By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – With the addition of Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference for the 2012-13 academic year, SEC volleyball has now added its 12th member starting next season.
The SEC Digital Network caught up with SEC Volleyball Insider Phil Bush to get his take on the addition of the Aggies.
SEC Digital Network: In your opinion, what does the addition of Texas A&M mean for SEC volleyball?
“The Big 12 has been one of the top three conferences in the country, along with the Pac 12 and the Big 10. A&M has not been at the top of that conference, but they recruit well and have been competitive with the likes of Texas and Nebraska for a long time. A team from Texas in the SEC also opens up Texas, a hotbed of volleyball at the Junior level, to more SEC teams doing recruiting there. LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State have gotten a lot of players out of Texas in the past. This will help the conference more in the future.”
SEC Digital Network: What is your analysis of Texas A&M’s volleyball program and how well will it mesh with the other 11 volleyball institutions of the SEC?
“I think the program will mesh well with the other teams. They have not been quite at the caliber of Florida, but they are right there with the rest of the conference. I think they will compete to be in the top five in the conference and be an NCAA team year in and year out.”
SEC Digital Network: What does the recruiting landscape look like in Texas for volleyball and how will that benefit the SEC?
“Club volleyball there is very strong and, with a few exceptions, better than in the states of the Southeast. Some of the best clubs in the country are in Texas, and I think that the push into Texas will be helped by this move.”
SEC Digital Network: Even though there have been strong programs in the eastern United States, most of the volleyball success in the sport’s history has come from the West Coast and the Midwest. Do you believe that the SEC expanding its borders westward will help give the league more visibility in the volleyball world?
“I think going west will open up more doors for the SEC. You are right about the Midwest and the West Coast, but there is a lot of Junior volleyball played in Texas, and this move will continue to help put the SEC with the likes of the Pac 12 and Big 10. This absolutely helps the SEC continue its march upward in the sport of volleyball.”
SEC Digital Network: How will the volleyball experience for Texas A&M be different in the SEC than what they were used to in the Big 12 and how will being in the SEC benefit Texas A&M?
“The Big 12 and the SEC have a few things in common for sure. The experience for A&M will be a little different in that there haven’t always been the number of top-20 teams in the SEC every year that the Big 12 has had. A&M will want to make their mark by being one of those top-five teams in the SEC and that might get them to the top 25 more consistently. A&M was not the top volleyball school in Texas, Texas was. If I were A&M, I would set my sights on being the top team in the SEC West right from the start. That was not a goal they could always realistically set in the Big 12.”