With A&M's imminent move to the SEC (yes, it's still happening, and probably quite soon), many people have been trying to convince Aggies that it's a horrible idea based on the supposed fact that A&M will get routinely wailed on when playing against the big, bad SEC schools. According to these people, some of which are even Aggies, your basic SEC football team is roughly equivalent to an NFL wild-card team, and at best, A&M will have to hope for 6 wins a year. So, is there any truth to that? Is A&M destined to be middle-of-the-pack at best?
In a word, no. I'll keep this fairly brief, but there is no reason whatsoever to believe that A&M won't be able to compete at the highest level. "But Tuna," you may say, "look at how bad A&M was for the last ten years! Look at how Texas dominated you, and how all the SEC schools have abused you!" And I can't deny those facts. The problem is, people that think that our 2005 results have any bearing on our 2012 results are not using logic. Yes, A&M had a bad decade. Kind of like how OU and Texas also endured before going on their respective runs. Does one down period define a program? No.
You see, being able to look back on things, there are very clear reasons why A&M had a bad decade. It boils down to two things: a bad athletic director and a bad coaching hire. The athletic director during the successful Slocum era was Wally Groff, and his major problem was that in the '90s, he thought we would just continue our success indefinitely because of our past success, and he neglected the very important aspect of facilities. Long story short, our facilities fell so far behind the likes of Texas, OU and others that RC could no longer recruit. That led to his teams getting gradually worse until he was eventually fired.
They hired Dennis Franchione. Seemed like a great hire at the time. We were all excited. I remember going up to meet Coach Fran at a basketball game the spring he was hired, wishing him well and telling him we were excited to have him. Well, turns out that for whatever reason, he was an awful fit here and darn near decimated the A&M football program. People are just now starting to realize how much he set A&M back.
Those two things caused major problems for A&M football. In the meantime, the same year Fran came, new athletic director Bill Byrne came from Nebraska. He helped with getting our facilities back on par with other schools (step 1), and, after firing Fran, hired what is turning out to be a good coach in Mike Sherman (step 2), and lo and behold, A&M is recruiting lights out and winning games again.
So as this relates to the SEC, it's simple. People who say we can't compete seem to always bring up the last ten years, as if the last ten years are what defines A&M football. People seem to think that we are the Longhorns pathetic little friend who just can't compete with them (never mind the fact that even with this last decade, A&M is still up 19-18 on Texas since scholarship limits were imposed in 1973, including 18-17 in the last 35, 13-12 in the last 25, and 3-2 in the last 5) and that we are sending the Fran program to the SEC.
The fact is, the program we're sending to the SEC is the program that finished in the top 25 last year and is currently ranked in the top 10 this year. The program that has a very, very good chance of putting its starting quarterback, running back, and wide receiver in the first round of the NFL draft next spring (I'm curious how many times that's been done before). The program that just produced the #2 pick in the NFL draft this past year. The program that has had two straight very good recruiting classes to fill in behind those guys and that has already starting building an early top 10 recruiting class for both 2012 and 2013.
Will it be difficult? Yes. I am not arguing the fact that the SEC is the best conference in America, and that there will be more tough games and fewer easy wins. But is there any reason A&M can't do exactly what LSU does? No. People WAY overstate just how good the SEC is. Yes, they're the best, but it's not like they're unbeatable.
And here's another reason A&M should be competitive. I'm not the first to say this, but being the only SEC school in Texas will pay huge dividends for A&M's recruiting. Texas will always get good players and always have something to sell, whether it's a network or eventual independence or whatever, but moving to the SEC will give A&M something unique to sell to Texas kids as opposed to just trying to be nice guys or something. We can tell the kids that yes, you can play in the premiere conference in America while still staying in Texas. A&M is in one of the three (or four or five depending on if you include Ohio and Pennsylvania) recruiting hotbeds in America. We already are recruiting lights out. You add the SEC to our sales pitch, and there's no reason we won't have top 10 recruiting classes every year.
So in summary, and this is something I've sort of said already but is really my main answer to the "can we compete" question, people need to realize that A&M is a top 10 program right now. At least according to the polls. Only 2 SEC schools are ranked ahead of A&M. Why on earth would a top 10 team not be able to compete? And last I checked, if/when we go, we're going to go ahead and send our current team of future NFL players.