Aggies Jump Into Cotton Bowl

Aggie fans were happy to see a certain Twitter post come through iPhones, Blackberries, and Androids on Tuesday as the Cotton Bowl announced through its Twitter page that Texas A&M had accepted an invitation to play in the 75th version of this storied bowl game played in Dallas. It also set off anger in Stillwater and Columbia

Ah, the world we live in today. If you have something big to announce, put it out on Twitter. That seems to be the approach the AT&T Cotton Bowl is taking when informing the public about important stuff like who will be playing in the game. So while it had been widely speculated (and reported here on Monday) that the Aggies would leap frog three 10-win Big 12 schools to snag the No. 2 bowl slot, the Cotton Bowl made it official by releasing the following tweet:

"Gig 'Em! The Texas A&M Aggies are coming to the 75th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic!"

That tweet upset a lot of fans from Missouri and Oklahoma State that felt their 10-2 teams (both with victories over Texas A&M) deserved the Cotton Bowl invitation over the Aggies. And if you look at the results on paper, they have a valid point. Oklahoma State's only blemishes on a fine 10-win season were to Big 12 title game participants Nebraska and Oklahoma. While Missouri dismantled the Jerrod Johnson-led Aggies 30-9 in Kyle Field, the Tigers did trip up against an up-and-down Texas Tech squad that finished near the bottom of the south division standings. Still, the 10-2 Tigers have a legitimate beef with the Cotton Bowl committee when looking at on-field results.

But what red-faced fans seem to forget is that once you get past the BCS bowl procedures and assignments, the rest of the bowl contingent are looking for the most marketable game and trying to turn a profit. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State and Missouri, the Aggies are the flavor of the month and the most marketable program this bowl season.

First of all, Oklahoma State played in last year's Cotton Bowl and the bowl committee wanted to avoid inviting the same team two years in a row, again for marketing purposes. Second, most Cowboy fans were thinking about the Big 12 Championship Game and a possible berth in a BCS bowl. With the loss to Oklahoma, the Cotton Bowl committee feared that the high expectations and eventual letdown would have affected ticket sales especially when the fan base traveled to Dallas for the game last season.

Missouri also had high hopes for a Big 12 Championship and a BCS bowl after starting the season 7-0 and defeating then No. 3 Oklahoma, but two consecutive losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech left the Tigers on a bit of a down note despite closing the season with three wins over Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas.

On the other hand, the Aggies were all but left for dead after the Missouri debacle and a 3-3 record, placing head coach Mike Sherman's three-year tenure at Texas A&M in jeopardy. However, after that October 16 loss, Sherman switched quarterbacks and the Aggies haven't lost since. After winning six in a row to close out the season which included wins over Top 10 programs Oklahoma and Nebraska, along with triumphs over in-state rivals Texas Tech, Baylor, and Texas, the Aggie fan base is sky high. The Cotton Bowl committee wants to capitalize on that enthusiasm, and it doesn't hurt that the large Texas A&M fan base resides within a short drive of Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

It's a message that fans from Stillwater and Columbia don't want to hear, but the cold, hard truth is that non-BCS bowls are looking for a guaranteed sellout. Whether you like the system or not, the Cotton Bowl saw Texas A&M and its rejuvenated fans within driving distance of the stadium as the best chance to sell a lot of tickets. Until the NCAA decides to incorporate the bowl games into a comprehensive NCAA playoff system, the current bowl set-up becomes purely an economic venture as opposed to a game that rewards teams for on-field performance.

You really can't fault the Cotton Bowl under the circumstances. They needed to sell tickets and the Aggies bought tickets yesterday at a record pace after the announcement. In fact, the game is already sold out. Could the Cowboys or Tigers have sold out the Cotton Bowl in less than 24 hours?

While no formal announcement will be made until after Saturday's championship games, all signs point to Texas A&M's opponent being LSU. The Capital One Bowl has first choice of non-BCS bowl teams, and from all indications they plan to choose Alabama. A South Carolina win over Auburn could muddy the waters and send Arkansas out of the BCS bowl picture. But for now, Les Miles and his Tigers appear headed to Dallas to face the Aggies.

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