Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is the greatest venue in college football. As a structure alone it is imposing. Seating about 103,000, since its nearly half billion dollar expansion in 2015, it is the largest football stadium in Texas, or for that matter then entire Southeastern Conference. It’s state of the art facilities are also first rate.
However, it is the spirit of Kyle Field that makes the stadium special. Kyle Field is home for the best tradition in football. The 12th Man Tradition, where Aggies stand throughout the game in a symbolic display of their willingness to take to the field if necessary to support their team. That tradition, started on January 2, 1922 and would top this list but for its start being in Dallas (at the forerunner of today’s Cotton Bowl), not Kyle Field.
This Top 10 list will focus on the spirit that makes Kyle Field the special place it is, rather than a compendium of top sports moments in it.
10. The kiss that sealed a tradition (date unknown).
This might rank higher if I actually knew it happened, but I figure something like it must have. Kyle Field is home to many hallowed traditions, from serious to fun. This one could be both.
The Texas A&M student body regards itself as the 12th Man on the team. Thus Aggies don’t go to merely watch the game, but to be part of it. It seems completely appropriate, therefore, that “when the team scores, everybody scores.” In other words, you kiss your date, as depicted below.
It’s not actually known how this tradition started. However, I think it must have gone something like this.
In the old days, before even my time at A&M (1976–1980), A&M was an all male military school. Traditionally the young ladies at Texas Woman’s University, regarded as A&M’s “sister school,” provided dates. Women would take the train to College State on game day, and cadets would line up to pair off with a date as they stepped off.
So I figure a cadet found himself, most likely in the decade of the Great Depression, with a woman he first met as she stepped off said train that morning. In an era of low scoring football, I envision this as a tough, defensive dominated game. However, finally the Aggies scored! In that moment of raw excitement the cadet got ahead of his skis and kissed the young lady he had just met. He was probably rewarded with a slap to the face as she took great offense at his overly forward approach.
But Aggies are quick witted and fast on their feet. This one particularly so. Recovering from his stinging cheek, he put on airs of great sincerity, as he quickly said “but it’s a tradition, isn’t it guys?” (looking around to his buddies). “Indeed it is!” they responded as they too kissed the nearest girl to them, because anything to help out a buddy.
Thus a great tradition was born. All Aggies owe that unknown Aggie (who I just made up) a great debt.
9. The departed Reveilles get a scoreboard (Date: circa 1997)
Texas A&M’s mascot is Reveille, a dog like no other. The original Reveille insinuated her way into the job in the 1930s after being hit by Aggies in a car returning from an away game. The cadets brought her to the vet school and fixed her up. She earned her name by going crazy whenever Reveille was played in the morning.
When she died she was solemnly buried in Kyle Field, facing the scoreboard so she could always see how the Aggies were doing. Thus it was so for subsequent Reveilles, also buried in Kyle Field facing the scoreboard.
This lasted until a renovation occurred associated with an expansion of seating in 1997. The Reveilles had to be disinterred, they were eventually buried in a beautiful cemetery just outside the stadium.
However, this created a problem. The Reveilles could no longer see the scoreboard. This could not be tolerated.
So an Aggie cadet sat at the gravesite with slick board and marker. Whenever the score changed he updated the board. The school found the spectacle either sufficient moving, or sufficiently embarrassing, to install a small scoreboard outside the stadium, in view of the departed Reveilles.
8. 12th Man envy (Date: November 26, 1977)
This is a previously unpublished story that I was sole witness to. A 28–57 blowout loss to former rival Texas seems a strange addition to this list, but it is associated with one of my personal enduring memories of Kyle Field. Among Texas A&M traditions is that the student body stays in the stadium after the team is “outscored” (Aggies never lose) and conduct a Yell Practice. This practice is appropriate because, as part of the team, the 12th Man clearly did not execute sufficiently to win.
As this game ended the Texas fans began filing out. They did so surrounded by thousands of Aggies who stayed for post-game Yell Practice. Orange bedecked fans filed past me with befuddled expressions. More than one looked at the scoreboard again, as if to assure themselves they had actually won.
A middle-aged husband and wife, fully decked in orange clothes and orange hats, mouths agape at the spectacle, paused at they went past me to absorb it all. Then the woman turned to her husband and said, “My God, I wish our son went to a school like this.”
That’s very nice ma’am, but there is no school like this.
7. Texas Quarterback Brett Stafford tries to wait out the 12th Man (Date: November 28, 1985)
It had been a long time since the Aggies had been to the Cotton Bowl and this game was for all the marbles. Winner goes to Dallas as the Southwest Conference Champion. The game was a close 7–0 Aggie lead at halftime, but the Aggies would explode in the second half to trounce the Horns 42–10, a birthday present to Coach Jackie Sherrill who turned 42 that day.
