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'Aggie Nation' billboard taunting Gators on Florida's home turf taken down

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

It's safe to say someone in College Station isn't afraid of ruffling some feathers in the SEC--or adding a little fuel to Florida's motivational fire ahead of the Gators' Saturday visit to Kyle Field.

Per the Florida official site GatorZone.com, this billboard appeared this week at an intersection in northeast Gainesville recently:

Yes, that's the words "Howdy Gainesville" followed by "You've been annexed by Aggie Nation" and then -- buckle up -- "The Best Academics & Cleanest Program in the SEC. WHOOP! Real Football. Real Tradition."

Not surprisingly, given the downright incendiary tone of the billboard, Texas A&M spokesman Jason Cook was quick to point out the billboard was not put up by the Aggies themselves.

"This billboard was not placed by Texas A&M University, and it is certainly not reflective of how we have handled our transition into the SEC," Cook said in a statement. "We are investigating aggressively, as we believe that our institutional trademarks have been infringed upon. Texas A&M has tremendous respect for the University of Florida, and we look forward to hosting the Gators in our first SEC football game this weekend."

Apparently those "institutional trademarks" carry more than a little sway: per this photo from USA Today reporter Rachel George and a statement to George from billboard owner Clear Channel Outdoor, those trademarks have resulted in the billboard already being taken down:

The billboard is already the new season's second college football-related billboard to appear and be taken down in less than a week, following in the footsteps of a Matt Barkley billboard near UCLA's campus that also was hastily removed.

But that billboard was officially USC's idea, whereas the "Aggie Nation" billboard remains the work of persons unknown. Typically, the recent explosion in college football-related billboard smack has been between local rivals--planting a trash-talking billboard in enemy territory from several hundred miles away is unusual, and doing it before your team has played a single game in the conference you're chirping at takes a certain kind of admirable cojones on the part of whoever's responsible. Kudos for that, at least.

And this might not be just a case of the new kid on the block trying to throw some swagger around a la Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardons and his "old man football" comments in Georgia's direction Sunday. Remember, Will Muschamp is a former Texas assistant who in May said one visit to College Station was enough, drawing a terse response from Kevin Sumlin and a highly enjoyable video retort from the city mayor. This particular billboard might be personal.

But its actual substance is, for lack of a better term, trying too hard. "Best Academics"? Uh, Vanderbilt. "Cleanest program"? Aggies, it wasn't all that long ago you employed Jackie Sherrill and got slapped with a one-year bowl and TV ban as a repeat violator. "Real Football" after winning more than seven games twice in the last 10 seasons? Come on, guys.

(In fact, the "cleanest program" claim is so over the top, so easily punctured, that rumors have begun that the billboard was a satire created by rival fans. We're skeptical, but stranger things have happened in college football.)

So, assuming the billboard was legitimate: A- for concept, D+ for execution. But no matter--the billboard officially has the Gators' attention, and we suspect that's all that really matters to whoever's behind it.

 
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