Mystery billboard precedes first Gators-Aggies game

By Chris Alcantara

Mystery billboard precedes first Gators-Aggies game

A billboard in northwest Gainesville sparked some pregame trash talk between Florida and Texas A&M University fans Tuesday.

The advertisement read, “Howdy Gainesville: You’ve been annexed by Aggie Nation. The Best Academics & Cleanest Program in the SEC. WHOOP! Real Football. Real Tradition.” It caught the attention of several national media outlets, including USA Today, ESPN and Yahoo! Sports.

The Gators will play the Aggies in their first matchup Saturday in College Station, Texas.

Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications at Texas A&M, said the university has no idea where the billboard came from.

“The billboard was not placed by Texas A&M University and is certainly not reflective of how we’ve handled our transition into the SEC to date,” he said.

Cook said the university is “aggressively” investigating the advertisement.

A Houston-based media company purchased the billboard on behalf of “Aggie Nation,” said Jim Cullinan, vice president of marketing and communications for Clear Channel Outdoor. Clear Channel Outdoor owns the billboard structure.

Cook said that at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Texas A&M requested the company remove the ad due to trademark infringement concerns. Clear Channel Outdoor removed the ad later that day.

Although the buyers’ identities remain unknown, Cook said the ad’s word choice will help narrow down potential leads.

“The use of the phrase ‘Aggie Nation’ sends a strong indication that whoever placed this billboard is not affiliated or connected with the university,” he said.

Texas A&M doesn’t usually use the term “Aggie Nation” to refer to its students and alumni, Cook said. It says “Aggie Network” or “the 12th Man.”

The billboard may have upset some Gator fans, but UF officials aren’t too concerned.

“I think this is some good-spirited ribbing, and we’ll see how things turn out on Saturday,” UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said.

Rick Croft, owner of Texas Trailers across the street from the billboard, said a UF employee recently pointed out the ad to him.

The billboard may be the first public jab by Aggie fans in Gainesville, but Croft said he doesn’t believe it’s a big deal.

“I think it’s good to have a little rivalry,” he said. “I hope we go over there and kick their behinds.”

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