By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The move to the Southeastern Conference indicates a new beginning for Texas A&M athletics, but the Aggies have a proud tradition and numerous ties with the SEC. Here’s a quick look at some of the most recognizable ties between the league and its new member.
Bear Bryant, Football
Bryant compiled a 60-23-6 record as the head coach at Kentucky from 1946-53 with four bowl game appearances. He led the Wildcats to their first-ever bowl game in 1947 (Great Lakes Bowl) and their first SEC Championship in 1950. The Wildcats finished seventh in the final AP and coaches polls in 1950, but the polls at that time were finalized before bowl season. After a victory against No. 1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, Kentucky holds an NCAA sanctioned national championship according to the Sagarin ratings. Bryant joined Texas A&M as football coach and athletics director prior to the 1954 campaign, holding a now infamous preseason training camp that inspired the book and movie “Junction Boys.” Bryant’s first team went 1-9, but by the time he left College Station, he had compiled a 25-14-2 overall record, leading the Aggies to an unbeaten 9-0-1 tally in 1956 and a Gator Bowl appearance in 1957. He left for the University of Alabama, his alma mater and the coaching job for which he is best known, leading the Crimson Tide to six national titles and 13 SEC Championships.
Gary Blair, Women’s Basketball
Blair enjoyed great success as the head coach at Arkansas, tallying a 198-120 record and an NCAA Final Four appearance in 1998. The Razorbacks made five NCAA Tournament appearances during Blair’s tenure and won the WNIT Championship in 1999. In 2003, Blair, a Dallas native, was hired to take over Texas A&M’s perennial cellar-dweller women’s basketball program, which hadn’t had a winning season in the previous seven seasons. Since joining the Aggies, Blair has compiled a 188-79 record in College Station, leading Texas A&M to the 2011 NCAA Championship. The Aggies have made six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
Pat Henry, Track and Field
Henry built a track and field dynasty at LSU, leading the Tigers to 27 national titles, 19 SEC titles and earning 15 SEC Coach of the Year honors. He became the only coach in track and field history to win both the men’s and women’s track and field national titles in the same season, doing so in both 1989 and 1990. From 1988-2004, LSU set the standard in collegiate women’s track and field, winning a combined 22 team national titles during his time in Baton Rouge. Henry left for Texas A&M in time for the start of the 2005 season and his impact on the program has been nothing short of remarkable. The construction of Gilliam Indoor Track and Field Stadium, one of the finest facilities in the country, was Henry’s vision. Since taking over, he has led both the men’s and women’s teams to three consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Gene Stallings, Football
Stallings was one of Coach Bryant’s Junction Boys, playing football at Texas A&M from 1954-56. He would later serve as the head coach at his alma mater from 1965-71, after serving as an assistant coach at Alabama from 1958-64 under Bryant. Following a stint as head coach of the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals of the NFL, Stallings would serve as head coach at Alabama from 1990-96. His 1992 Alabama team posted a 13-0 overall record and was named that season’s national champion. Stallings’ record at Texas A&M was 27-45-1, but he would have much better success at Alabama, where his teams compiled a 70-16-1 tally.
Dan Waters, Track and Field
Waters was named the head men’s and women’s track and field coach at the University of Alabama on May 11, 2011 after seven seasons as distance coach and recruiting coordinator at Texas A&M. He was a key part of six NCAA Outdoor Championships during his time in College Station, three each by the men’s and women’s teams. The Aggie women won eight consecutive Big 12 titles over the past four years, while both programs have held national No. 1 rankings over the past three years. Prior to his stint at Texas A&M, Waters spent three years as the distance coach at the University of Georgia, leading the men’s cross country team to its first-ever appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
R.C. Buford, Basketball
Buford is currently the general manager of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, but he has connections to both the Southeastern Conference and Texas A&M.
Big Football Games
Football: 1957 Gator Bowl: Tennessee 3, Texas A&M 0
Tennessee’s Sammy Burklow turned in a 17-yard field goal with 5:30 remaining in the Gator Bowl game to give the Volunteers a 3-0 victory against Texas A&M in Coach Bryant’s last game as head coach of the Aggies, before departing to Alabama. It was the third consecutive loss for Texas A&m, which had earlier been ranked No. 1 in the nation that season.
Football: 1968 Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M 20, Alabama 16
Texas A&M head coach Gene Stallings faced his former college coach in former A&M head man Bryant. The Aggies posted a 20-16 victory in A&M’s first bowl appearance in a decade and first Cotton Bowl appearance in 25 years.
Football: 1986 Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M 36, Auburn 16
Texas A&M stopped Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson on four tries late in the fourth quarter to post a 36-16 victory against Auburn, giving the Aggies a victory in their first Cotton Bowl appearance in 18 years. A&M quarterback Kevin Murray set a Cotton Bowl record with 292 yards through the air.
Football: 2000 Independence Bowl: Mississippi State 43, Texas A&M 41 (OT)
Playing in a snow-blanketed environment in Shreveport, La., on New Year’s Eve, both teams took to the ground with the Bulldogs pulling out a 43-41 overtime victory in the Independence Bowl. Texas A&M broke out to an early 14-0 advantage, but would trail 21-20 entering the fourth quarter. With both teams barely able to make out the yard lines on the field, the Bulldogs got an overtime touchdown from Wayne Madkin to give the team the extra-period victory. State was being coached by former Texas A&M head coach Jackie Sherrill.
Football: 2005 Cotton Bowl: Tennessee 38, Texas A&M 7
Losers of four of their last five bowl games, Tennessee posted five touchdowns in just two-and-a-half quarters to defeat Texas A&M 38-7 in the Cotton Bowl. It marked the most lop-sided victory in the then 45-year history of the Cotton Bowl. The Vols led 28-0 at halftime and were led by quarterback Rick Clausen, who went 18-for-27 with 222 yards and three touchdowns.