Decisions that defined A&M in 2012: No. 1

This week, GigEmNation looks back at five decisions that helped define Texas A&M's 2012 season. These moments could be on or off the field or could have even come before the season, so long that they had a lasting impact on the Aggies' 2012 campaign. Today, we look at our pick for No. 1, A&M's decision to move to the Southeastern Conference.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin called the school's decision to join the Southeastern Conference a "100-year decision" but it took less than a year for the Aggies to see the potential of what membership in the country's premier football conference could do for them.

They officially joined the SEC on July 1, 2012, just more than nine months after the decision became official. In six months, things have changed drastically, particularly for Aggies football.

Texas A&M exceeded most people's expectations, going an impressive 11-2 and finishing in the top 10 for the first time since 1994. Their No. 5 ranking at the end of the season was their highest final ranking since 1956.

The buzz about Texas A&M is no longer just regional. It's national, thanks in part to the SEC.

Before the season, Jason Cook, Texas A&M's vice president for marketing and communications, called the transition "a brand move" that had less to do with the Aggies football record and more to do with the exposure that a conference the caliber and reputation of the SEC could bring.

It turned out that the Aggies could have their cake and eat it, too -- the heavy exposure and a nice football record.

The Aggies' win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa -- something that would not had been possible if the Aggies weren't in the SEC to have the BCS champions on their schedule -- was as big a reason as any for Texas A&M having its first Heisman Trophy winner in 55 years [Johnny Manziel].

And the conference membership is paying off in recruiting as well. The Aggies have the country's fifth-ranked class and Kevin Sumlin and his staff are recruiting nationally because of their league membership. Recent ESPN 300 receiver commit Tony Stevens of Orlando (Fla.) Evans even said he wouldn't have considered going to Texas A&M if the Aggies weren't in the SEC.

There were many reasons why Texas A&M's season was a success: from Sumlin and his staff to the play of Manziel. But the fact that those things occurred in what many consider to be the nation's premier football conference make the Aggies decision to join the SEC the decision that most defined Texas A&M in 2012.