Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why 6-6 Had to Happen

I came across an interesting quote this morning in the Dallas Morning News, from Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde. He attended the Aggies’ game against Oklahoma State earlier this fall. You may remember that one. You know, the first top-10 matchup at Kyle Field in decades, which ended in a gut-wrenching 30-29 defeat, at the hands of a team now contending for a spot in the BCS National Championship. That one. I hate to pour salt on still open wounds, but it has to be done.

Anyway, what Forde had to say about what he saw that day really struck a chord. To sum it up, Forde said that Texas A&M was simply not ready for the move to the SEC. After the Aggies ran out of time against the Cowboys that sunny Saturday, he came across too many of the Aggie faithful telling the team “Good job, it’s ok, good job” after blowing that enormous halftime lead. Forde said every other team in the SEC would have been cussing their respective teams all the way home after such an embarrassing choke job. Now, I am not so sure that Aggies will ever be cussing out the players that represent our fine school, but I do think Forde had a valid point.

Texas A&M football fans expect a dominant team to cheer for. The yearning for the days of the Wrecking Crew becomes painfully obvious when seemingly every time the defense makes a play, someone wants to start the chant. The problem with the Aggie fan base’s approach to the football team is that no one wants to hold the program accountable, which is the point I think Forde was trying to make.

It seems that each year heading into fall camp, expectations are high for the Texas A&M football team. After another top-25 recruiting class, X number of returning starters, and a new defensive coordinator, the Aggie nation is ready to finally see the team capture that elusive second Big 12 conference championship (thank you, Sir Parker). And each year, the team lets us down. Some years aren’t quite as painful as others, but the end result is almost always the same: another mediocre season ending in a bowl game loss.

At some point, the 12th Man has to look in the mirror and ask themselves, “When is enough, enough?” When do I stop renewing my season tickets in the Zone? When do I spend that beautiful Saturday afternoon in April playing dominoes at the Dixie Chicken instead of attending the annual Maroon & White game? When do I stop overpaying for tickets to the Southwest Classic at Jerryworld, and just watch the game at home? Until we stopped showing such strong support for a mediocre team, there was little pressure on the higher-ups at A&M (which, when you think about it, no one is quite sure exactly who is calling the shots these days) to make the changes that needed to be made.

That all began to change in 2011. With the team ranked in the top-10 coming into the season, big results were expected in Aggieland this fall. The stunning defeat to Oklahoma State began a string of well-documented collapses that, quite frankly, embarrassed Texas A&M University. Aggies everywhere were understandably angry this fall. Pissed off, if you will. Here’s the silver lining: it needed to happen.

After two or three of those third quarter debacles, audible rumblings were being heard in the stands of Kyle Field. By the time A&M blew the last game against UT (no, we will not be referring to our rival as t.u. here at Aggie Rundown – deal with it), it became an outcry of anger towards the program. Finally it seemed as if the fan base finally understood what Pat Forde saw 10 weeks ago. It is no longer acceptable for the Texas A&M football team to be “competitive” and “try its hardest”. It is now about wins and losses, and living up to the hype.

If our team had simply gone 8-4 in 2011 and was headed to the Alamo Bowl, Mike Sherman would probably still be the head coach. Like lambs being led to the slaughter, A&M would be riding into the SEC next fall much in the same manner it has entered each mediocre season in the Big 12. Because of the expectations this year, and because of the manner in which all those games were lost, the 12th Man has found the inspiration for raising the bar. All I have to say is this – it’s about time.

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