Today Stiles Points features the Texas A&M Aggies as part of the series "College Football at its Best".....Brad from the blog The 12th Man Child was nice enough to respond....he is a 22-year-old senior at Texas A&M....he works as a photographer for the Texas A&M student media and has been blogging for just under a year.....I want to thank Brad for his time....
Q1. What does the 12th Man mean? Please explain what is the meaning behind it and its importance?
The 12th Man is unequivocally the greatest tradition in college football today. It started in 1922 when the Aggies were playing #1 ranked Centre College. The game was brutal and due to mounting injuries, the Aggie sideline was getting pretty thin. Looking for replacements, coach Dana X. Bible remembered that E. King Gill, a former football player turned basketball player, was assisting reporters in the press box. Gill was called down to the sideline, suited up, and stood ready for the rest of the game, which A&M eventually won 22-14. According to the official Texas A&M Traditions Council (yes, at A&M there are so many traditions that there is a student organization tasked with the oversight of the many traditions) :
" This gesture was more than enough for the Aggie Team. Although Gill did not play in the game, he had accepted the call to help his team. He came to be known as the "Twelfth Man" because he stood ready for in case the eleven men on the gridiron needed him. That spirit of readiness for service, desire to support, and enthusiasm helped kindle a flame of devotion among the entire student body; a spirit that has grown vigorously throughout the years. The entire student body at A&M is the Twelfth Man, and they stand during the entire game to show their support. The 12th Man is always in the stands waiting to be called upon if needed."
While students standing and yelling for the entirety of games is nothing special in modern times, there's no other school that alots more seats for students and there's no other school that has coordinated yelling. It's impossible to discuss the 12th Man without explaining what "Yell Leaders" are. Texas A&M does not have cheerleaders, instead there are 5 Yell Leaders positioned throughout the stadium that direct the 12th Man in coordinated yells (not "cheers"). There's nothing quite like being on the field when 80,000 voices yell in unison, it's something no noise machine can duplicate, and no team can truly prepare for. In addition to creating a deafening atmosphere when the Ags are on offense, the 12th Man knows when to be quiet. Broadcasters have often compared Kyle Field to a putting green when the Ags are on offense.
In addition to yelling and supporting the team from the stands, the 12th Man is represented by a special group of students who walk-on to the football team. Each game, one walk-on is selected to wear the sacred #12 and to play on kickoff and punt team. In 2005, Coach Fran brought back the 12th Man Kickoff Team of the 80's in a modified form. While still consisting of all walk-ons, the team only sees the field when the Aggies are comfortably ahead.
In short, Kirk Herbstreit's no fool for calling the 12th Man the greatest student section in all of college sports.
Q2. What is the greatest Texas A&M football game that you have seen - whether it be in-person or on television? Explain the game and why it was so great.
Well, I didn't really truly follow the Aggies until the 2003 season, so I can't say the 2000 OU game, where the
To me, a great game has to be close for the entirety of the game, and/or be decided in the final minute or OT.
In 2006, Texas A&M played in 7 great games. While many of those games shouldn't have been close (I'm looking at you, Army), there's nothing like the electricity of a close game with 22 men playing their hearts out. The 2006 Nebraska and OU games were epic, and the raw emotion from the final minutes of those games will stay with me for a long time.
Most will want my answer to be the 12-7 trench warfare that was the Texas game last November, but I'm going with the 34-33(OT) victory over Oklahoma State in Stillwater last October.
As a photographer I had the privilege of being on the sideline, able to see and hear the players and coaches working together, refusing to lose, as they marched down the field in the 4th quarter to tie the game. When Red Bryant blocked the FG in OT, the sideline exploded with jubilation, I remember just holding down the shutter as I jumped around and ran onto the field.
Q3. Why do the Aggies hate the Texas Longhorns so much? (explain the rivalry)
The rivalry between Texas A&M and Texas is much like that of most rivalries between state schools, born more out of politics, proximity, and competition for funds than competition on the field.
I attempted to explain the rivalry using actual sentences and I found myself writing pages upon pages, I give you the short version:
- A&M established first, but UT board of directors tried to have A&M closed.
