It’s been five years now since the SEC expanded to 14 teams, and it would be safe to say the big winner from the move is Texas A&M – at least from the tailgating perspective. While College Station is the setting some of the most storied traditions in college football folklore, there can be little doubt the tailgating scene at A&M nearly exploded after finding a new home in the SEC West.
“We were okay in the Big 12 but tailgating wasn’t really that big of a deal,” says Kyle Schumann, a Texas A&M graduate and co-founder of Tailgate Troubadours, an event planning service based in College Station. “When we moved to the SEC it became ‘okay, we’re tailgating, no ifs, ands or buts.'”
These days, Schumann says many avid tailgaters arrive on campus on Thursday afternoons to claim their tailgating spot for Saturdays. Since the Aggies joined the SEC, the university has expanded Kyle Field to accommodate well over 100,000 fans, including the vaunted 12th Man, making it one of the most intimidating stadiums in the country.
Outside the stadium, however, is where the A&M faithful really shows their passion for Aggie Football. By 7 a.m. on Saturdays, the aroma of customized grills and smokers cooking everything from 14-hour briskets to ribs, pork butts, and chicken infuses the air. You might even find alligator on the menu when those pesky LSU Tigers come to town.
For Schumann, as well as thousands upon thousands of Aggies fans, it’s those unique traditions that separate Texas A&M from the rest of the pack. A former Corps cadet, Schumann had the chance to lead Midnight Yell practice on Kyle Field as a junior.
“Yell practice is always great because when they turn out the lights you get to kiss your dates,” he says. “It’s guaranteed they’re going to turn out the lights for 10 seconds.”
To that, we say, “Howdy!”