From Dakota Wesleyan he moved on to A&M, where in addition to his duties as dean of men, he was coach and athletic director and an instructor in psychology, biology and medieval history. Prior to his arrival, the school had been subsidizing football for years, yet had lost most of its games and much money. They were about to abandon the sport when Ferguson proposed his "simon-pure" program. All he wanted was a strict "no-win" policy from administration and alumni and great latitude in preparing road schedules.
The majority of the squad he assembled were phys-ed majors, but Ferguson—a Rhodes Scholar nominee—had other A&M professors block out courses of study for the footballers during their long road trips. The coach would hold classes daily and would supervise study periods. He often got permission for the Weevils to attend classes at colleges along the way. Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Yale and Hofstra were just a few of the schools where his players occasionally audited.
His music majors managed to attend operas and concerts in large cities. His agriculture majors took soil samples all over the country. Art and history majors hit big-time galleries and historical sites. The Boll Weevils of 1939-41 were a kind of road-company lyceum. And during those three seasons, the football players made better grades on the average than their stay-at-home classmates.
Meanwhile, they were endearing themselves to football fans all over the country. Bored with the reverence paid to winning teams and winning coaches, many people found this troupe of eccentrics a refreshing relief. The New York Times reported: "If other coaches would follow Professor Ferguson's coaching philosophy, football might be returned to the sanity of its early days." The Los Angeles Times crusaded unsuccessfully to have A&M play another group of "pure amateurs" in a preliminary game before the 1940 Rose Bowl contest.
Their flattering notices in the press (one journal dubbed them the " Marx Brothers of football") gave the Arkansas squad a spirited box office. Despite the expenses of bumping around the nation in a bus, the Weevils showed a profit in each of Ferguson's three seasons.
Not all the A&M shenanigans occurred on field. A 6'7" pass-catching gymnast named Lawrence (The Stork) Lavender was occasionally dolled up before games in a bobtailed dress coat, starched white shirtfront and white tic over his game jersey, and wearing gloves, a silk top hat and, sometimes, a monocle. A "valet" helped him dress.
The A&M colors were green and white, yet the squad took along road jerseys of many colors, and Ferguson let the players wear any combination they wished. Sometimes the team changed colors at halftime, even emerging in jerseys of the same color as the other team.
As long as his players were behaving themselves, Ferguson exerted no real control over them during a game. Each was allowed to take any position he wished, and substitutions were at the whim of the players themselves. Subs rode a bicycle from bench to field, and the replaced player rode it back. Players were free to leave the bench and join friends in the stands. One of the better ballcarriers, Bix Stillwell, was also a spectacular drummer. He would take himself out of games and sit in with the opposing team's band at odd moments, sometimes—according to John Scritchfield—getting long ovations from the fans for his drum solos.
"I enjoyed the games each of those seasons because I could sit on the sidelines and wonder what my players were going to do next," Ferguson reminisced afterward. So, no doubt, did the Weevils' fans and opposition.
J. S. Shapiro, who sometimes played halfback, rarely wore shoes in a game, even in northern snow. An extra-point attempt by either team in a Weevil game was apt to be traumatic. On tries by the opponent, all the Weevils frequently collapsed to the turf on the snap from center, causing the startled kicker to boot the ball wide of the uprights. If A&M scored, the point-after could be equally bizarre. Some of the Weevil players would line up with their backsides to the other team. Then the placekicker would do something awkward, like missing the football and booting the ball holder, usually an acrobat, who would then do a series of backflips over the goal line. Bear Bryant would have cried.