The Longhorns to the SEC

Guest Commentary

By John Sibley Butler

As social media goes wild with opinions and tweets, it looks like that The Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners will join the Southeastern Conference.  For decades, these two teams have staged one of the most intense rival games in college football.   Now that the Longhorns are going to the SEC, every game will be an OU game with the intensity on steroids.   Imagine that the Longhorns first two games are smaller schools looking for exposure; then we get into conference play and the Horns are in the SEC West.   The teams on the schedule could be Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida (a cross-over from the SEC East) and Texas A&M.   If the Horns win the SEC West, Georgia could be the opponent in the SEC Championship game.  The Longhorn nation will simply have to have a great team and wait until the end of the game, as most great games in the SEC are won by a small margin, usually as time runs out.

It is important to understand that simply because a team is in the SEC, it does not mean that it is all big and bad.  I attended LSU and have watched how over the years winning streaks have come and gone in the conference.  Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Auburn all strut big time football traditions, as measured by winning “recent” national championships.   Mississippi, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M are excellent programs that do not hang a big-time tradition, but certainly have had their spot in the national spotlight.  Texas A&M, for example, has come in no higher than fourth in the SEC West (Let’s not count last year’s Covid Year) and Arkansas has almost disappeared from the national spotlight since leaving the old Southwest Conference and joining the SEC.  Traditions tend to get on a roll, each dominating the conference for eight years or so.   Recently it has rolled from Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama.   Remember that as good as Bama has been, most of their victories came in games where one play decided the victory. 

Here are some things to keep in mind as Texas rolls into the SEC.

Put on your Big Boy Pants

This conference is no joke when it comes to players getting beat up in big time games and then have to strap it on again and get beat up the next week.  This means that the teams that do well have the “next man up” attitude.  Excellent teams tend to be stacked with good players and it is a player’s league.   If you take a break with a non-ranked team like a Mississippi State or Kentucky, you still need to keep on your big boy pants.  In recent years Alabama lost to Ole Miss (two years in a row) and Florida was spanked by Kentucky in the Swamp. When LSU won the national championship in 2007, they lost in overtime to Kentucky and Arkansas. Florida was on a roll last year with over 26 seniors, ranked in the top ten, and lost to an LSU team made up of freshmen.  There is no letting up and help us all if Tennessee regains its top form that it sported until 2001, when they were rolling to a spot in the BCS Championship game and got blindsided by an average LSU team in the SEC Championship game. 

Big Stadiums and Big Time Atmospheres

Since leaving college, I have seen my Alma Mater play for the National Championship four times.   None of those games compared, in spirit and atmosphere, to home games at LSU. In the SEC, every game is like a Bowl Game with all the hype and traditions.  There is a concentration on the stadiums, which takes on a life of its own; and I can say as a graduate of LSU, I have never seen any stadium, college or pro, like Tiger Stadium.  My brother went to a Big Ten school, and I have visited college stadiums all over America (https://youtu.be/RQOpSTX8Td8).  The Aggies have also done a great job with their atmosphere (https://youtu.be/Y0_s9Hd26tY) and Tennessee does a good job.  (https://youtu.be/3nQnoEQH2x4).  The worst fans are as follows: Florida, LSU, Mississippi State and Arkansas.  Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M tend to be more “civilized,” especially after a loss.   LSU has the worst fans after a loss and Florida fans are right behind.

The Cities

The best trip is to LSU and staying in New Orleans before the game is an option.  Add tailgating before the game and it is a good time.   I always make the LSU/Alabama trip and Tuscaloosa is a tough place to get into.  I stay in Birmingham and when the traffic is bad, it can be a long trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium.  Eating at Dreamland BBQ makes the hassle worth it.  I also tend to make the LSU/Auburn game by flying into Atlanta and renting a car to make the hour and a half drive.  Ole Miss is worse; I usually stay in the Las Vegas of Mississippi, Tunica, and drive to Oxford and park my car literally near the interstate.  I don’t get to Florida (because Texas usually plays OU that weekend) but it is also interesting to get to.  There is nowhere to land a plane in Oxford MS, College Station or Starkville (or Stark Vegas) MS.  Austin will be the charm of the SEC in the future, and I can envision SEC fans staying in Austin when they have a game scheduled in College Station.

The Longhorns and the Move

At this time, I have Texas going undefeated next season.  As Coach Sarkisian recruits, the Longhorns should be stacked at every position with great athletes in the coming years.   I think that he understands that players win games, and he is concentrating on recruiting pure talent.  Texas will take a big-time college tradition to the SEC, a tradition of national championships and winning big time games and producing Heisman Trophy winners.  The Longhorns are no “Johnny-come-lately” and should compete extremely well.  The new stadium is now an SEC stadium (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqkKCgSug0k) and I expect that the atmosphere will be like the Notre Dame game and the LSU game of recent years.  A typical SEC team will bring a ton of fans to Austin and if they do not have a ticket, it might be 20 thousand of them in the city, just following their team, camping out.  Get ready to host those Arkansas fans again.  The SEC network does a great job with covering the teams and the overall content is great.  Willie Earl’s blog will have a heyday.

Remember also that Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Florida and LSU, have great baseball traditions.  Kentucky is the prize of the SEC in basketball and everyone else is just hit and miss with LSU, Alabama trying to make a national presence.  Texas could do extremely well in baseball and OU should do well in women’s softball.  A great sport that the SEC has that Texas does not have is Women’s Gymnastics, and the arenas are packed.

Looking forward to a great future in the SEC.   It will be great to see the Purple and Gold in Memorial Stadium every other year.  The talk shows will be off the scale and a great time will be had by all.  It is time to take the Eyes of Texas and Hook ‘Em Horns to a great competitive conference.

John Sibley Butler is the J. Marion West Chair in Constructive Capitalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He has served three terms on the Athletic Council at Texas and was the faculty representative to the Texas Exes. He was the LSU Alumnus of The Year in 2012. He has served as President of the LSU Austin Alumni Association and as a member of the LSU National Alumni Association. He now serves on the LSU National Foundation Advisor Board. During college he was a walk-on to the LSU basketball team and played in the LSU Tiger Band for four years.

2 Comments to “The Longhorns to the SEC”

  1. Thanks Bill
    A good read

  2. Willie Earl-great perspective and summary by John. He gives me hope that all LSU fans aren’t like the 4 blind drunk, vile and offensive asses that sat behind me in 2019. These weren’t kids. They were 2 dads with college aged sons; rolex wearing, well-dressed drunkards. I did meet some fun and friendly LSU fans before the game, but the game experience left me jaded about LSU. Put them in the same class as Ohio State. My experiences with the Ole Miss and Georgia fans were great. I’m surprised about John’s take on MS State and Florida fans. One of my bucket list games to attend is Tennessee.
    What I don’t look forward to is the SEC non-conference scheduling scam. Brilliant on one hand because it insures damn near all teams can win 2-3 conference games a be bowl eligible, but I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to hit Austin and watch UT versus Tarleton State or Stephen F Austin.
    I will truly miss the games and traditions playing Tech, TCU, etc. Screw Baylor! With the portal, NIL and the super conferences looming, the SEC is the best choice. I just know if I’ll buy into college football anymore. Harumph….

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