I realize that many readers of this column were focused on the Georgia versus Notre Dame football game held in Athens this past week. Congratulations to the Dawg Nation on a significant win. I am sure the atmosphere in Sanford Stadium assisted the team in UGA’s victory.
Mary Lou and I continued our quest of visiting every stadium in the SEC while the Auburn Tigers were the visiting team. We made the trip to College Station, TX for our first ever visit to Texas A&M’s Kyle Field.
This was a trip that almost never took off. We sat in the Atlanta airport for most of Thursday as our flight to Houston was repeatedly delayed. The torrential rains due to Tropical Storm Imelda eventually led to our flight being cancelled.
Thankfully, we were able to catch a flight to Dallas and made the three hour drive down to College Station. It was the only hiccup in an otherwise great trip.
Texas A&M is a huge school with an equally huge campus. It has the second largest student body of any university in the country, with over 69,000 students at its main campus. The campus itself is also the second largest in the country at just over 5,200 acres.
Give yourself two points if you know the largest campus in the country. It is Berry College right here in Georgia. Berry’s campus is over 27,000 acres with a student body of approximately 2,100.
The Texas A&M campus is quite spread out with the newer part of campus featuring large buildings on even larger green spaces. I cannot imagine walking from class to class as the buildings are quite far apart. The cost of lawn maintenance for this campus must be in the millions.
Kyle Field, the home of the Aggies, is quite impressive itself. It has the fourth largest capacity in the world, seating over 102,000 fans. Kyle Field underwent a massive renovation beginning in 2013 at a cost of $450 Million.
Texas A&M is also home to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. It is a very impressive facility and tastefully depicts the many accomplishments of our 41st President. It is the ninth Presidential Library I have visited and clearly one of the best.
Of course, we went to College Station to watch a good football game and we were not disappointed. Auburn jumped out front early and held on for a good solid win. Auburn is now 4 – 0 in Kyle Field. This is a series where the visiting team has won every game but one.
The corps of cadets, which is volunteer and represents only 2,000 of the student body, stand the entire game. They do not have cheerleaders. The have five yell leaders who lead the yells during the entire game. It is quite an atmosphere.
The Fighting Aggie Marching Band is 400 members strong and is comprised solely of cadets. It is the largest marching military band in the world and performs some incredibly complicated marching maneuvers. This same band received a standing ovation after their performance in Auburn last year. The band’s halftime performance is something to watch.
As impressive as the campus, stadium, and university was, the main thing I will take away from our visit is the incredible friendliness of everyone we met. Before, during and after the game, every Aggie went out of their way to be helpful. “Welcome to Aggieland”, they would say. “We hope you have a good time”.
Even after their loss, the fans were friendly. The Aggie I sat next to in the stadium even sent me a Facebook friend request. I still have not figured out how he knew my last name.
Perhaps the camaraderie that seemed to exist is the result of the universities having a similar background and culture. We randomly met three different couples that had one child at A&M and one at Auburn.
Big time athletic competitions can be friendly and civil. This is the way that collegiate sports is supposed to be conducted. Fierce competition on the field with collegiality before and after the game.
My hat is off to the Aggie nation who currently ranks at the top of all the schools I have ever visited in making me feel welcome. I hope to return the favor next year back in Auburn.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org