Jimbo Fisher’s jumbo contract. Fisher’s refusal to mention Florida State by name or acknowledge any gratitude for the time he spent there since his hiring. Offering to make LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda the first $2 million coordinator in college football. Using Seminole players in Aggie recruiting materials. The university president “awarding” Fisher a presumptive national championship trophy.
In the last three months, one or more of these actions has outraged, offended, or otherwise perturbed millions of college football fans across the country.
The Aggies are about to occupy new space on the college football landscape, that of a villain.
Their “heel” status will only become worse as they begin winning more games under Fisher, which they surely will. I question how the University, football program, and its fan base will react to this status.
For 100 years, the Aggies have been fan favorites in college football.
Their endless traditions are charming. Their emphasis on military service and the Corps of Cadets admirable. They’ve got a great marching band. The mascot is cute. They win just enough games to be interesting, but not so many that they keep other teams from championships. They have historically been positioned as working-class, scrappy underdog battling the entitled and snobby Longhorns.
Sure, they upset some people in-state and around the Big 12 when they left for the SEC, but Colorado and Nebraska had already blazed that trail for them, Missouri joined to add additional cover, and outsiders couldn’t really “hate” them for making what was obviously the best move for their football program, athletic department and university.
Add to this likeability, the extraordinary hospitality of their fans.
In seven straight years of travelling to Texas A&M for a football game, I’ve heard countless stories – from opposing fan bases – about the welcome they received from the Aggies. I’ve heard stories of opposing fans writing letters to Texas A&M University administrators in astonishment over the warm reception in College Station and how it starkly contrasts the mood for visitors around the rest of the league. I’ve received this warm reception myself.
Opposing SEC fans, in response, have warmed to the Aggies.
And it’s all about to change.
No more Mr. Nice Guy, you might say.
Texas A&M is now flexing its muscle. It’s showing off the extraordinary financial heft it has at its disposal. A previously unseen arrogance – which always existed there, but was kept hidden – has surfaced.
The Aggies no longer primarily want to be nice. They primarily want to win.
And if being booed and jeered by opposing fans and becoming the target of talk show hosts and social media is the price to pay, so be it. The Aggies have more than proven their willing to pay big price tags.
But how will they wear this new suit of clothes? It’s not easy being despised.
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