Bill Byrne
Director of Athletics
Since we last talked, our track and field teams won a pair of national championships, baseball played in the College World Series, and our men’s tennis doubles team of Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo won the NCAA Championship.

Old timers tell me collectively it was the best year ever in Texas A&M athletics history. You may have to go back to 1939 when A&M won the national championship in football to find as many good things happening.

But, I’ll leave that debate to those of you who were there.

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This morning, Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin sent a letter to Big 12 Conference Commissioner Dan Beebe, informing him that Texas A&M is submitting an application to join another conference. If the application is accepted, we would leave the Big 12 following this athletic season.

The number one question I’ve received in recent weeks has been, “Why are you not talking about conference realignment?”

The decision was made, I think the right one, that we would have one voice for the University on this topic. That person is University President R. Bowen Loftin. I have confidence in the leadership of Texas A&M to get us to the right place.

Many of you have asked me, “What has changed since last year when you said we should stay in the Big 12?” Those things I said last year are still true. But understand that the Big 12 is considerably different than it was a year ago since the departures of Nebraska and Colorado.

There have also been other developments during the past several months that have caused a great deal of uncertainty within the Big 12. You all know the landscape of the Big 12 Conference was altered by the creation of the Longhorn Network. We rebuffed an attempt to televise high school games on the LHN, arguing that this type of activity was a clear violation of NCAA rules. The most recent attempt by ESPN is to take highlights of high school games as part of news segments. The NCAA is taking a wait and see attitude on the highlights. I disagree with their stance – as do many of my colleagues across the country. We anticipate that ESPN will continue to push the envelope with the Longhorn Network, regardless of Texas A&M’s conference affiliation.

The other issue was an attempt to coerce other Big 12 schools to move their football games in Austin to the Longhorn Network. Our understanding from day one was that every conference school would have the rights to one football game a year, and a handful of basketball games, which has been our longstanding agreement in the Big 12.

Some of you have asked me, “Isn’t it true you had a chance to join Texas in the ESPN venture and would have had a joint channel?”

Three or four years ago we talked about doing a joint flagship channel. I liked the idea, but our fans should know me better than to think I would pass on a $150 million deal for Texas A&M. That never happened.

As President Loftin has repeated over the past several weeks, the goal of our University is to increase the visibility of Texas A&M and our student-athletes, be in a stable and strong conference, and ensure the long-term future of Texas A&M financially.

What are the options? I believe all cards have been on the table. There are advantages and disadvantages of the Bigger Ten, Pac 12, SEC, and staying right where we are.

Conference realignment is something that has torn me up. I have colleagues of more than 20 years in this conference. I take great pride for being part the group that put the Big 12 together in the mid 90s. Sometimes, though, circumstances warrant tough decisions being made.

When the smoke clears on conference realignment for Texas A&M, I’ll give you my perspective on what precipitated our decisions, as well as my optimism for the future.

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On to other subjects. I think this is the best football team we’ve had since I have been at Texas A&M. We have18 starters back, and it’s the second year with our defensive coaches. Even though he only started six games last year, we have a veteran quarterback returning with Ryan Tannehill. I’m proud to report we are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and No. 9 in the coaches’ poll.

Despite all the preseason accolades our team and players have received, we still have some questions that won’t be answered until game time:  punting, linebackers, and depth at defensive line. I’m also happy to report that our recruiting continues to go well.

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Our season opening game against SMU will kick off at 6:40 p.m. Sunday at Kyle Field and will be televised nationally by FSN.

Some of you have asked why we are playing on a Sunday.

As part of the Big 12 Television Contract, we accepted the opportunity to play our game against SMU on national TV on FSN. In order to gain this valuable exposure for our team and University, we were asked to move the game to Sunday night.

Moving a home game to Sunday night is a first for Texas A&M, at least for as far back as anyone on our staff can recall. We did not make this move without some due diligence.

Because Monday is Labor Day, many of our fans will enjoy a holiday from work and school. Although that is not the case for students, faculty and staff at Texas A&M, as Monday is a regular class day. At the same time, this is the one Sunday the NFL does not compete, as their regular season begins later in the week.

For several years now, college football games have been played on the Sunday prior to Labor Day. If Monday had not been Labor Day, we would not have made the decision to move.

Although Sundays are not a traditional day for college football games, almost all of our other sports play on Sundays throughout the year.

While we recognize that some fans have religious commitments on Sunday which will keep them from coming to Kyle Field to see us play in person, we hope they will be able to watch us on FSN as a family that evening.

Playing on Sunday is big for recruiting, because no high school games conflict with our game, and many recruits are able to come to Kyle Field.

The bottom line is we are one of two games on TV that night. We have virtually the whole nation to ourselves. It’s a great chance for Aggies everywhere to see our team.

In addition to the FSN broadcast, you can listen on the Texas A&M Sports Network to Dave South, Dave Elmendorf and Tom Turbiville. The game will also be offered on SiriusXM Satellite Radio channel 91 and on AggieAthletics.com.

We will also have complete video highlights and postgame interviews available on AggieAthletics.com after the game.

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Yesterday, another first happened for us. We had to suspend sales for student ticket options. Going into this season we increased the allotment for students by 1,500 tickets from the total issued last year (28,528). This is the first time in my career here that we have reached a point where we have had to curtail student ticket options. We held approximately 30,000 seats for our students, and we are currently at 30,356 ticket options. When the registration process began back in April for the fall semester, our students had the opportunity to select the football or all-sports options. Demand for sports passes was above average for the first four months, and then sales greatly increased the past two weeks. With the tremendous support we have received from the 12th Man, expect chairs on the track surrounding the field for most of our games this year.

