Established in 1876 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, Texas A&M was once open only to young men, all of whom served in the Corps of Cadets. While that changed more than 50 years ago, many of the university's most outstanding traditions grew out of that military background.
Today, they are the foundation and the background of the Aggie core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service. From the oldest – such as the Aggie Ring and Muster – to the newest – such as Big Event and First Yell – the traditions of Texas A&M create what Aggies call the Spirit of Aggieland.
Texas A&M is known by sports fans everywhere as the home of the 12th Man. Since the time of E. King Gill, every Aggie stands ready to step up, suit up and go out on the field to help the team. In 1922 Texas A&M played Centre College, and the Aggies suffered so many injuries in the first half that Coach Dana X. Bible had only eleven players and called Gill out of the stands to suit up and stand ready to play if needed.
Although Gill didn't play, he was the last man – the 12th man – standing on the sideline. He later said, "I simply stood by in case my team needed me." The Aggies won, and since that time, Aggies stand ready and willing to support their team to the point of actually entering the game.
The tradition was born out of the willingness to serve. Aggies, always ready to give of themselves and solidly united, stand together and remain standing during the entire football game as a symbol of the 12th Man on the team. This willing spirit has endured and today the Aggie student body is known as the 12th Man, united in loyalty, united in support and united and ready to serve when they are called to do so.
It has been said that being an Aggie doesn't just define where you went to school, it defines who you are. The distinctive Aggie Ring serves as the symbolic link to the Aggie network of former students.
One of the greatest moments in the life of any Aggie is the day they receive their Aggie Ring. Aggies around the world recognize each other when they see the ring and greet each other as friends. The ring is not given, it must be earned academically.
Although the first Aggie Ring began with the class of 1889, it was E.C. Jonas, class of 1894, who designed the ring Aggies wear today. Nothing on the ring has changed, except when the university's name changed to Texas A&M University in 1963.
Civil engineering graduate Patrick Brand ('81) became the first to send an Aggie Ring into space when his father, Vance D. Brand, carried it as commander of Space Shuttle Columbia Mission STS-5 in 1982. Twenty-five years later, Brand donated his Aggie ring to the aerospace engineering department to hopefully inspire future Aggies.
Nothing shows the Aggie tradition of service like Big Event – the largest one-day student-run service project in the nation.
Texas A&M students, faculty and staff came together to say 'thank you' to the residents of Bryan/College Station for supporting and hosting them while they attend Texas A&M. Spreading throughout the community, Aggie volunteers worked on approximately 1,500 community service jobs.
Big Event began unceremoniously in 1982 with six Aggies volunteering to clean up a local cemetery. Since that time, an ever-increasing number of Aggies have volunteered their time in order to create, as they say, 'one big day, one big thanks and one Big Event.'
The Big Event demonstrates Aggie Spirit in action, showcasing Texas A&M's core values of respect, integrity, leadership, excellence, loyalty and selfless service.
Corps of Cadets
Texas A&M was established as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in 1876 and its students (Aggies) were all members of the Corps of Cadets.
Although membership in the corps is no longer mandatory, cadets are known as 'The Keepers of the Spirit' because many of A&M's most cherished traditions grew out of the corps, including Muster, Silver Taps, and Midnight Yell Practice as well as the core values of loyalty and service.
The Corps of Cadets has been training leaders who have served their state, nation and the world with distinction. One corps unit – The Ross Volunteers – actually serves as the official honor guard for the governor of Texas.
More than 2,000 strong, today the men and women of the corps form the largest uniformed student body in the U.S. outside the service academies. In spite of the fact that membership carries no military obligation, the corps at Texas A&M commissions more officers into the military than any institution except for the national military academies.
Fightin' Texas Aggie Band
All members of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band ― the largest military marching band in the United States — are members of the Corps of Cadets. The band was formed in 1894 to coincide with the first Aggie football game and remains a source of great pride to the entire Aggie family.
The nationally acclaimed band is known for military precision and style; some of the band's maneuvers -- such as the famous block T – are so complex that a computer says they can't be done because they require two people to be in the same place at the same time. It's been said that the band has never lost a half time, so when the band steps off on the heavy beat of the Aggie War Hymn during half time, Aggies respond with a resounding 'Whoop!'
The band performs at all university football games, in inaugural parades for presidents and governors and at numerous other special events, making it one of the most traveled collegiate marching bands in the nation. The nationally acclaimed band known for military precision and style, operates under strict military guidelines as an integral part of the corps.
Every year nine hundred counselors willingly give up time and effort in order to welcome Texas A&M's greatest and most important tradition: The Freshmen Class.
Through a 4-day orientation program held in Palestine, TX, freshmen are given the opportunity to learn Aggie Traditions, ease their way into college life, develop leadership skills and create bonds that will last a lifetime.
