It's official, finally: Texas A&M is moving to the SEC.
Some might say it's just a marriage of convenience. Others may dismiss it as a gold-digger's grab for cash. But just who is the gold digger in this scenario is up for debate.
What isn't debatable is that this marriage, like many others, comes with some baggage.
While welcoming Texas A&M into the family, the SEC also is getting the in-laws that may take some getting used to. In this case, the in-laws are the Aggies' fans, who come with a certain amount of ... well, let's just call them eccentricities.
Old-timers at LSU know all about them, as the teams used to meet on an annual basis. And in recent seasons, folks at Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas have gotten a glimpse of what to expect from Aggies.
Those who aren't familiar with A&M should know that the No. 12 is sacred to Aggies. It stems from a game nearly 100 years ago, when a student named E. King Gill suited up as a possible substitute just in case the injury-depleted team needed him. He wasn't needed, but ever since, Aggies have stood ready during games just in case they're needed. Hence, Texas A&M is known as "The Home of the Twelfth Man."
The SEC's most ardent fans probably already know that. But in keeping with the sacred number, here are a dozen other things SEC fans should also know about their soon-to-be in-laws.
1. Don't look for pretty Texas A&M cheerleaders. Ok, first of all, the Aggies have "yell" leaders, not "cheerleaders." Get that straight. Second, anyone who follows college football knows A&M's yell leaders are guys in white suits. But why no women? To answer that question one must understand that A&M might value tradition more than any other university anywhere. Texas A&M was an all-male institution until 1963, so obviously the yell leaders had to be male. And per tradition, that's the way it's going to stay.
2. The Aggies have their own "yells." You'll hear such classics as, "Ready. Aim. Fire. Boom. A&M ... give us room!" And when SEC officials make questionable calls (which you know occurs frequently), dissatisfied Aggies will verbalize their unhappiness with the enduring: "Riffity, riffity, riff-raff, chiffity-chiffity, chiff-chaff. Riff-Raff. Chiff-chaff. Let's give 'em a horse laugh ... hissssssssssss." That's right. Aggies don't boo. They hiss.
3. The reason they're bending over is .... Aggies bend over when doing their yells. This is called "humping it." The reason Aggies "hump it" is because bending over allows an individual to produce maximum sound.
4. No, they do not need a bathroom break: Those unfamiliar with the Aggies may be surprised -- and even shocked -- when they see yell leaders and members of the corps doubled over and squeezing their ... uh ... groin area on field goals and extra points. That's just the Aggie way of showing that they, too, feel the players' pressure.
5. Aggies don't lose, they just run out of time. No self-respecting Aggies ever would admit defeat. Given enough time, the Aggies always could come back and win. (The Aggies have run out of time in six consecutive games against SEC teams going into Saturday's game with Arkansas.)
6. When the fans are swaying, it's another expression of their disdain for the University of Texas (or "tu" in Aggies vernacular). On several occasions and always at the end of the third quarter Aggies in the bleachers link arms over shoulders and sway from side to side while singing the "Aggie War Hymn." When swaying, they are symbolically sawing the longhorns off Bevo, the Texas mascot.
7. The press box sways, too. Here's a tip for the media who haven't covered a game at Kyle Field: When 80,000-plus Aggies "saw the horns off," the press box, which is nine stories above the field, moves, too. This has startled more than one visiting reporter. No need to worry: It was designed to sway slightly.
8. The Aggies will take over your town at midnight. Aggies have midnight "yell practice" before ievery/i game. So, for road games, the yell leaders reserve venues where Aggies assemble to practice their yells. If the Aggies are visiting Vanderbilt, South Carolina or Baton Rouge, for instance, practice may be on the steps of the state capitol. Typically, they will find a bar either in the city in which the game is played or a larger city nearby. I can't wait to find out where they'll meet in Starkville.
9. Stay off the grass of the Memorial Student Center. Before games, fans of both teams generally mill around the "Fan Zone," an area on the north end of Kyle Field for food, drink, games and entertainment. Adjacent to that area is the Memorial Student Center (MSC), where gifts and souvenirs can be purchased. But the grass outside the MSC is sacred, so stay off it or risk the wrath of Aggies.
10. Expect the fans to be friendly. Unless visitors wander onto the MSC grass, they'll be welcome in College Station. Aggies typically greet guests with a warm "Howdy" and friendly conversation. That is, as long as you're not wearing burnt orange or, lately, green-and-gold.
11. Book your rooms early, or plan to stay in Houston. Shannon Overby, the executive director of the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau, says there are 3,400 hotel rooms in the College Station area, though several new hotels will be opening soon. "We expect that the (SEC) schools are similar to A&M in that they have strong fan bases," she said. "Typically, games sell out pretty early. I would say make your reservations early." If not, rooms might be found in nearby Brenham (the home of Blue Bell ice cream) or Huntsville, but most procrastinators likely will end up in Houston, which is a little more than an hour away.
12. The tombstones outside the north end zone of Kyle Field mark the resting places of fallen Reveilles. Georgia fans love UGA, but Reveille is worshipped by Aggies. The collie is the highest-ranking member of the A&M Corps of Cadets. If she barks during a class (she goes wherever her handler goes), the class is immediately dismissed. Really. Anyway, all fallen Reveilles are buried in a grave with a view of the scoreboard so they can know for eternity how the Aggies are faring. When a deck was added to the end zone, a scoreboard was placed outside the stadium so the fallen Reveilles still could keep up with the team.