Texas A&M's summer fling with the SEC ended with both parties going back to business as usual in the fall.
Now, Texas' recent partnership with ESPN has caused some trouble at home, and Aggies fans' eyes have drifted east once again, longing to recapture what they once had: a reported offer to join the SEC, the nation's premier conference on the football field.
Athletic director Bill Byrne made the right call in keeping the Aggies in the Big 12 over the summer. We discussed the issue briefly in a mailbag on Friday, but Byrne would be well-served to keep the Aggies in the Big 12 as long as the Longhorns do the same.
The Longhorns need the Big 12 for rivalries and scheduling, but not for money. Now that the TV network is established and Texas can hang on to its TV network, the risk of the school going independent is overstated. There's not enough to gain and too much risk.
The majority of the fan base supported a move to the SEC. I posed a question on Twitter on Friday, but nobody presented any new arguments for why Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 would be a good thing.
I understand the basic arguments. There's an attraction to "escaping Texas shadow" and going out on their own. There's some value in offering recruits a chance to play in the SEC, something Texas wouldn't be able do.
My point is simple: Any of those peripheral advantages are completely negated if you don't win. Good luck recruiting if you can't win consistently. And good luck winning recruiting battles against Texas or SEC programs if both are winning more. The best recruits headed to the SEC don't want to play there. They want to win there. Proving you can do it is the easiest way to do it.
Texas A&M has historically been an underachieving program relative to its fan base and resources. The Aggies have no 10-win seasons in the Big 12 since 1998, the same year of the program's last conference title. That's their only title since 1993, the last of three consecutive Southwest Conference titles under R.C. Slocum.
The facts are this: Texas A&M would win less in the SEC than it already has in the Big 12.
The Aggies are 25-35 against the SEC, and 0-6 since a win over LSU in 1995. That doesn't inspire confidence.
Arkansas has experienced financial windfall since joining the league in 1991. What they haven't experienced? Winning.
The Hogs won at least two Southwest Conference titles in every decade from 1954-1989. They haven't won the SEC since the move two decades ago.
Want to get away from Texas and Oklahoma?
Fine. Meet Auburn, Alabama, Florida and LSU. Together, they've won the past five national titles since Texas snagged its last one in 2005. You guys have fun with that.
Texas A&M? Can anyone outside Texas, who doesn't own an Aggie ring, name a player on the Aggies' 1939 championship squad?
Winning is what fuels successful programs. The money isn't there if the wins don't precede them. Yearly conference handouts aren't enough to build a big-time program.
If you value winning, the Big 12 is the place to stay.
Texas' new network should be a big boon to its checkbooks and recruiting classes, but really, how much more help can they get? The Longhorns routinely get the pick of the litter throughout the state. Having their own TV network doesn't mean they get to sign 100 players every February. Texas has the best facilities in the Big 12. More money doesn't mean Texas will figure out how to teach their players to fly.
It helps Texas, sure. But it doesn't hurt Texas A&M enough to make a rash decision to leave the Big 12.
Preach conference prestige and recruiting until you're hoarse. It won't matter. All that matters in college football is winning. If the Aggies are OK with doing less of it, then fine, book your bus ticket east and hope the SEC opens its arms once again like it did this summer.