- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Not satisfied just to admit coeds, Mr. Rudder touched off another earthquake two years later. In order to lure more top-caliber students, he made cadet corps service noncompulsory. In short, Aggieland laid herself wide open to people who don't give two hoots about bonfires and yell practice. From Houston and Dallas, citified young men began appearing in larger numbers. The dominance of crew cuts diminished; long sideburns became commonplace. Beards? The university administration likes to point out that last year the students themselves voted to prohibit beards, but a sideburned student from Houston adds a footnote to that exercise in democracy. "The thing is," he told me, "that the cadets dominate election boards. If you had no socks on when you came to vote, if you looked like a potential beard-grower, the cadets just told you to get lost. This year we're allowed to wear beards, but you've got to have the right professors. Some of the profs simply tell you to shave your face clean or don't come back."
Cadets, knowing their corps to be the fountainhead of Aggie Spirit, actually cried when Aggieland decreed that students no longer need submit to the corps' spiritual breast-feeding. Trouble flared. Civilians, housed in the same dormitory with cadet units, howled when they heard reveille whistles shrieking at 6:25 a.m. Soon eggs and fruit flew back and forth. Water fights and fistfights broke out. Judiciously, the administration revised campus housing, putting a safe distance—a demilitarized zone, as it were—between the cadets and civilians.
"But all this doesn't mean the civilians and cadets are at one another's throats," a civilian student says. "On the whole, we get along well. We civilian students may not have any use for all that marching and drilling ourselves, but we're patriotic people. We respect the corps' war record and we respect the cadets for going through a tough grind. It's taken time, but the cadets have come to accept us, too, although they do it with a stiff upper lip. They say, 'Civilians are Aggies, too.' " But the civilians are a new breed of Aggie, and the cold truth is that on the campus today one encounters no difficulty finding a great many students who say of Aggie jokes, "I love 'em."
Where, then, does all this leave Gene Stallings, the Aggie archetype? It left him, one evening in September, standing on the podium in the G. Rollie White Coliseum, surveying the turnout for the season's first yell practice. The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band blared, and the 3,000-man cadet corps roared—and so did about 500 civilian students. "It's good to see so many civilians here tonight," Stallings intoned earnestly, the implication being that the civilian turnout in recent times had dwindled to almost nothing. Stallings speculates, on the one hand, that more coeds will bring A&M more stars, because at present many promising recruits cannot tolerate the thought of their virility going to waste in Aggieland. On the other hand, Stallings worries about inroads on tradition.
In the meantime, Aggieland officials are bearing down hard to interest civilians in Aggie Spirit, encouraging dormitory organizations and the like. On the surface, optimism prevails. One must hope the optimists are right, because what would Texas be without true Aggies? What would Aggie-baiters do without them?
In his alumni office one afternoon, Buck Weirus reached into his bookcase and brought out a book entitled The Story of Texas A&M , from which he read me an anecdote that smacked of apocrypha but is sworn to be fact. It seems that a sentimental old gent named Pinky Downs, who until his death held the title of official campus greeter, one day came upon a funeral procession in the town of Killeen, Texas and decided to join it. When the preacher inquired at the graveside if anyone cared to say a few last words for the deceased, the mourners stood silent.
"Well, then," piped Pinky Downs at last. "I'd like to say a few words about Texas A&M."