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    Texas A&M To The SEC: Houston Reaction

    By: Eric SanInocencio
    SEC Digital Network

    Birmingham, Ala. -- The SEC has announced that Texas A&M is officially the 13th member of the league.

    To get a sense of what the sentiment is in Houston regarding the Aggies move, the SEC Digital Network has reached out to Joshua Buckley for this special "Q and A".

    Joshua Buckley is an award-winning sports writer based in the Houston area. He currently is a broadcaster for CMC Communications and a freelance reporter. He can be found on Twitter at @joshuabuckley. 

    SEC Digital Network: What is the overall sentiment in the Houston area about Texas A&M’s move to the SEC?

    As far as Texas A&M fans, they are thrilled with the move. This is a program that has been overshadowed by Texas for decades, and they want to change that. They have be involved in a "SECede" campaign for more than a year now, and have the fan base excited about heading into the arguably the premier conference in the country.

    Buckley: The media reaction has been mixed. However, there is a lot of Texas bias in the Houston market, which contributes to the criticism of A&M's potential move.

    At this point, Texas A&M doesn't care what anyone thinks, even the state legislature. With its fans backing, the Aggies have aggressively pursued this deal for its own peace of mind. In the end, that is all that matters to them.
     
    SEC Digital Network: One of the big factors said to be a positive in adding Texas A&M to the SEC is the Aggies “footprint” of Houston. What does that exactly mean to the average fan and explain the demographics of the Houston sports scene.

    Buckley: Houston is actually the fourth biggest TV market in the country. It doesn't receiver the attention of some other cities across the country, mostly because the city is spread out instead of being concentrated with a downtown area.

    The demographics are pretty diverse in the Houston area. In fact, it will be the most diverse market in the SEC, by far. There is a large Hispanic base in Houston, which doesn't have an interest in American football, but the rest of the city indeed considers it the premier sport in the country.

    Will that led a huge increase in ratings? That is hard to say. There is still a strong Texas Longhorn influence in the city, which don't care that much about A&M does unless it is Thanksgiving week.

    What will be interesting to watch is whether a move to the SEC is going to help with recruiting. While A&M has recruited Houston's premier talent a little better in recent years, it still loses a lot to Texas. Now, the Aggies may be able to sell the SEC to recruits, which could be a big factor in recruiting.
     
    SEC Digital Network: Having worked in both the SEC and Big 12 markets, compare the two and how do you see Texas A&M fitting into the conference as a whole?

    Buckley: As much as Texas would have you believe that it is the football capitol of the world, I actually believe that SEC country has a much larger interest as a whole.

    My basis for this opinion is the excitement and buzz for Big 12 rivalries as opposed to SEC rivalries.

    The SEC has the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn), the Third Saturday in October (Alabama-Tennessee), the Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Georgia-Florida), and other premier rivalries. Regarding Texas teams, the only rivalry that attracts a buzz that rivals those SEC match-ups is Oklahoma-Texas.
    Yes, Texas-Texas A&M is a big deal in these parts, but it doesn’t cause the state to shut down like the Iron Bowl does.

    A&M enters the SEC with a natural rivalry in Arkansas. However, for the Aggies to really fit in, it is going to need to establish a strong rivalry with LSU and one of the other SEC West schools.

    The only way that will happen is by winning a few games against those schools. Once it does, though, trips to College Station could generate a lot of excitement for SEC programs in the fall.
     
    SEC Digital Network: Of course everyone thinks about the Aggie football program, but what are their strengths as an athletic department? How can they step in and compete in the SEC in some of the other sports?

    Buckley: From the outside, people would probably think that football is Texas A&M's strength. They have a rich history and one of the most intimidating stadiums in the country.

    However, football is far from the university's best sport. In fact, you could make a case for football being perhaps the fifth-best sport of the athletics program.

    The premier sport in College Station is without a doubt track and field. Texas A&M has won the last three national championships in both men and women. With the caliber of athletes in Texas, the Aggies should be a national title contender in track for years to come.

    The women's basketball team won its first national championship in 2011 and appears to be building into a consistent title contender in the mold of Tennessee. The men's basketball team has also made big strides in recent seasons. The baseball program has won the past two Big 12 conference tournament titles.

    The success in those other sports helped Texas A&M finish eighth in the Director's Cup, awarded to the college or university with the most success in collegiate athletics. Florida was the only SEC team to finish higher than A&M in the Director's Cup final rankings for 2010-11.

    Overall, A&M will be a big-time force in several sports, giving the SEC several chances to add national championships onto its resume.
     
    SEC Digital Network: In your opinion, is this a good move for Texas A&M? Is it a good fit for the SEC? How will this relationship work going forward?

    Buckley: If you look at this move from strictly a football angle, then no, this is not a good idea. The Aggies will be competitive in the SEC, but probably won't have what it takes to beat Alabama and LSU in the West, at least for now.

    Texas A&M will receive a boost in exposure and money during football season, which will help. However, what happens when the newness of joining the SEC wears off?

    So why is A&M making this move? Two reasons — stability and its desire to no longer be pushed around by Texas. The Aggies decided they wanted to make the move to a stable conference while the opportunity was there, and let the rest of the Big 12 get bullied around by Texas.

    Does it make sense to make a major move like this based on ego? That is debatable. However, there is no debating the SEC will provide stability, leaving Texas A&M in a good situation moving forward.