Not too long ago, the Texas A&M football program was on top of the social media world.
You'd think that a tradition uber alles institution whose advances tend to be less cold fusion and more maroon carrots would have trouble staking out territory where cutting-edge technology and bleeding-edge hipness intersect. But during the halcyon days of 2014, the Aggie brand was riding high on Twitter. Buoyed SEC hype, Drake spinning at practice, an exciting African-American coach and a black swan Heisman winner at QB, the Ags had become synonymous with swagger - and that Ag Swag was perfectly symbolized by the ubiquitous #WRTS (We Run This State) hashtag. Simply developing a catchy and Tweet-friendly five-character slogan that trended like mad and bolstered your standing in the eyes of high school talent would have been a win in and of itself. But allowing a 5-star recruit's family to trademark that hashtag for fun and profit? Now that's playing at the next level. It was the kind of forward-thinking exploitation of a new medium that could have signaled a sea change in the Aggies' second-sibling status statewide.
If you're totally unfamiliar with Texas A&M's history over the past century then this next statement could come as a shock to you, so brace yourself:
It didn't work out.
In fact, "didn't work out" is a fair piece of understatement considering that the Aggie brand is currently roasting in a social media bonfire of their own making.
The trouble began when the Aggies' courtship of 2017 QB recruit Tate Martell hit the skids. A highly-touted signal-caller from Las Vegas' storied Bishop Gorman program, Martell received one Rivals star for every fourteen inches of height as well as the acclaim of the Aggie faithful when he made his commitment to Kevin Sumlin last August. A&M fans envisioned their Lil' General leading them to a string of Toulons and Austerlitzes against their SEC foes and carrying on the burgeoning Aggie tradition of five-star quarterback recruits.
And indeed he would - just not in the way that they might have hoped.
Like many recruits, Martell smelled a rat when both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray fled College Station this December like...well shoot, we already used rats in this sentence so the sinking ship analogy would be kind of repetitive. Like moles from a Roto-Tiller? OK, let's go with that. While Martell didn't publicly renounce his pledge, those keeping an eye on the situation could feel his fealty fading fast. You can live with it when current commitment publicly avows that he'll take all five of his official visits, but the hubristic homunculus kicked it up a notch when he added a list of roughly fifteen additional institutions who he hoped would recruit him. All this came to a predictable pass on Wednesday, when Martell finally pulled the trigger on his decommitment:
After talking with my family about— Tate Martell (@TheTateMartell) May 5, 2016
what is best for my future, I have
decided to reopen my recruiting
This was of course a nightmare come to life for A&M fans, but savvy Longhorn followers also felt a twinge of disappointment. On the off, off, off chance that Martell did ultimately make to Aggieland, we'd have enjoyed a half-decade of Little Man Tate, Tater Tot and Viper vs the Mountain jokes that will never come to pass. But given the utter inevitability of this move, we'd have wrung much more entertainment out of a January bailout or even a full-blown, last minute Perriloux Switcheroux. In a way, it seemed like the Comedy Gods had let us down.
But the Comedy Gods would not leave us wanting this day. They sent Cupid's ne'er-do-well brother, Stupid, down from on high to unload his quiver on Aggie wide receivers' coach Aaron Moorehead. And the resulting flameout would be glorious:
Subtweets Aren't Sub Rosa
When you're affiliated with a University and you take to Twitter to directly or indirectly address recruits, you have three choices. You can take the high road. You can take the low road. Or you can go totally subterranean, strap strap a couple of nukes to yourself and try to re-enact the plot of The Core. To be fair, Moorehead didn't plumb the same depths as Aggie grad student Daniel Figurelli, who changed his own personal career trajectory from "PWC Accountant" to "Would You Like Fries With That?" thanks to an inane scheme of Tweeting racist garbage at recruits (warning: NSFW language and general vileness) from sock puppet Twitter accounts. But when you're a 35-year old man with a Super Bowl ring, you're ideally capable of taking the high road when a high schooler changes his mind.
Instead, Moorehead ripped a page out of Wile E. Coyote's Acme catalog and fired off a self-sabotaging subtweet salvo on Wednesday evening that featured this trio of gems:
I wasn't even talking about who everyone thinks I'm talking about. I didn't even know #badtiming #relevanttho #stillnoloyalty— Aaron Moorehead (@Amo8685) May 5, 2016
Those of us still groping our way into the 2010's from a social media standpoint might benefit from a quick primer on subtweets. Let's see what ol' Merriam-Webster has to say on the subject:
/seb * twet/ noun informal
1. A Twitter post that refers to a particular user without mentioning them or their Twitter handle directly, typically as a form of furtive mockery or criticism.
2. This is different than a direct message, you thundering dolt.
3. The key difference here is that a subtweet is still visible to everyone and people can read it, decipher it (despite your cunning attempt to throw people off the trail) and re-Tweet it to their hearts' content .
4. And boy, did they ever.
It took about a quarter hour for this fiasco to blow up in the Aggies' face like a loaded cigar. Premier 2017 recruits like RB Eno Benjamin, LB Baron Browning, S Jeffrey Okudah and California WR Tyjon Lindsey were all swift to register their disdain. While A&M was on the outside looking in for all of those dudes, one of the guys inside their 2017 class took a look at his prospective coach and decided to get the hell out as four-star wide receiver Manny Netherly promptly bid the Ags adieu:
‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/2g0ee2pRkA— Mannie Netherly (@yovng_netherly) May 5, 2016
It didn't stop there, as media outlets far and wide were swift to join in the dogpile. A chastened Moorehead offered a Thursday apology via the same medium that landed him in hot water in the first place:
May 5, 2016
but that toothpaste won't be getting back into the tube any time soon.
While A&M's move to the SEC has had an impact on in-state recruiting dynamics, it's looking like worries about the Aggies themselves scooping the state's premium talent will prove to be unfounded.
And fears that they'd stop providing us with Aggie jokes? Well, those were just silly to begin with.