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While in College Station, Texas, for the NCAA Regional, Ole Miss Spirit Editor Jeff Roberson talked to Texas A&M people about their move to the Southeastern Conference which officially begins July 1, 2012. The Missouri Tigers also become official members that day. Here's what some Aggies had to say.

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Feeding The Junction Boys

Evie Naumann is Texas Aggie through and through. It's always been that way. It won't change now that Texas A&M is moving to the Southeastern Conference.

Naumann's roots run deep maroon. Her father was a cook for the Junction Boys when Bear Bryant was their coach, and he took them off campus to mold them into a winner. Bear got them into shape. Evie's father made sure they were well fed.

She admitted, as she awaited the Aggies baseball game against the Ole Miss Rebels in the NCAA Regional two weeks ago, that she's looking forward to what the future holds for her school.

"We are ready," said Naumann, who lives in Bryan, Texas, which adjoins College Station, the home of Texas A&M University. "There are new teams. We're excited about who we're going to be playing. We've been so used to the same teams year after year after year."

There is one rivalry, and this was a common theme from Aggie fans, that they'll miss and that's Texas.

"We look forward to that every Thanksgiving," said Naumann, mentioning that her husband joins thousands of Aggie fans who believe that someday the two ancient rivals will play again. "But we're excited to see what kind of rivalry we're going to have, and who's going to be our next Texas University."

That's what many A&M fans call the University of Texas. It's meant as a dig at Texas. It's even in their fight song, the Aggie War Hymn.

"Goodbye to Texas University," says the first line of that famous, old song. Who would have ever thought it would ring so true?

As for a rival for the Aggies, many know Arkansas will remain a focal point for A&M teams and fans. That goes back to the old Southwest Conference days prior to the 1990s. And also to the recent game each season in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, between the two schools.

But most say it will be LSU that will become their main rival in the SEC. There is tradition there. LSU and A&M have played 50 football games. The Aggies have won 20 of them. It also extends to other sports. There was a baseball regional in 1989 hosted by Texas A&M and won by LSU. The Tigers advanced to the College World Series. Aggies haven't forgotten that one either.

Kyle Field
File Photo

Naumann, who said she learned a lot about Ole Miss from "The Blind Side," said they look forward to meeting new fans of other schools and treating them with the respect they deserve. And she believes it will be reciprocated.

"We'll say ‘Howdy' and good luck," she said. "Somebody's going to win and somebody's going to lose."

One other thing she knows from stories, movies, and from her father.

"Let me tell you something. They ate good down there in Junction," she said. "That's for sure."

Maroon And White And John Deere Green

The whole place appears to have gone SEC mad. There's a series of stores throughout the area called "Aggieland Outfitters." On the front window of the one located across the street from the Aggie football practice fields, the sign reads "7-1-2012: Aggie Independence Day."

Gary Dodson of College Station is a big Aggie fan but actually a graduate of Sam Houston State. A lot of his other family members went to A&M, however. He will miss playing Texas but said life goes on, even though he wishes the series would continue.

"I have some friends that are Longhorns," he said. "As fans we want (the rivalry) to go on. But we're not the ones (officials) asked when we moved and where we should go. I say continue the rivalry."

He likes the move to the SEC and believes it is nothing but positive for the Aggies – except maybe some losses they will encounter along the way.

"We're going to a tougher conference, and we're going to take some bruises," he said. "But in the long run we'll be stronger because of it."

Dodson mentioned playing Arkansas and LSU, two old foes, but also facing some new teams.

"We're going to gain some new-found fun with schools like Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama," he said. "I look at it as a new beginning. The Big 12 is in our review mirror and we're moving on. I just root for the Aggies whenever they play and wherever they play. We're going to the SEC."

Dodson, from a family of farmers whose motto is "maroon and white and John Deere green," said A&M fans are passionate about their teams. So the new foes they face had better get used to it.

"We'll give you hell," he said, "but after the weekend's over, we'll buy you a beer."

Midnight Yell

If you ask a Texas A&M student what year they are in school, don't expect the usual "sophomore" or "senior" response. They tell you their actual year, as in graduating year.

Spencer Bond of Bryan is Class of 2012.

"It's a big university, and we're really proud of it," Bond said. "They've got a lot of big ones in the SEC, and we think we'll fit right in."

Bond said the student body, 50,000 strong, is ready.

File Photo
File Photo

"It's really exciting. The students are really looking forward to the move," he said. "Culturally we think we really fit in with everybody in the SEC. And not just the students but also the older Ags, too. Everybody's really supporting it, and everybody's on the same page."

Bond said Aggies are looking forward to bringing their unique traditions to the SEC. The 300-member Fightin' Texas Aggie Band will be coming to Oxford for the Ole Miss game in October. Bonfire used to be one of the biggest traditions until it fell while under construction in 1999, killing 12 students. Texas A&M continues to have a strong military presence on its campus.

"Midnight Yell is a good one, and it's the night before a home game," Bond said of one tradition. "Our students are there, and a lot of the opposing team's fans will show up just to see what A&M's about. It's really about the Aggie Spirit and getting the students ready for the game. Kickoff might be at 6 p.m. the next day, but the game starts at Midnight Yell."

So how many souls wander out to a pep rally inside the football stadium at midnight? According to Bond a whole bunch.

"I'd say the night before a big game we'll have 40,000 people there," he said.

And don't think that 12th Man thing is just some old, insignificant tradition. Bond said the Aggie students really do stand at the ready – you know, if a greater need arises.

"The students stand the entire game to show support for the team, just in case we might be needed and called out there," he said.

And he didn't smile. It wasn't a joke. He meant it.

Mississippi Influence

Jason Cook, born in Tupelo and a graduate of Mississippi State, serves as Vice-President for Marketing and Communications at Texas A&M. He had an active role in the Aggies' application, submission, and transition to the SEC. He is also co-chairing the committee to find a new athletics director to replace Bill Byrne, who stepped down recently.

Cook, who was the baseball media relations director at MSU during the 1990s, said Texas A&M is now at home in its new conference.

"I always tell people Texas A&M has always been an SEC school," he said "We've just been stuck in the wrong conference for way too long."

That's the case no longer, as of July 1, 2012.

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