make it a goal to make Memorial’s attendance capacity 80,000 to 85,000 strong. I feel like our school is ready for that.

If we want to be in the SEC, we have to start acting like it.

Sure, the Aggies have the goofiest, most irritating traditions in all of sports, but they seem to have a mentality out there that is keeping up with the SEC way. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the fact I grew up with Missouri being in the Big 12, but I just don’t feel like I’m in the “Southeastern” Conference. And trust me, the black and gold shirts that simply say “SEC” on them aren’t helping any.

I know I sound a little negative here, but I do have faith, a lot of faith that Missouri will someday start fitting in better.

We have an awesome tradition here and some of the best fans in college football. I felt that proof standing on the field three years ago when we beat Oklahoma on Homecoming.

It’s time to really start building that SEC mentality in Columbia. I’m not trying to be cynical; I’m just eager. Perhaps A&M is moving too fast, but it’s better than moving too slow. I guess I must keep in mind what so many people have told me in the past year since we’ve joined the SEC: It takes time.

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Article comments

May 3, 2013 at 8:45 a.m.

Class of '67: I can understand your frustration. A&M limped along as the poor 3rd cousin to UT for many years. Not anymore. Allow me to enlighten you as to why A&M has invested $450 million into their renovation. 1st, this team has a "coach" that will consistently put a great product on the field. While JFF is an exciting player, it is always about the head coach, i.e., BAMA, LSU, Ohio State, ND. 2nd, there are 31,000 students (highest in CF) that attend games. Season tickets sold out by March 2012. This was before JFF was unleashed. So, A&M has the demand to fill 102,500 seats. 3rd, A&M has a fan base commitment that is willing to pony up a big part of the $450 million with donations. Btw, we are not "lifting" our leg on anyone. That is bad form as is demeaning other universities traditions. We are just happy to be in a position to field a great team and want to renovate Kyle Field to accommodate students, alumni and fans who want to see them play live. Mizzou has had many great teams and if not for injuries last year you would have gone to your 8th bowl game in a row. That's a great achievement! With that said, the 4th reason is LEADERSHIP. A&M's President has labeled our entry into the SEC as a 100 year decision. He has committed the resources to build a first rate athletic program as the "Front Porch" to the University to attract students and top Professors and Research dollars. I applaud you for self-examination. That is always a good start for improvement. Benchmarking off of other universities is a 2nd step. Then someone has to provide leadership to initiate Change.

May 3, 2013 at 12:24 p.m.

Charlie Reeves: Well said class of 67. I would like to add that the expansion of Kyle was not a "whim" as Derek Franks made it out to be, but rather, has been in the works since 2008. Long before SEC and Manziel Fever showed up. Also, TAMU's "goofie", "irritating" traditions are among the greatest, if not out and out, THE greatest in college football. Otherwise, we would be just like any other boring, no making it school.

May 3, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.

Austin TAMU Class of '07: This stadium renovation was part of TAMU's Vision 20/20 from around the time that Robert Gates became President of A&M in 2002.

May 4, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.

Class of '67: I hesitated to add this video as I view Mizzou as more an ally rather than a rivalry; same values. I worked in Missouri for a short time and really liked the folks there. But if you'd like to see what your stadium could look like, take a peek at this video. Of course, by the time you redevelop your football stadium, you will probably add new innovations. Btw, there a few of those "goofy" traditions in the video that we really love.

May 4, 2013 at 8:55 p.m.

Seattle Aggie: I too take offense to the notion Aggies would "lift their hind leg" on Mizzou. Both our schools left the Big 12 to compete against the best teams in the country. We Aggies wanted nothing but the best for Mizzou, even when we play against you. Unfortunately, early injuries and other issues led to a rough year for you. If injuries had happened to our key players, we might have had a similar fate. Aggies have been looking to update our stadium,the hallowed Kyle Field, for years. Seeing the proposed stadium and the immense increase in seating is both exciting and daunting. It's a serious bet towards our desired destiny. I do agree with your article's premise that you need to bet on Mizzou, just as we have bet on our Aggies. Go all-in or go home. I look forward to following your progress and wish you the best of luck for every game except when we play you. Thanks and Gig'em!

May 5, 2013 at 10:58 a.m.

Class of '77: Kyle Field has been in need of renovation for years, and improvements over time have been a hodge podge of "what was affordable", not what the university really wanted. The university decided to fix severall other problems in managing and improving crowd participation in football. If you look at the video, the entire concept of the new Kyle will make it the center of year long fund raising and recruiting events,and will be a major tourist draw on its own (special new tailgating areas are being built, large parks on the east and west side of the stadium, etc. The West Entrance is basically designed as a fund raising and recruiting center of major league proportions. While there are massive improvements outside the stadium that will attract more interest from visitors, what needs to be fixed for this whole scheme to work is actually increasing the number of hotel rooms available in the Bryan-CS area. Most fans will tell you, due to the isolated location of the university, getting hotel accomidations is a major limiting factor in attending a game. This is not, as many have been posting, a whim because of the move to the SEC, or because of Manziel. Far, far from it. This has been discussed at A&M for decades, with serious planning starting over 5 years ago. For those who think fan interest is not going to be there to fill the stadium, A&M is 20,000 students larger than it was back in the 90's, and is still growing.

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