Aggieland is bursting with seismic college football energy. Yes, the kind that makes the earth shake. And why wouldn’t it be? New coach, new system, new playmakers. An abundance of optimism penetrates the humid air in College Station, TX. The Texas A&M University Aggies’ football program is on the map once again. And this time, it’s here to stay.
In his first season at the helm, Head Coach Jimbo Fisher and his 10-year, $75 million contract are already turning heads. Did I mention that the $75 million is fully guaranteed? No. Well, it is. Doesn’t this sound utterly ridiculous? Indeed, it is. But, Coach Fisher might be worth every single penny. For a program that hasn’t won a national championship since 1939, Fisher boasts a 2014 BCS national title as head man of the Florida State Seminoles. No wonder Texas A&M fans are jumping for joy. It’s almost as if a stick of dynamite has been lit in the pockets of everyone in Aggieland.
There are Aggie fans everywhere in this country. My parents as A&M graduates, myself, and a slew of many other Aggie nutcases (former students) as well as your casual fan. Before I delve into what A&M accomplished on the field this past Saturday night against the No. 2 Clemson Tigers, the program has just risen in another way. According to Forbes magazine, Texas A&M is the most valuable college football program in America. Ironically, they have leapfrogged the University of Texas Longhorns. Per tradition, true Aggie fans would state them to be Texas University. Personally, I like to call Texas Longhorn faithful Tea Sippers. A derogatory term going way back that’s meant to project the dainty and uppity lifestyle of a TU grad.
Now that I’ve stepped all over the Longhorns, let’s look at the numbers. Forbes’ findings are based on estimate averages for profits and revenue during the 2014, ’15 and ’16 seasons. A&M compiled $148 million in revenue while churning out $107 million in profit over these three seasons. As for TU, they managed $133 million in revenue and $87 million in profit. Simple math tells the story — Texas A&M generated a $20 million greater profit than Texas. Regardless, these numbers are astronomical.
When asked about the school’s ranking, Coach Fisher told ESPN’s Golic and Wingo:
“I think it means dedication. I think it means resources. I think it means athletics is very important. But as you know, from A&M, everything here is very important,” Fisher said. “It’s a top-20 institution in the country. The people and the culture and the environment are ridiculous as far as the love and passion for the university.”
So, A&M is the most profitable college football program in this great country. But can they be the best team in college football? Surely, they can. I understand that the Aggies lost a home game at Kyle Field this past Saturday to No. 2 Clemson, 28-26. However, this team showed grit that I haven’t seen in years. With 104,794 bodies piled in, Aggieland made its presence felt with straight-up, rowdy noise. And to start game day off right at Midnight Yell Practice, over 50,000 crazies participated inside of Kyle Field. That’s bananas.
Coach Fisher received high praise from A&M fans with a phrase saying, “We’re gonna win-bo with Jimbo”. This message was depicted in signs as well as on the celebrated white 12th Man towels swirling around Aggieland. And let me say this. The Aggies have themselves one heck of a quarterback in 6-foot-2 and 210-pound sophomore, Kellen Mond. With the countries most vaunted defensive front on the line of scrimmage for Tigers’ Head Coach Dabo Swinney, the A&M offensive line and Mr. Mond put up one hell of a fight. With most of it coming in the second half, Kellen threw for a career-high 430 yards and three touchdowns versus Clemson’s scary-good defense. Additionally, the dual-threat quarterback made some strides with his legs. Mond was able to move the chains on several key running plays as well.
Even better news for Kellen, Coach Fisher might be the best quarterback tutor in America. Look no further than what he was able to do with Jameis Winston at Florida State. As a redshirt freshman, Winston became the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy. Soon after, he led the Seminoles’ path to the aforementioned 2014 BCS national championship.
With A&M trailing both 21-6 and 28-13 in the second half, Mond and the Aggies found their grove. Kellen’s touchdown pass to wide receiver Kendrick Rogers in the final minute of regulation gave Gig ‘Em Nation one last chance to tie the game at 28 apiece with a successful two-point conversion. The play that tightened the score to 28-26 had Mond shaking off a blow that stretched his jersey below his right shoulder pad, stepping-up with poise in the pocket, and delivering a dart to Rogers. Making a sensational play on the pigskin, Clemson’s K’Von Wallace had his hands on the football before it was deflected into the outstretched arms of Mr. Rogers on the other side of the goal line for the house job.
Texas A&M was a two-point conversion away from sending the game to overtime. Rolling to his right, Mond had no choice put to fling the pigskin across his body. On the back end of the pass was redemption for Wallace — his interception in the end zone sealed the Aggies’ fate.
No matter the outcome, the Aggies now have that much-needed confidence gained from their loss to the Tigers. If they can hang with Clemson and almost get a “W”, they can hang with anyone in the country. The SEC West gauntlet will be brutal. It is for every team in the division. Speaking of the SEC West, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide are next on the agenda for the Aggies after a home game versus Louisiana-Monroe. A&M will travel to Tuscaloosa, AL to face the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 22nd.
An epic win would be ideal, but frightening Alabama would be just fine for Texas A&M — truly a program on the rise.