- A&M represents blue collar work & military
- UT represents trust funded English degrees (aggies refer to lo
- Austin becomes Berkeley of the South, A&M becomes very tied to Republican politics.
- 1963 Texas A&M integrates and Corps of Cadets participation is no longer mandatory, officialy designated a University. Athletics program is no longer bound and gagged. Record against Texas since 1967 is 18-22.
- The state of Texas enacts the Top 10% rule, guaranteeing admission to any state university if the student graduates in the Top 10% of their HS class. The quantity and quality of students entering both universities explodes. Currently both schools are the flagship of their own university systems, which compete bitterly for funding, yet often form research coops.
In the end though, Aggies don't hate Longhorns, or vise versa. When it comes down to it, we're all Texans (explanation in Q4).
Q4. Explain the tradition of the bonfire before the Texas game?
Burning stuff because of football isn't unique to any school (unless we're talkin couches), but since 1909 Aggies have been building a bonfire like no other.
While Bonfire often comes with the description that it represents A&M's "burning desire to Beat The Hell Outta t.u.", that couldn't be further from the truth. What made the tradition of Bonfire so special and dear to Aggies was the camaraderie built during the semester long period of cutting and stacking the gigantic logs. Students from all parts of campus and student life worked side by side to cut and stack the logs. Grades and trees fell, while the stack and the Spirit of Aggieland grew. The week of the Texas game, 50,000+ would gather at the stack for a Yell Practice and to watch it burn.
In the early morning hours of November 18, 1999 Bonfire collapsed with 58 students working on it. 27 students were injured, 12 died. The rescue effort took 24 hours because the logs were wired together and the logs had to be removed by hand (heavy equipment was ruled out in fear of causing further collapses and killing those trapped inside). The Corps of Cadets and the Aggie football team were called out in the middle of the night to help remove the logs. Getting back why there is no hate between Aggies and Longhorns, in the days after the collapse, Eric Opiela The UT Student VP wrote a letter to various newspapers.
I had the great privilege of attending the memorial service at A&M tonight and was deeply moved by the events I experienced. The A&M student body is truly one of the great treasures of our State.As part of the UT delegation, we sat on the floor of Reed Arena, and immediately following the end of the service, I heard this rustling sound behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the sight of close to 20,000 students spontaneously putting their arms on their neighbor's shoulders, forming a great circle around the arena.The mass stood there in a pin-drop silence for close to five minutes, then, from somewhere, someone began to hum quietly the hymn "Amazing Grace". Within seconds, the whole arena was singing. I tried too—I choked, I cried. This event brought me to tears. It was one if not the defining moment of my college career. I learned something tonight. For all us Longhorns discount A&M in our neverending rivalry, we need to realize one thing. Aggieland is a special place, with special people. It is infinitely better equipped than us at dealing with a tragedy such as this for one simple reason. It is a family. It is a family that cares for its own, a family that reaches out, a family that is unified in the face of adversity; a family that moved this Longhorn to tears. My heart, my prayers; and the heart of the UT student body go out tonight to Aggies and their family and friends as they, recover, from this great loss. Texas A&M, The Eyes of Texas are Upon You—and they look with sincere sympathy upon a family that has been through so much tragedy this semester.
Complacency and stubborn tradition were to blame, the same technology and techniques that were used in 1909 were still being hazardously applied in 1999. With litigation still pending, Bonfire has not returned to campus at A&M, and most likely never will. Yet, there is an off-campus organization that is keeping the tradition alive, hoping for the day Bonfire returns to polo fields of Texas A&M.
Q5. Make your case why Texas A&M football, as a whole, is the best football program in the country?
Winning is everything, and A&M hasn't won enough in recent memory to be considered among the best programs in the country. Our last mythical championship was in 1939, and I don't think we've been anywhere near a BCS bowl. Yet, I will say this, you don't fully know all that is college football until you attend a game at Kyle Field.
While A&M may not be able to claim "best football program in the country" it can easily claim "most unique".
Most schools have one great tradition for football games (Clemson's entrance, Ohio State's Dotting the i, USC's Song Girls), Texas A&M has a handful (12th Man, Midnight Yell, Yell Leaders, etc).
Now if only we could win the big games..
I want to thank Brad once again for his time and great photo of Bonfire....on Monday, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be featured....