Over the weekend, we sold out public season tickets, too.

Needless to say, the SMU game is sold out which guarantees us the largest opening game crowd in school history. Add that to the sellout we had in the Nebraska game last year, and that’s two sellouts in-a-row. Sounds like a new tradition to me.

Tickets for conference games go on sale Tuesday at 6 p.m. via our online system, while phone orders for remaining tickets will be accepted on Wednesday beginning at 8 a.m. This could be your only chance to buy tickets through us to see the Aggies play at Kyle Field this season.

Tickets for Idaho continue to be sold, however inventory is limited. It is Junior Aggie Club Day at Kyle Field so I encourage those members to get their tickets in advance as it is unlikely any walk-up sales will be available on Sept. 17.

For more information on football tickets, click here.  

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The ticket office will open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Zone Plaza to accommodate will call pick-up. The windows will open again on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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The weather reports continue to say it’s going to be hot on Sunday. Please hydrate yourselves. Also, for those of you planning to tailgate on campus, please use extra caution with grilling as we don’t want to start any fires on our dry grounds.

The University has a very detailed website focused on tailgating for football games. You can learn more by clicking here.

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Since our football game falls on Labor Day weekend, it makes coordinating a military flyover a challenge. For the third straight year, no military entity was able to provide a flyover, so we’ve teamed again with the Lone Star Flight Museum to offer a unique flyover experience.

After tremendous success last year, we again auctioned seats on the B-25 Mitchell aircraft to Aggies via our auction site. The auction ended earlier this afternoon.

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Set your watches for Spirit Walk and Kids Yell Practice. The team’s Spirit Walk will originate in the same location at the intersection Joe Routt and Houston Street near G. Rollie White Coliseum. It will happen about 2.5 hours before kickoff. We are also pleased to continue our very popular Kids Yell Practice which happens about 15 minutes before Spirit Walk. The Yell Leaders will be leading this special activity for our younger Aggies.

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Just a reminder that First Yell will be on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Reed Arena, with comedian Brian Regan headlining the event. The first Midnight Yell Practice at Kyle Field will be on Saturday.

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By the way, SMU is a very good team. Coach June Jones has done a terrific job in Dallas. I remember watching him play quarterback at Portland State, and I’ve watched him coach over the years. He did a terrific job at Hawaii, and now he’s doing great things at SMU. SMU will be formidable.

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Our volleyball team came back and beat Creighton in five sets to win the Texas A&M Invitational. We played with a lot of excitement and passion. I really liked the new libero Megan Pendergast who came in late in the Creighton match. Megan is a transfer from Nebraska, but is originally from League City, Texas. Last night we hosted the Israel National Team at Reed Arena. This weekend, our team will be in Portland, Ore., to face Portland, Butler, Nevada, and Washington State.

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Our soccer team returns to the newly named Ellis Field on Friday to face Dartmouth at 6:30 p.m. This is our annual Fish Camp game as we encourage all freshmen who attended Fish Camp to wear their camp T-shirt and get in free. It’s always a great crowd for this night each year, so please get there early.

You can purchase tickets by clicking here.

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Cross country starts their season tomorrow evening in Waco at the Baylor Twilight. The meet starts at 7 p.m. at the Heart of Texas Soccer Complex. Our men’s team is ranked third and the women’s team ranked fifth in the South Central rankings.

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I’ve received a few questions about our baseball schedule which was released recently. Some of you have noted we will play our friends in baseball twice in the state capital for a second straight year. With 10 teams now playing baseball in the league, a scheduling issue existed. The final schedule was a decision by the conference office.

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It’s no secret I was with the men’s basketball team during their European Tour. It was a great time, but my trip got cut short. I got to know our new coaching staff better and enjoyed visiting with and being around our players.

I watched us play the Swiss national team twice. Our opponents were easily 24 to 30 years old. They looked liked the offensive line of the Chicago Bears!

The whole trip was great fun. Dash Harris and David Loubeau looked great in Coach Billy Kennedy’s up tempo offense. And Elston Turner can shoot the three.

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College Colors Day is this Friday. Each year, college football fans are encouraged to wear their school colors on Sept. 2. I encourage our fans to wear your colors proudly every Friday no matter where you may be.

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Tickets are on sale now for the 2011 Southwest Classic, which is our football game against Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium. The game will be played on October 1st, and the kickoff time will be determined by the SEC television partners about two weeks in advance because Arkansas is the home team.

Ticket prices begin at $85. Fans can also purchase game day parking at the same time as the ticket purchase. Like our home game tickets, sales for the Southwest Classic are strong. We have just over 10,000 seats remaining in our block.

Student tickets prices will continue to be $55 and went on sale last Saturday. We still have a few student tickets available.

Click here to review the options for tickets to the 2011 Southwest Classic.

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If you are reading this, then you likely noticed the redesign of AggieAthletics.com. We’ve partnered with NeuLion as our provider. We will be providing a ton of video content on the site, more than ever before. If you saw our coverage of two-a-days, then you know the quality of exclusive content being generated by our website staff and our team at 12th Man Productions. Our new website is impressive. I hope you think so, too.

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See you at Kyle Field on Sunday.