IRVING, Texas — Lucas Patterson grew up a Texas A&M fan, down in Kingsville, which is no-nonsense country. Now Patterson plays nose guard for the Aggies. And he admits enough is enough.
It's time for A&M to start carrying its weight. Time for A&M to start earning that exalted status granted by the new Big 12 financial formula. Time for the Aggies to fill the void that Nebraska will leave when it jumps to the Big Ten next year.
"Even without changes in the Big 12, Texas A&M needs to step up and get back to where we used to be,” Patterson said.
Even in a watered-down Big 12, there's nothing wrong with this conference that A&M can't fix.
Start producing like a prideful program — and the Aggies are nothing if not prideful — and the league might not seem so top-heavy with Oklahoma and Texas, which have won the last six Big 12 titles.
"I think the Big 12 needs A&M to step up to the plate and be that type of team,” Aggie coach Mike Sherman said Monday during the conference's media days. "We're ready to accept that challenge.”
We've heard it before. A&M is getting back to the Wrecking Crew defense. A&M is getting back to its tradition. A&M is going to warrant all the hype.
And the mediocrity just continues. Here is some sobering evidence for anyone who is quick to elevate the Aggies:
A&M hasn't finished in the top 25 of either the AP or the coaches poll since 1999. During the 2000s, 69 schools have been ranked in at least one of the final polls. A&M is not on the list. Such juggernauts as Navy, Syracuse, Washington State, Illinois and Iowa State have been there since A&M.
In the last eight years, A&M has a winning record against only Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State in the Big 12.
The Aggies are 2-6 vs. Texas Tech and Texas, 1-7 vs. OU, 1-3 vs. Missouri and Nebraska, 2-2 vs. Colorado and Kansas State, 4-4 vs. OSU.
Since 1999, A&M has finished ahead of Tech in the Big 12 standings only twice. Both years, the Aggies were 5-3.
Tell me again why A&M was looped in with OU and Texas as guaranteed $20 million per year in the new conference television payouts, while Tech must settle for millions less?
Just because the Ags had options when it came to conference realignment? Sure, A&M had options. Go to the Pac-10 and get its head beat in or go to the SEC and get its head beat in.
"There was a time when we were the team to beat,” said A&M linebacker Von Miller. "For whatever reason, we got off track.”
In the 10 years from 1985 through 1994, A&M won the Southwest Conference seven times.
But truth is, A&M never has prospered unless Texas' program has been down. While the Sooners and Longhorns have both been powerhouses the last decade, A&M never has seemed to be able to stand toe-to-toe with UT, much less OU in the current climate.
"Our fan base, our former students dream of the days of the mid-80s and '90s where we were that marquee type of team,” Sherman said.
"And when I took the job (he's starting his third year), I really felt that we had enough of a recruiting base in the state of Texas and that we had enough to sell, that we would be able to recruit players to come to make Texas A&M that type of team. "I think we're getting closer to that point, that vision.”
Sorry, but we've heard that before. The Aggies have star quarterback Jerrod Johnson, but A&M has lost its way defensively. The Aggies last season lost to Arkansas 47-19, OSU 36-31, Kansas State 62-14, Colorado 35-34, OU 65-10, Texas 49-39 and Georgia 44-20.
Wrecked crew is more like it.
And now comes this summer, when politics and commerce elevated the Aggies' status to heights they haven't deserved in 15 years.
There was a time when the Big 12 could laugh at such nonsense. Not now.
Now the Big 12 needs A&M to be the football program the Aggies think they are.
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