Did you ever think Texas A&M would be cool?
Not, like, "a great place for an Aggie" or "a place with lots of traditions" or "a really good school." Cool. Cool as in, "There's something a little different going on there, and I've got to be part of it." Cool as in swagger. As in Don Draper.
As in, The School in the Republic of Texas.
Did you ever think you'd see that? Because you're seeing it now. Texas A&M is cool, Texas is stale and the gap is only widening.
You can't measure cool, but one good indicator is National Signing Day, the day when the nation's coolest kids decide where they're going to bring their coolness. It was a great day for the Aggies. Texas A&M signed the Scout.com No. 6 class in the country Wednesday, with 33 prospects. Texas signed 14, and ranked 22nd.
This happened for a number of reasons. The biggest was that Texas A&M plays in the best football conference in the country. Generally, the best players want to play in the best leagues, and if we're going by recruiting rankings, nobody hauls in great players on signing day like the Southeastern Conference. You don't even have to be a good SEC team to sign a great class. Mississippi signed the No. 5 class. Vanderbilt came in at No. 20. Six of the top 10 signing classes in the whole country were in the SEC.
So that helped a lot.
It also helped that Texas A&M won this season. It won 11 games, including the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and finished No. 5 in the Associated Press poll. Cool. Its quarterback, Johnny Manziel, won the Heisman Trophy. Cool. And I think you could argue that Manziel was the first Heisman winner to fully exploit social media to illustrate just how cool it is to be the Heisman Trophy winner.
Texas A&M has a relatively young coach, Kevin Sumlin, who's a bit of a rebel. He runs this offense everybody said wouldn't work, and he occasionally runs his mouth about it. He's a little cocky, but he varnishes it with this smile that makes his eyes look like they have electricity running through them. He always kind of looks like he's up to something, like an ornery kid who's waiting for you to walk through the door so a bucket of water will fall on your head.
Meanwhile, in Austin . . .
Nobody even knows. I know the University of Texas still wears burnt orange, but it just looked so gray this year. The offense was like oatmeal. The defense underachieved. The coach, Mack Brown, looks 10 years older than he actually is.
This is all perception, of course, but I'm not the only one am I?
Texas has lost it.
And the timing was perfect for Texas A&M, because nowadays the Aggies can beat Texas without even playing Texas. When they shared a conference, that was always in play. You could never ignore that head-to-head series (which Texas owns, 76-37-5), or that Texas' real rival was Oklahoma. Those two realities always had the effect of pushing Texas A&M down a peg.
But who cares about that now? The series is over, and Texas can have it. Texas A&M isn't trying to be Texas' rival anymore. Most significant, Texas A&M is not defining its own identity around UT.
The only thing left to do is to stop all this silly "Saw 'em off" business.
Texas A&M doesn't need to saw 'em off anymore. It has declared its independence.
These things can change in a hurry. It's not like the University of Texas is going to fade into oblivion. But right now, this year, it's a little like Texas A&M is Don Draper and Texas is Don Knotts.