In true Aggie Spirit, 'Howdy' is the official greeting of Texas A&M. The university is known for its welcoming attitude and for making sure no one who visits the campus feels like a stranger.
Visitors often say they find the friendliness of the campus remarkable. They tell stories of looking lost only to have an Aggie walk up, say 'Howdy' and offer to help and, to their amazement, walk with them to make sure they arrive at their destination.
While the exact origin of this tradition is not known, 'Howdy' has come to be a tradition that sets Texas A&M apart as one of the friendliest campuses in the world, where all are welcome.
At a yell practice before the 1930 TCU game, a dedicated fan, and member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents named Pinky Downs '06 shouted, 'What are we going to do to those Horned Frogs?' Improvising, he borrowed a the name of a sharp-pronged frog hunting tool, called a gig . 'Gig 'em, Aggies!' he said as he made a fist with his thumb extended straight up. With that, the first hand sign in the old Southwest Conference was born.
Today the words and the thumbs up sign are found outside the football stadium and have come to signify that the person is an Aggie or an Aggie fan. Usually done with the right hand, the 'gig 'em' sign also shows the world an Aggie's class ring worn on that hand. More than that, it signals optimism, determination, loyalty and the Aggie Spirit.
Each football season, one game is specially designated for Maroon Out as a way to build unity among the Aggie community. The Maroon Out tradition began in 1988 when tens of thousands of Aggies attending the Texas A&M vs. Nebraska game were encouraged to wear their Aggie colors and create a sea of maroon in the stands. So many maroon shirts were purchased that it led to a temporary national shortage of maroon T-shirts.
Even the Nebraska fans acknowledged after the game that the intensity of the Maroon Out spirit made a difference in the game leading to A&M's 28-21 victory. As The Daily Nebraskan expressed it on October 12, 1998: 'A game that was dubbed a 'maroon-out' for Texas A&M fans proved to be a lights out for Nebraska. The fans dressed themselves in maroon T-shirts in an attempt to wash out the red and white that opponents have gotten used to. It worked.'
Since 1988, Maroon Out has been a visual reminder of a well-known fact in Aggieland – Aggies are so loyal to their team and their school that they even bleed maroon.
Aggies, never known to lack enthusiasm for their school and their team, don't have 'cheers' – they have 'yells' and yell leaders. The night before every home game, Aggies hold Midnight Yell at Kyle Field and it is regularly attended by more than 25,000 people. The yell leaders lead the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band and current and former students (known as the 12th Man) into the stadium.
Once there, they lead the crowd in 'old army yells' dating back to the time the school was all male and all military. They sing the fight song and tell of how the Aggies are going to beat the opponent on the field the next day.
A recent addition to Midnight Yell is called First Yell. The yell leaders started it in 1999 as a way of welcoming all Aggies, current and former students, back to campus to begin a new school year. First Yell occurs on the weekend of the first home football game and includes performances from student, local, and nationally-known entertainers. At the end of the performance, Aggies walk across campus to attend Midnight Yell at Kyle Field.
Muster is the tradition that forever unites the Aggies past with Aggies present. It is Texas A&M's most solemn and most visible tradition.
Muster was first held on June 26, 1883 where former students of Texas A&M gathered together to '... live over again our college days, the victories and defeats won and lost upon drill ground and classroom. Let every alumnus answer a roll call.' No matter where Aggies are, whether it is as few as two or as many as the thousands who gather on the Texas A&M campus, they come together each April 21 for Muster.
At each Muster ceremony around the world, a speaker will be followed by the 'Roll Call For The Absent.' Names of those from that area who have died in the past year will be read, and as each name is called, a family member or friend will answer 'Here' to show that Aggie is present in spirit, and a candle will be lit.
Following the candle-lighting ceremony in Reed Arena, a rifle volley is fired and then a special arrangement of 'Taps' is played.
Parson's Mounted Cavalry Cannon
Found in a ravine near Easterwood Airport in 1974 while Aggies were out searching for Bonfire wood, the cannon used by Parson's Mounted Cavalry is a 1902 Howitzer.
Restored in 1980, and first used during game day at Kyle Field in 1984, the cannon is fired after every Texas A&M score on the gridiron.
The good news for Aggies in the stands? When the team scores, the Aggies score! When the Aggies score a touchdown and the cannon fires, that's the symbol for Aggies to grab their date and give them a kiss, affectionately known as "mugging down."
Reveille, the first lady of Aggieland, is the official mascot of Texas A&M. As a five-star general, she is the highest ranking member of the Corps of Cadets. She attends class with the cadet tasked with her care and attends football and other events on campus.