After two quick third quarter scores put the Aggies ahead 21–0 Texas quarterback Brett Stafford decided he had enough of all that noise from the 12th Man. As Texas lined up on third and long he refused to take the snap, whining pathetically to the officials that the crowd noise was too loud for him to get the play off. The officials let him do this, delaying the game until the crowd quieted. With encouragement from the Aggie defense the crowd noise quieted for a bit but as Stafford went up again under center the noise again erupted. Again Stafford stepped away and whined to the officials. Who again let him wait. This went on for nearly three minutes.
When Stafford finally took the snap, he didn’t have a chance. Before he could even set his feet the Aggie defense met at the quarterback for a big sack. This is fun to watch.
6. Midnight Yell Practice (Date: Midnight, before every home game)
The team has to practice, and as part of the team so does The 12th Man. At Midnight before every home game Aggies march into Kyle Field by the tens of thousands to practice their role in the game the next day. Seriously, this actually happens.
Nothing is left to chance. All aspects of what The 12th Man is expected to do the next day are practiced, right down to the kissing discussed above. At one point the lights are dimmed and Aggies huddle up with their date to practice “scoring” for game day. Those not fortunate enough to have dates at Yell Practice bitterly try to ruin the mood by lighting their lighters.
5. 55 Flags (Date: Every game)
For most, World War I, once “The Great War” and “The War To End All Wars” is a nearly forgotten footnote in history, eclipsed by the more recent and larger events of World War II. However every Aggie killed in World War I is honored with an American flag flying over the stadium. 55 flags fly over Kyle Field in honor of the 55 Aggies who died a century ago.
4. Longest football game in college history (Date: November 24, 2018)
Kyle Field features the longest football game in NCAA history, and the highest scoring game. After an exhausting seven overtimes, the Aggies would win 74–72, beating LSU for the first time since joining the SEC. The combined146 points set a NCAA record.
The Aggies had to perform miracles to come from behind and tie it in regulation with a reasonable score of 31–31. At one point the LSU coach was prematurely doused in gatorade after an apparent LSU interception would have sealed the win.
Alas, a review of the play showed the Aggie quarterback’s knee touched the ground on a fumbled snap at the start of the play. The interception was reversed, changed to a sack, and the Aggies went on to dramatically score as time expired to tie the game. Seven overtimes later A&M’s two point conversion finally ended the game.
The game prompted the NCAA to change overtime rules. Beginning with the fifth overtime teams will now alternate two point conversion attempts.
3. Kyle Field comes crashing down (Date: December 21, 2014)
You have to break some eggs to make an omelet and making the omelet of the current Kyle Field involved some exploding eggs. To allow that half billion dollar expansion the entire West side of the stadium was imploded. The incredible video says it all.
2. The Bonfire game (Date: November 26, 1999)
Even at Texas A&M not all traditions last forever. Prior to our former annual game against Texas, Aggies built a massive Bonfire, the world’s largest, as a reflection of our “burning desire to beat tu.” This picture gives you an idea of the size of the structure (note the little people in the foreground).
In the early morning hours on November 18, 1999 tragedy struck. The massive structure, in its final stages of construction, collapsed. Twelve Aggies died, many more were maimed. The Bonfire Commission Report would starkly detail both the physical and cultural causes of the tragedy.
At Texas A&M the outpouring of grief combined with the grim determination of rescue efforts as massive logs had to be pulled out by hand. Hundreds of Aggies rushed to the site to help. These include the Aggie Football team, which suspended practice to assist in rescue efforts.
The emotions associated with this event continue to touch all Aggies. I can’t think about it without tearing up. But the game had to be played. The University of Texas fans were 1,000% class for the game. During halftime the Longhorn Band marched with Aggie flags, and as they played Amazing Grace, dipped their own flags in honor of the lost Aggies.
On the field, however, as it should be, no quarter was shown. Both teams played hard. As the game wound down the Aggies nursed a 20–16 lead, but Texas started moving the ball. In the greatest emotional moment in Kyle Field history the Aggie defense got to the Texas quarterback and stripped the ball, recovering the fumble to win the game.
Aggie linebacker Brian Gamble was overcome at the moment with emotion, in a picture that is a Kyle Field classic.
1. The Red, White & Blue Out (Date: September 22, 2001)
In the week following the 9/11 terrorist attacks most schools cancelled their football games. Often this was compelled because air travel was completely suspended. The Aggies had an open date that week anyway, but were scheduled to host Oklahoma State the following week.
For their first game afterwards many schools paid tribute to 9/11, but none did it better than Texas A&M in Kyle Field.
A&M has a tradition called a “Maroon Out” where everyone wore maroon, creating an awesome visual display in Kyle Field. It started at TexAgs.com as someone suggested a “Red, White and Blue Out” where each of Kyle Field’s three decks would be designated a color that everyone would wear. The power of the internet manifested as the casual suggestion turned into a cause, and then a movement.
Within barely a week the event was organized, tens of thousands of shirts printed and sold. Many were sold as people walked in. The resulting visual display moved a wounded nation. The project raised $150,000 which was donated to 9/11 relief efforts.
The Aggies who accomplished this did something my class could not have done and convinced this “Old Ag” that the Aggie spirit was stronger than ever in a new generation.