Following Arkansas' Lead

Former Texas A&M head football coach R.C. Slocum was the guest speaker at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday and shared his thoughts on the Aggies impending move to the SEC and also about how bold and wise a step it was for Frank Broyles to take the Razorbacks there back in the early 1990s.

It was like old home week at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday featuring a cast of former Southwest Conference coaches whose teams it appears are about to reside in the same neighborhood again.

Former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum was the guest speaker and said the Aggies move to join Arkansas in the SEC was going to happen.

"We (the Aggies) are coming to the SEC," Slocum said. "You can count on that…As far as I know, we are not changing our minds. I don't know how this will all get smoothed out or how long it will take, but my feeling is that we will end up being in this league and be back with our Arkansas friends and get to come up here and visit you some more."

Slocum, who was an assistant at A&M from 1972-80 and 82-88 and head coach from 1989-2002, said this is not running away from the Big 12, but running to the best situation for the Aggies.

"This is not some knee-jerk reaction," Slocum said. "This is a well-thought out, calculated decision, a really in-depth deal. We made this decision."

That brought this response from former Arkansas head coach Frank Broyles, who attended the luncheon along with former Razorback head coach Ken Hatfield.

"I've said for the last 15 years that I would crawl to Texas to get y'all in the SEC," Broyles said. "We benefit more than anybody with y'all coming into the SEC. Arkansas is the number one benefactor than LSU because the SEC will be covered in the Dallas and Houston papers every day and covering them on Sunday.

"Y'all coming to the SEC lifts Arkansas' potential up considerably because of being in the newspapers in Texas every day," Broyles added.

Slocum agreed with that assessment.

"I think he is 100 percent right," Slocum said. "We have got two of the top television markets in the United States in Fort Worth/Dallas and Houston and then the greater Austin area and San Antonio."

Slocum noted that A&M and Texas tried to go to the SEC back when Arkansas did, but the Texas government said no unless the pair took Baylor and Texas Tech with them.

"I admire Coach Broyles for having the courage years ago – that was a bold step that he took and Arkansas took to go in that direction," Slocum said. "I think it has proven to be a very wise decision. We are taking a bold step and following along behind you. We think it is a good decision for us, too."

Slocum said that going to the SEC this time is overwhelmingly supported by the Aggie faithful.

"I think right now if you were to take a poll, I bet it would be 95 to 5 of people saying that is what we ought to do, glad we are doing it and excited about it," Slocum said.

That is not the case from the national media that Slocum has heard speak on the topic.

"I heard some national radio shows earlier this week say it is a shame and that this is all about greed," Slocum said. "I don't see it like that at all. Money is a huge factor in it, but I don't think it is necessarily greed.

"Our athletic programs are like your home or your business," Slocum added. "All of your costs have gone up. In college athletics – and a lot of people probably don't even realize…that for everyone of those scholarships, the athletic department has to generate revenue to pay to the school for those scholarships."

Slocum noted food costs have gone up, charter bus and plane flights have increased and the cost of providing the education to the student-athlete has gone up.

"One of the positive things is that we are providing the best services we have ever provided to our student athletes," Slocum said. "We have programs with full-time nutritionists, great strength coaches, heck of an academic center with all kinds of academic support and computer labs. Some 20 years ago, we didn't even have computers. Now we have a bunch of computers You can't even go to class without a computer.

"We are doing a lot, but that cost a lot of money," Slocum continued. "So if you have the opportunity to position yourself where you can generate more revenue, I don't see anything wrong with doing it."

Slocum, who noted he wouldn't try guess about a 14th team joining the league, also noted that the SEC is the best around on the field and that factors into the decision as well.

"The second part of it is just the exposure and the competition," Slocum said. "We know we are not lacking for competition. We have great respect for the Southeastern Conference as far as competitiveness…We have no allusions going into the league. We know it is going to be tough, but over the years, if you are a player or a coach, when you get right down to it you want to be where the best are.

"If you are playing professional football, you don't want to be in the arena league, you don't want to be in the Canadian league, you want to be in the National Football League," Slocum added. "If you are in college and you have a chance to go play in the premier football league and coach in the premier league, then you ought to take it."

Slocum noted A&M is making the decision simply on what is best for the Aggies.

"We have done this on our own, we are not reacting to anyone else," Slocum said. "We just looked at the whole landscape and where we were and what we had in the Big 12 conference and tried to look down the road in college athletics and say ‘if we can position ourselves, where would be the best place for us to be positioned. And we think without a doubt, it's the Southeastern Conference."

As for continuing to play arch-rival Texas, Slocum said that would be great, but is not necessary.

Continue to play Texas "It's been a great game and it would be sad not to play it, but things change," Slocum said. "I think the decision to go to the SEC was made with that thought (not playing) Texas in mind."

While noting he beat Texas 16 of the 30 times the two teams battled during his tenure, Slocum hinted that the Longhorns concessions of keeping more revenue than the other Big 12 teams was unfair.

"We are all in this thing together," Slocum said. "You can't have couple me say ‘hooray for me and screw you."

Broyles said he hopes Texas finds its way on out to the Pac-12, something Slocum said might be a good fit.

"I think they would fit right in with those Cal-Berkley types," Slocum said.

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