'Not the end of the world': How Texas A&M reacted when Arkansas left the SWC | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer

This the "Topp Rope," a biweekly SEC football column from the USA TODAY Network's Blake Toppmeyer.

R.C. Slocum wasn’t ready to believe that Arkansas would really leave the Southwest Conference in favor of the SEC. Slocum, then Texas A&M’s football coach, said in June 1990 that talks of an Arkansas exit were merely speculative.

Speculation became reality less than two months later. On Aug. 1, 1990, Arkansas accepted an invitation to join the SEC.

The Razorbacks had been the only member of the nine-team SWC not located in Texas. They began competing in the SEC in 1992.

Publicly, at least, the SWC mostly reacted with a shrug of the shoulders when Arkansas announced its departure.

“Who cares?” Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes said, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

“Who is the SEC anyway?” Baylor coach Grant Teaff said.

Arkansas leaving “isn’t like losing oxygen or water. We’ll live,” added SMU coach Forrest Gregg.

Slocum added: “It’s not the end of the world.”

The Texas A&M coach figured Arkansas’ decision would end the Aggies-Razorbacks rivalry. Both schools were charter members of the SWC, which went belly up after the 1995 football season.

“At some point, Arkansas becomes just another SEC team like Ole Miss or Auburn,” Slocum said in 1990. “And if we want to play an SEC team, why not go play Auburn or Georgia in front of 70,000-80,000 fans instead of 50,000 at Arkansas?”

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Slocum’s words were prescient.

After Texas A&M beat the Razorbacks 13-3 in 1991, the teams did not meet again until 2009. They’ve played annually every year since then, with the rivalry re-cemented when the Aggies began competing in the SEC in 2012.

The fifth-ranked Aggies (3-0) will put their nine-game winning streak in the series on the line when they face No. 18 Arkansas (3-0) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) in Arlington, Texas.

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Arkansas already handled one former SWC rival this season, having defeated Texas 40-21 on Sept. 11. Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman dubbed the Longhorns his school’s top rival.

Arkansas and Texas have played 79 times. This will be the 78th meeting between Arkansas and Texas A&M.

Mike Leach is out of touch – again

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach spoke the truth Monday when he said that eliminating social media distractions could aid a team during the season, but he’s living in yesteryear if he thinks that’s possible. And turning up your nose at social media isn’t the way to recruits’ hearts.

“Someone’s going to figure out how to eliminate social media from their team and they’re going to have a remarkably good team,” said Leach, whose Bulldogs (2-1) will host LSU (2-1) on Saturday (noon ET, ESPN).

Starting this year, college athletes can profit off their name, image and likeness. Social media is a big component of that.

Not long after Leach’s comment, Kentucky wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson announced a partnership with a Lexington auto dealership. Robinson announced the deal on social media, of course.

Most schools and coaches are acting opposite of Leach and positioning themselves as social media friendly amid this new landscape that allows athletes to profit off endorsements.

Leach has a history of tweeting dumb things that have caused backlash from players and blowback for his employer. Perhaps he’s the one who should stay off social media.

Lane Kiffin feeds Alabama rat poison

No. 13 Ole Miss (3-0) has an open week, and No. 1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) essentially has a guaranteed victory against Southern Miss, so hype is beginning to build for the Oct. 2 matchup between these teams in Tuscaloosa.

The Rebels are earning praise for their hot start in Year 2 under Lane Kiffin – Ole Miss thumped Tulane 61-21 on Saturday – but Kiffin tried deflecting some attention toward Alabama. Many in the media – myself, included – have written that Alabama showed vulnerability in a 31-29 victory at Florida on Saturday. Kiffin is having none of that.

“As we know, they have a great team and great players,” Kiffin said Wednesday. “I wish the media would stop upsetting coach (Nick) Saban by saying this is a weak team and has weaknesses. They went on the road against a top-10 team in The Swamp.”

Kiffin added that Alabama not only loads up on top recruits, but now can “cherry-pick” transfers with immediate eligibility to address needs.

Shipping up to Boston … but why?

Missouri at Boston College profiles as one of Saturday’s best matchups, but Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz would rather be elsewhere.

“I would love to play a regional matchup that was maybe more of a rivalry game that would be maybe a little bit more exciting for recruits to watch from a TV perspective,” Drinkwitz said. “Or maybe we’re playing in front of your family. I don’t know the last time Missouri signed a kid from the great state of Massachusetts.”

I agree with Drinkwitz, and soon, so will Missouri’s schedule. Missouri will begin a two-game series with former Big 12 foe Kansas State next season before renewing its Border War rivalry against Kansas in 2025. Its rivalry against Illinois will resume in 2026. Any of those matchups make more sense than a trip to Boston College.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.