Ask Jackie Sherrill if Texas A&M University is a good fit for the Southeastern Conference and he will stop you in mid-sentence: “Not only are they a good fit now, but they would have been a good fit years and years ago,” the former Aggie coach says emphatically.
Sherrill is a true voice of experience. He and the late Emory Bellard both coached at Texas A&M before moving on to head the Mississippi State program, and both found success in the Lone Star State and the Magnolia State.
Bellard, a native of Luling, Texas, coached the Aggies from 1972-78 and at Mississippi State from 1979-85. In his seven years in Aggieland, he posted a 48-27 record and took Texas A&M to three bowl games and three Top 15 finishes. At MSU, his best years were 1980 and 1981 when his team finished 9-3 and 8-4, respectively, and the Bulldogs played in back-to-back bowl games.
Considered one of the greatest offensive minds in college football, Bellard was credited for inventing the “wishbone” offense that revolutionized the game in the 1960s. He died on Feb. 10, 2011, at age 83 after suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) in the last few years of life.
Though a native of Duncan, Okla., Sherrill played high school football in Biloxi, Miss., and was recruited by a host of SEC schools, including Mississippi State and LSU. He chose Alabama and played for former Texas A&M coach Paul “Bear” Bryant from 1962-65, helping the Crimson Tide win two national titles. Sherrill played seven different positions while at Alabama.
Sherrill had head coaching stops at Washington State and the University of Pittsburgh before coming to Aggieland. He coached at Texas A&M from 1982-88, winning 52 games in that time span and three Southwest Conference championships. He coached at MSU from 1991 to 2003, posting a 74-76 record and taking the Bulldogs to six bowls, among them the 2000 Independence Bowl against the Aggies that MSU won in a 43-41 overtime thriller. The game has since been dubbed the “Snow Bowl” because it was played in a freakish snowfall that hit Shreveport prior to kickoff.
He finished with an overall record of 180-120-4. He knows football and he knows the SEC.
“In my opinion, Texas A&M has always been a good fit for the SEC,” he says.
“They have a fan base that is similar and academically, they fit right in the SEC. For years, Texas A&M had key administrators that went to other SEC schools, and vice versa.
“Mississippi State and A&M are also very similar schools. You can win at MSU, but it is harder because the other big schools – the LSUs and Tennessees and Alabamas and Georgias – will usually get the very best players. That means you have to recruit harder and really develop players once they get there.
“We had some good years when I was at Mississippi State. There was a stretch there when we beat Auburn four years in a row and Alabama three straight times.”
Sherrill has fond memories of that ”Snow Bowl” game, and so do MSU fans. Sherrill and about 40 former MSU players who were on that team will be honored at the Texas A&M-MSU game on Saturday in Starkville, and fans will be wearing white T-shirts in a “whiteout game” to commemorate the snow that fell that chilly night in Shreveport.
“Going to the SEC was the right move for Texas A&M,” Sherrill adds.
“They have not only proved they can compete, but that they can win. They have exceeded everyone’s expectations this year, and that’s a real tribute to the job coach (Kevin) Sumlin has done. Texas A&M now has a national fan base that is bigger than anything it had in the Big 12 or the SWC. From a PR standpoint, moving to the SEC was definitely the right choice.”
His prediction for the MSU-Texas A&M game?
“Flip a coin, because it’s that close,” Sherrill, who now does commentary for FOX Sports Net, says. “These might be the two most evenly matched teams in the entire SEC. MSU’s defense is one of the best in the league, and A&M has proven it can move the ball against anyone. The fans should be treated to a great game.
“The best matchup of all might be the Yell Leaders of A&M against the cowbells of MSU,” Sherrill laughs. “Get ready for those cowbells.”
Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, (979) 845-4644