By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Over the course of its storied 78-year history of athletic achievements and academic excellence, the Southeastern Conference has consistently set the standard for the greatest tradition in intercollegiate athletics.
With an ever-changing dynamic to the conference paradigm over the past year, the SEC has again demonstrated its commitment to maintaining its stature as one of the nation’s premier conferences by welcoming Texas A&M University as its 13th league member, Commissioner Mike Slive announced.
It is the first expansion of the SEC membership since Arkansas and South Carolina joined the conference in 1992. Texas A&M will begin full league membership starting with the 2012-13 academic year.
The Aggies bring to the SEC 13 team national championships, including 10 NCAA titles. Texas A&M is the defending NCAA Champion in women’s basketball and the three-time defending national champions in both men’s and women’s outdoor track and field.
Texas A&M was a charter member of the Southwest Conference during its formation in 1915. Current SEC member Arkansas was a fellow SWC charter member until its move to the SEC in 1992. Following the dissolution of the SWC in 1996, the Aggies have been a member of the South Division of the Big 12 Conference.
Texas A&M has placed among the top-20 of the NACDA Director’s Cup in six consecutive seasons, including a pair of top-10 finishes the last two seasons. The Aggies turned in their best-ever Director’s Cup finish in 2009-10 with a sixth-place finish.
The announcement marks just the second time in the history of the conference that the SEC will expand its membership. In a landscape that has seemed ever-changing in recent years, the SEC has exemplified stability as 10 of its original 13 members remain.
The league’s current 13 members is not the first time that the SEC has featured an uneven number of teams. It began as a 13-team league until Sewanee’s departure from the conference in 1940. After Georgia Tech’s move to independent status in 1964, the league had 11 members before Tulane departed in 1966, leaving the SEC as a 10-team conference for more than two decades.
At the start of the decade of the 1990s, a similar shift in conference alignment allowed Arkansas and South Carolina to join the SEC. The benefits have been nothing short of outstanding.
Soon after joining the league, the Razorbacks claimed the 1994 NCAA Championship in men’s basketball and finished as the NCAA runner-up the following year. They made their first appearance in the SEC Championship football game in 1995, appearing again in 2002 and 2006.
The Arkansas women’s basketball team made its first-ever Final Four appearance in 1998 before winning the WNIT the next season. The level of track and field in the SEC was quickly raised with the addition of the Razorbacks. Arkansas’ men won cross country national titles in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Men’s NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships came every year from 1993-2000 and again in 2003, 2005 and 2006. The men also claimed NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships from 1993-1999 and again in 2003.
South Carolina won the Women’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in 2002, becoming, at the time, just the second different SEC team to claim an NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship. The past two seasons have been magical ones for the Gamecocks, as they have captured back-to-back NCAA Championships in baseball and advanced to the SEC Championship game in football for the first time in the program’s history.
Texas A&M first took to the field in 1894, when head coach F.D. Perkins led his football team on to the field against Texas in Austin. Since that time, the Aggies have put together a solid tradition of winning and championships.
Texas A&M first entered the national spotlight in 1939, when its football team, under the direction of Coach Homer Norton reeled off an 11-0 campaign that culminated in a 14-13 win against Tulane in the Sugar Bowl to give the Aggies their first national title.
Two consecutive Cotton Bowl appearances followed, but the Aggies began falling off. It was at that time that Texas A&M hired Paul “Bear” Bryant away from Kentucky, where he had led the Wildcats to the 1950 SEC Championship and a 13-7 victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl gave them the national title, according to the Sagarin Ratings. Following a 1-9 season in 1954, Bryant’s Aggies took off, winning seven or more games in each of his next three seasons.
The Aggies began playing basketball in 1914-15, quickly winning four consecutive SWC Championships from 1920-23. Texas A&M didn’t win another conference title until tying for the league crown in 1951 with a 17-12 overall record and an NCAA West Regional appearance. A stellar season in 2005-06 gave the Aggies their first NCAA appearance since 1987, and they have advanced to the tournament each year since that time.
Texas A&M first played baseball in 1894, but consistently began competing in the sport in 1904. The team’s first College World Series appearance came in 1951, just the event’s fifth year of existence. The Aggies would return to Omaha in 1964, 1993, 1999 and 2011.
The Texas A&M track and field programs would take off after the school hired the legendary Pat Henry from LSU in 2005. Henry had directed the Tigers to a remarkable 27 NCAA team championships during his time with the program. The Aggies are the three-time defending NCAA Outdoor Champions on both the men’s and women’s sides.
The Aggies began competing in women’s basketball in time for the 1974-75 season, winning the NWIT in Coach Candi Harvey’s first season of 1995. Texas A&M would not have a winning season from 1996 until 2005 when the Aggies hired away Gary Blair from Arkansas. Blair would resurrect the program, leading his team to the NCAA Championship in 2011.
The softball program has captured three national championships in its 37 seasons of existence, winning the AIAW title in 1982 and NCAA Championships in 1983 and 1987. The Aggies have made seven NCAA College World Series appearances, with the last coming in 2008.
Additional national championships for the Aggies have come in men’s golf (2009) and equestrian (2002). Texas A&M will now be one of four SEC teams to sponsor varsity equestrian as Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina each sponsor the sport.