By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – When the announcement that Texas A&M would join the Southeastern Conference became official, one of the first people that Bill Byrne, the Aggies’ athletics director, heard from was legendary track and field coach Pat Henry.
“My favorite track coach in the whole world, Pat Henry, sent me a note saying ‘What do you want me to do first?’” Byrne said. “I said, ‘Let’s go win some SEC track and field championships.’”
That Texas A&M is a natural fit for the SEC in every aspect based on its tradition, history and academic reputation has never been in question. But Byrne has issued a clear charge to his coaching staffs that they should not be satisfied simply to be members of the SEC beginning with the 2012-13 academic year, they expect to win championships on the court, on the field and on the track.
Championships have characterized the Aggies since Byrne took over the program in 2002. Hiring Henry away from the storied LSU program that he helped create has translated into three consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships by both the Texas A&M men’s and women’s track and field teams. Gary Blair, formerly the head coach at Arkansas that previously led the Razorbacks to the NCAA Final Four, directed his Texas A&M women’s basketball team to the 2011 NCAA Championship. The Aggies’ baseball program participated in the College World Series this past June.
And that’s just scratching the surface of the success that Texas A&M has had in recent years under Byrne’s direction.
“We are building champions at Texas A&M,” Byrne said. “I believe that being a part of the best conference in the country goes with our philosophy goes with the philosophy that a rising tide raises all ships. When you increase the competition level, your athletes will step up and we will continue to get better every day, every month and every year.”
What Texas A&M represents by its incredible commitment to broad-based success across all sports programs is a microcosm of its new conference. Florida President Bernie Machen, the chair of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors, said that having Texas A&M join the SEC will increase the competitiveness across the board for each of the league’s championships.
“I have been looking forward to this day for some time,” Machen said. “We’ve all been pointing towards this very day and this very celebration. We really do think that this is a perfect match for our conference. You will be an equal partner from the day you accept the appointment to this league. We will be competing fiercely with you for all the championships.”
Byrne, speaking at a podium surrounded by national championship trophies, said that the opportunity for his athletics program to join the SEC is a natural progression to continuing the success that has characterized his administration.
“What we want to do is to continue to have the kind of success we’ve been having over the last five or six years,” Byrne said. “The Aggies are relevant in college athletics. This is going to be an incredible opportunity for our student-athletes and our fans to be a part of the best conference in the United States of America, the Southeastern Conference.Take a look at these national championship trophies in front of me. We intend to come to the Southeastern Conference and we intend to win.”