The first Reveille came to Texas A&M in January 1931. A group of cadets hit a small black and white dog on the road and picked her up and brought her back to school so they could care for her. She got her name the next morning when 'Reveille' was blown by a bugler and she started barking.
When Reveille I died in 1944, she was given a formal military funeral and buried at the north end of Kyle Field so that the score of the Aggie football game was always visible from the site. It was not until later that a purebred Collie was selected as mascot.
The most current Reveille is Reveille VIII, and she was officially introduced on August 30, 2008.
The oldest honor guard and drill team of it's kind in the state, the Ross Volunteer Company is the Honor Guard for the Governor of the State of Texas.
Beginning in 1887 as the Scott Volunteers, they were renamed by 1898 in honor of former Governor and president of the college Lawrence Sullivan Ross.
The Ross Volunteers also participate at Muster and Silver Taps where they fire three rifle volleys.
By far, one of Texas A&M's most honored traditions is Silver Taps. Silver Taps is held for a graduate or undergraduate student who passes away while enrolled at A&M. This final tribute is held the first Tuesday of the month following the students' passing.
The first Silver Taps was held in 1898 and honored Lawrence Sullivan Ross, the former governor of Texas and president of A&M College. Silver Taps is currently held in Academic Plaza. On the day of Silver Taps, a small card with the deceased students name, class, major, and date of birth is placed at the base of the Academic Plaza flagpole, and the Silver Taps Memorial located behind the flagpole. Around 10:15 that night, the lights are extinguished and hymns chime from Albritton Tower. Students silently gather at the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. At 10:30pm, the Ross Volunteer Firing Squad marches into the plaza and fires a twenty-one gun salute. Buglers then play a special rendition of Silver Taps, by Colonel Richard Dunn, three times from the dome of the Academic Building: once to the north, south, and west. It is not played to the east because it is said that the sun will never rise on that Aggies life again. After the buglers play, the students leave from Academic Plaza in complete silence. Silver Taps is a sacred tradition that Aggies treasure dearly.
Spirit of Aggieland
The Spirit of Aggieland is the alma mater of the Texas A&M University. It was originally written as a poem by Marvin H. Mimms while he was a student at Texas A&M. Richard J. Dunn, the director of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band at the time, composed the music. Students, faculty, and former students of the A&M sing the song at Aggie sporting events, Muster, and other events.
The Spirit of Aggieland also refers to the "spirit can ne'er be told." Many people describe Texas A&M University as having a unique school spirit that "From the outside looking in, you can't understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can't explain it."
It has been said that when an Aggie graduates, the most important thing he/she walks away with is not the diploma or Aggie Ring, but the connection to the Aggie Family.
Transfer Camp, or T-Camp, is a 3 day, 2 night, extended orientation program that introduces transfer students to the many opportunities that exist at Texas A&M and the long-standing traditions that embody the true meaning of being an Aggie.
The idea for T-Camp came from transfer students themselves; they wanted an extended orientation experience similar to Fish Camp, but specifically for transfer students. T-Camp became "A Transfer's First Tradition" in 1987. Today, this student-run organization is composed of over 100 current students, and welcomes around 500 new Aggies into the Aggie Family each year.
No song has ever been more appropriately titled. Written in the trenches of the Argonne Forest during World War I, rain, mud, blood, and the noise of battle accompanied its authorship.
Written on the back of a letter from home in 1918, J.V. "Pinky" Wilson started the song with the words "Hullabaloo Caneck! Caneck!" because he felt a quartet needed a tune up to get started properly.
The original song is actually the second verse of the hymn; in 1928, Wilson wrote another verse at the request of several Aggie students. After the second verse, Aggie fans link their arms and legs, and sway left and right to replicate the motion of a saw blade; this is called "sawing Varsity's horns off" (prior to the Texas football team adopting the Longhorn as the official mascot, the team was simply known as "Varsity").
Full lyrics to the Aggie War Hymn can be found here.
When people want to know where the cheerleaders are during Aggie games, they quickly learn Aggies don't cheer – they yell. You won't find cheerleaders; you'll find Yell Leaders. Yell Leaders are a team of upperclassmen, three seniors and two juniors, elected each year by the student body.
It began in 1907 when Texas A&M was still an all-male institution. Ladies were invited to campus to attend football games, and according to legend, during one game the upperclassmen ordered the freshmen to find a way to entertain their guests. The freshmen found white coveralls and began leading the crowd in yells. They had so much fun, and received so much attention from the ladies, that it was decided that only upperclassmen would be allowed to participate in leading yells in the future.
Aggie Yell Leaders still wear white during games and attend all home and away football games, all home basketball, volleyball and soccer games, as well as post-season football, basketball and volleyball. They can always be found on the sidelines of the playing field in front of the student section, encouraging the Aggies to show their Aggie Spirit!