Ed McClintock and his wife haven't been able to watch their beloved Texas A&M football team play a road game since they moved to the Chattanooga area in 2005, but that's about to change. Drastically.
Trips to Kansas State and Texas Tech are out and trips to Alabama and Ole Miss are in as the Aggies make their move to the Southeastern Conference from the Big 12. Texas A&M and Missouri, which also is bolting from the Big 12, officially become SEC members Sunday.
"I am ready, and I am so pumped," said McClintock, a 1977 A&M graduate who now is a project manager for American Display & Fixture. "Sandra and I have tickets to all four of our away games in the SEC, so we will be at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama."
Texas A&M and Missouri are becoming just the third and fourth universities to join the SEC since its inception as a 13-member collection in 1933. Sewanee, Georgia Tech and Tulane were among the original members who opted to leave, and the league expanded for a first time in 1992 with the additions of Arkansas and South Carolina.
The league occupied seven states before adding the Razorbacks and Gamecocks and now will encompass 11 with its pioneering venture into Texas and Missouri.
"When we added South Carolina and Arkansas last time, we also were pursuing Texas and Texas A&M," former Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley said. "At the time, Texas A&M was very, very interested, but they were tied to Texas, and Texas was not interested, so it never happened. Since then, they've obviously had a split and Texas A&M has maintained its interest as far as its people and its leadership.
"If we're going to expand, going into Texas is the right direction, and if you had to have a companion, Missouri is connected to Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. They are two well-respected institutions with fine athletic programs, and I can't think of two better additions to the conference."
Adding to the mix
The newcomers arrive at a time when the SEC's standing as a football league has scaled unprecedented heights. The SEC has won six consecutive national championships and made more history in January when two of its members -- Alabama and LSU -- played for the BCS title.
Missouri and Texas A&M are no autumn slouches, with Gary Pinkel having led Mizzou's Tigers to a No. 1 ranking late in the 2007 season and to six consecutive years with eight or more victories. The only other bowl subdivision programs with at least eight wins in the same stretch are LSU, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
The Aggies won the 1939 national championship and six Southwest Conference titles from 1985 to '93, but they were a disappointing 7-6 last year. Texas A&M hired Kevin Sumlin, who guided pass-happy Houston to a 12-0 regular season a year ago and a 13-1 overall record.
"They are proven coaches," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "We had Gary Pinkel and those guys in Shreveport after the '05 season, which was my first year here, and we had a good lead, but they came back and beat us. He's got a tremendous record there at Missouri.
"What Kevin Sumlin did at Houston last year after working under Bobby Stoops for a while -- he's solid and knows what he's doing, too. I think we got two good teams that will expand our conference and make us a little stronger."
In men's basketball, Missouri has made 25 trips to the NCAA tournament, a total topped within the SEC by only Kentucky and Arkansas. The Tigers are 0-for-25, however, in advancing to the Final Four, which ranks second nationally behind Brigham Young's 27 tournaments without a journey to the national semifinals.
The Aggies are not a historical hoop power but have made the NCAA field in six of the last seven seasons.
"Half of our league will be in the NCAA tournament next year," Kentucky coach John Calipari said, "and I think it will be like that from here on in."
Texas A&M is a recognized force in women's basketball, having won the 2011 national championship.
A welcome move
McClintock, a former president of the Texas A&M club in San Angelo, moved from Texas to Tennessee on New Year's Day 2005.
He can't forget the date, because he listened on the radio while his Aggies were humiliated 38-7 by Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl. McClintock can laugh about that now, but he prefers not to speak much about last Thanksgiving night, when a last-second Texas field goal propelled the Longhorns to a 27-25 victory over Texas A&M in the final scheduled meeting between those longstanding rivals.
"We've always been like the little bother," McClintock said. "Texas is a good school, no doubt, and they are the flagship school. I understand all that, but there is an arrogance about it, and I just think we needed to get out. The Longhorn Network was the straw that did it.
"Schools in the SEC seem to hate each other on the appropriate days they are supposed to, but then they work together, and that's the thing the Big 12 never had. It was a mishmash of two conferences that didn't really go together."
McClintock has gotten to know several fellow Aggies alums in and around Chattanooga, including one from the class of 1944. He can't help but boast when pointing out A&M's 2012 home league schedule of Florida, Arkansas, LSU and Missouri, and then comparing it to Texas, which will host Iowa State, West Virginia, TCU and Baylor.
Football is a 12-month passion for many in the SEC, and the new arrivals seem ready.
"We got a decommitment from LSU a couple of weeks ago named Kyrion Parker," McClintock said excitedly. "He visited Oklahoma and Texas and then us, and he committed to us on Sunday. He was committed to Les Miles, but we got him."
Ready for the SEC indeed.