Scooter Hobbs column: Aggies one expensive joke
Published 11:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2022
There’s an old Texas A&M tale from the bygone Southwest Conference days, perhaps urban legend, but worth retelling if there’s even a smidgen of truth to it.
It involved a Texas A&M road trip to Rice with, of course, the famed Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and its micro-precision marching maneuvers there for halftime.
Even opposing fans often get misty-eyed at this spectacle of the Corps of Cadets.
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At Rice, not so much. Nothing there is sacred. So some mischievous students, armed only with whistles, went to work and, since the Aggie band takes its marching cues from whistles, turned the pomp and precision pageantry into the halftime equivalent of poking a stick into an antpile.
Dang egg-head kids. It is known in some khaki circles as the most embarrassing moment in school history.
Until, that is, this year’s Fightin’ Aggies football team showed up.
Go ahead, have fun with it. Make sport of Texas A&M and its troubles.
The Aggies have long been the butt, parcel and punch line of a lot of jokes. There’s a whole genre of them, generally taken in good humor, almost a sense of pride at a very proud school.
But this is football, This is serious. And not very funny.
And, for many, Texas A&M football has become funnier than any corny, sophomoric Aggie joke.
A&M’s financial resources make the program look like the college football edition of a Richie Rich comic book come to life.
As a result, it has recruited well enough to draw the ire (and suspicion) of Nick Saban himself.
Its largesse has built a monstrous temple of a stadium — Texas-style gargantuan, sparing no amenities — worthy of unlimited oil money.
That’s what happens when you have more walking-around cash than you know what to do with — except the school may have to dig deeper and find even more if it wants to get rid of head football coach Jimbo Fisher and his near-$90 million buyout. That’s a lot of oil gushers right there.
See, this embarrassing glut of riches has produced a football team that, with more talent than the State Fair, not only won’t make the College Football Playoff, it won’t make any of the zillion or so bowl games out there this season.
Not with a 4-7 record, not at 1-6 in the Southeastern Conference (and the Aggies are a clanked upright on an Arkansas field goal attempt from being 0-7 with LSU going to College Station Saturday).
Oh, yeah, this has been a comedy of errors. Guffaws all around. The common folk always enjoy the tears and frustration of the gentry.
Appalachian State was laughing so hard after getting paid up front to upset the Aggies 17-14 that its collective stomach hurt.
It took UMass, widely considered the worst team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, for A&M break a six-game losing streak. Didn’t exactly push the Minutemen over the precipice, 20-3, but small victories.
Well, take a deep breath. Don’t cackle too loudly just yet.
What if it turns out that Texas A&M is just the canary in the mine shaft for college football in this free-spending Name, Image, Likeness era?
You know, there but for the grace of …
Or what happens if there’s a trickle-down effect?
What if it turns out that Texas A&M was just ahead of the curve on this NIL stuff and suffering the consequences now that will soon, inevitably, visit and infect a college near you?
What if the Aggies are merely learning that money can’t buy you love, even on a campus whose rank-and-file student body loves it some alma mater (for life) like few other places on Earth.
For a team this stockpiled with talent to be this bad, something besides unfortunate injuries, growing pains and Jurassic play-calling has to be in play here.
It surely sounds like a program culture problem, bad team chemistry, an uneasy locker room.
It doesn’t matter where they dress, either. The Aggies couldn’t even get out of South Carolina after a 30-24 loss without a dreaded postgame “violation of team rules” in the visiting locker room.
The illicit behavior wasn’t specified, but that only let the speculations soar as to why three of the prizes from last spring’s greatest recruiting class in history went full-blown knucklehead to get suspended.
This is a school culture, mind you, most renowned for pulling students out of the stands to aid the football cause in the name of school spirit.
That seems as outdated now as books, board and tuition.
So now it’s throwing obscene money at teenagers — what could go wrong?
Maybe we’re learning that it was much tidier letting college players make money when you had to be hush-hush about it.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org