Coaches see SEC as a good fit for Aggies
Oct. 5, 2011 at 5:05 a.m.
Updated Oct. 6, 2011 at 5:06 a.m.
MIKE FORMAN :: ON SPORTS
The question most frequently asked about Texas A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference in 2012 concerns the Aggies' ability to compete in the league.
The answer depends on what sport.
The Aggies have struggled recently against SEC teams in football. But Texas A&M won the national championship in women's basketball last season, and the baseball team advanced to the College World Series.
"Each sport is different," said women's basketball coach Gary Blair. "Sometimes change is good. When I was at Arkansas, the SEC was the No. 1 conference in the nation. We were just in the middle of the pack, but we were still ranked in the top 25.
"The Big 12 has built itself up and we've been the top league for the last six years."
Blair and former Texas A&M football coach R.C. Slocum visited Victoria to take part in the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch Celebrity Golf Tournament.
Slocum's teams played LSU frequently and he is pleased with the move to the SEC.
"We know it's a competitive league," said Slocum, who is currently a special advisor to the president. "We're just positioning ourselves for the long range of Texas A&M. The landscape of college football is changing. We thinks this gives us a chance that whatever happens, we're going to be in a good place, a very challenging place, but a good place."
The success of any program depends on recruiting, and winning the national title has been as much of a selling point for Blair as the move to the SEC.
Blair has recently returned from a recruiting trips to Indiana, Georgia and Arkansas and has a trip to Florida planned.
"The national championship and the SEC has opened these doors for us," he said. "We still want to protect our borders. The city of Houston has been very good to us.
"We'd love to be able to find some Victoria kids, back in the day when they were so good, so maybe there's a Cynthia Barefield coming along or a Sheryl Hauglum. There's always going to be good players coming up and I'd love nothing better than to find one here in South Texas."
Slocum believes the challenge of playing in the SEC will be a plus in recruiting.
"It's been my experience that the really good players want to go where they play in good programs and in competitive leagues and they all have ambitions of playing in the NFL," Slocum said. "The good players have enough confidence in themselves. I actually see this enhancing our recruiting.
"I think it will give young men in the state of Texas a chance to say 'I can stay here at home,'...we're not going anywhere, we're in College Station. It gives young men in the state of Texas a chance to go play in the SEC, the premier football league in the country here at home where their families can see them play."
Slocum and Blair admit the move to the SEC will make it harder for fans to get to conference games.
But they aren't worried about playing before empty seats.
"I loved the rivalries where you could drive to the rivalries if you were a normal fan," Blair said. "It's going to be harder for our fans to drive to those. They're going to have to fly or watch us on television. We'll build up a base. There's Aggies everywhere."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361- 580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.