San Antonio has always been seen as a UT (University of Texas) town. Austin is down the road 45 minutes and Texas has traditionally had a stronger football program than Texas A&M. But, it looks like that is changing.
A&M is being proactive in getting its message out there. The Aggies have paid for at least two outdoor billboards along major highways around town with head coach, Kevin Sumlin, leading his players onto the field with A&M logos and the inscription, ‘This is SEC Country.’
Johnny Manziel is not seen on them probably for more than a few reasons, but primarily because they are new billboards and his status was in doubt for a while.
The Alamo City (San Antonio) is the seventh largest city in the country and for a long time didn’t have a Division I program in town to support. With no NFL team and being a town saturated with enthusiastic football fans, naturally, Texas filled the gap nicely.
But, UT’s program is on a down slide and A&M has one of the top teams in the country right now.
It really was a matter of impeccable timing. A&M’s move to the SEC went incredibly well for its first season last year, exceeding expectations and became a media darling and talk of college football. Manziel’s Heisman Trophy win and the team’s great regular season record along with a big win over Alabama all came together to push Texas off the top of the San Antonio college football food chain.
The message is clear. Why not take advantage and advertise? More fans, more support, more students, more publicity can only mean a better future for the university. So what if San Antonio is a three-and-a-half hour drive away from College Station and UT has been the juggernaut in that part of the state.
There are other factors to consider, as well.
Texas-San Antonio now has its own top level NCAA football team headed by Larry Coker, former University of Miami head coach and national champion winner. UTSA is gaining support from San Antonio fans as it is the largest university in the city and plays its home games in the Alamodome (beer is even sold during games). But, it is not a team to be taken seriously versus any top level talent BCS-type of teams.
In the last few years, Texas A&M also opened up a satellite campus in San Antonio. Obviously, it is A&M on a much smaller scale and not all degree options are available. But, they do now have a physical presence in San Antonio.
Then there’s the Dat Nguyen part of the phenomena. Nguyen is one of the most famous alums and one of the most notable football players in A&M’s history. He has his own daily sports talk show in San Antonio from 4-6 p.m. on 1250 AM, ESPNSA radio. He’s in the community and as a former NFL All-Pro and assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys and Lombardi award winner while at A&M, he carries clout and his opinions are respected.
Dat has been on the air for one year. Again, it’s the timing.
And, it all seems to be hitting an apex this week. Tickets are at obscene prices and the Aggies’ game this weekend is being hyped like few regular season games before it and definitely the biggest one in the history of A&M football.
Texas A&M is on a roll as it prepares for the ultimate big game on Saturday against another team on a roll and owner of the ‘roll’ nickname, Alabama, seeking its third straight national championship. Bear Bryant would be proud. His name is coming up frequently this week as his 100th birthday is being celebrated by two of the schools he coached.
Expect the TV ratings to be through the roof on this one and in San Antonio, it might even set some records.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com