Well, the billboard that was the talk of the sporting world yesterday is no more. The sign which went up in Gainesville and told Texas A&M’s next opponent, Florida, that they had been “annexed by Aggie Nation” came down for legal reasons. And the search for the one-armed man behind the billboard goes on.
When the story first broke yesterday, the school immediately put out a release — and sent this website a couple of very nice emails — stating that no one tied to Texas A&M had anything to do with the sign. And I don’t think anyone would think that the school was behind the board. Florida president Bernie Machen and A&M president R. Bowen Loftin actually worked together to start the Aggie ball rolling toward the SEC. And, let’s face it, no school would want to rile up an opponent before a big game.
Texas A&M officials also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Clear Channel — the owner of the billboard — claiming trademark infringement. Clear Channel responded by taking down the billboard.
According to The Gainesville Sun, Clear Channel honcho Jim Cullinan said the billboard was paid for by “a Houston media company representing a group called Aggie Nation.”
Aggie fans immediately picked up on the whole “Aggie Nation” thing. For those SEC’ers just getting to know A&M, apparently it’s Aggieland, not Aggie Nation… at least according to the many, many angry A&M fans I’ve heard from in the past 24 hours. For that reason, A&M VP of marketing and communications Jason Cook — like many Aggie fans — suspects that someone other than a pro-A&M person put up the billboard.
“Texas A&M fans do not refer to themselves as the Aggie Nation… We refer to ourselves either as the Aggie Network or the Twelfth Man,” Cook said.
Cook told this site today:
“With words typically connected with Texas A&M, such as Aggie and Whoop, as well as the color maroon, we felt that we had a strong infringement case once the entire contest of the billboard was taken into account.
We have a strong suspicion that the billboard was not placed by an Aggie, given that we do not call ourselves the Aggie Nation, but rather the Aggie Network, Aggie Family or the 12th Man. We know that the billboard order was placed out of Clear Channel’s Houston office, and we are continuing to investigate who placed it.”
Thanks to Cook for always providing a quick response to us.
Most Aggie fans have told us that they believe it musta/hadta be a Texas or Baylor fan who paid for that sign. Mainly because no fine, upstanding Aggie would have ever done such a thing.
Of course, just for writing about the story, I’ve personally been accused of “yellow journalism” and have been threatened via email. I guess no one in the A&M fanbase would post a billboard, but they would send threats to someone who covered a story that everyone else wound up covering, too.
Newsflash to Aggie fans — Yes, it could have been a pro-Aggie person behind the billboard. Why? Because there’s not a fanbase in the country that doesn’t have a few loons inside it. Perhaps a Texas or Baylor group was behind the sign. Perhaps a Florida fan in Houston bought the sign under the “Aggie Nation” name in order to fire up his own school’s team. But it’s also absolutely possible that an Aggie did buy the board. (Though personally, I hope it proves to be someone associated with Texas or Baylor.)
Interestingly, in addition to the “it couldn’t have been one us” responses that were so numerous yesterday, there was also a “the SEC just hates us” backlash. Where this comes from I don’t know, but the feeling was summed up quite well by Yahoo! Sports contributor and TAMU alum Eric R. Ivie right here:
“SEC fans who are still looking for a reason — any reason — to hate Texas A&M’s arrival in the conference are, naturally jumping all over this billboard as a sign of Aggies’ ‘arrogance.’”
Oh, please. Are there some folks who didn’t want A&M or Missouri or anyone else joining the SEC? Sure. But the vast majority of people I’ve spoken with believe the Aggies will be a good fit.
This site wrote about the billboard and there’s not been a bigger proponent of A&M-to-the SEC than MrSEC.com. We’ve repeatedly stated that A&M and the SEC should have married years ago. Last summer we guaranteed — when the Big 12 was being duct-taped back together — that A&M would eventually join the SEC because it made too much sense. The two bodies had played footsie with one another for a quarter-century. And TAMU fits the SEC mold perfectly — big school, rural school, football-crazy school.
Still, one A&M commenter said yesterday that he’s been a fan of this site since A&M joined the league, but two stories in the past week had changed his mind. Last week I wrote that Kevin Sumlin would look bad for pushing back the suspension of two players from the opening game — against Florida — to later in the season — against Louisiana Tech. Then yesterday I wrote that as a hater of trash talk, I hoped that A&M would get a wake-up call whoopin’ from Florida (if, of course, an Aggie fan or fan group had posted that sign). That apparently convinced the commenter that I’m now a “yellow journalist.”
See the issue? I write nice things about A&M… I’m a great fella. I suddenly post two opinions that aren’t pro-A&M and I’m immediately a yellow journalist. In other words, if I’m not writing something good about TAMU, I’m a bad person with bad motives because everyone knows that any person associated with A&M wears a halo and can do no wrong.
Well, I still believe A&M will be a perfect fit in the Southeastern Conference. The passionate fanbase — 99% of which has been fantastic, by the way — fits right in with the rest of the league. Like every other school, the Aggies have a few fans who take things too far and who believe anyone with an opinion that differs from their own must — Must! — have an agenda against their school.
We just call it like we see it around here. No one at this site hates Texas A&M or the Aggie Nation — whoops — Aggieland. We’re pro-A&M joining the SEC. Heck, we like the folks we’ve dealt with at the school itself, too. (Interestingly, they said nothing but nice things about the site and they didn’t take offense to what was written yesterday… unless they were one behind those anonymous threats I received via Hotmail accounts. Hmmm.)
But if an A&M person put up that billboard, he deserves a little bad karma in the form of a loss for his favorite team on Saturday. And if a Texas or Baylor fan posted that sign, we’ll be more than happy to report that right here in big, bold letters. ‘Cause let’s face it, you can’t say “we’re glad you left” and then post billboards proving that you’re still obsessed with the school that left you.
Either way, any Aggie who expects to come here and read nothing but warm fuzzies about his school is going to be disappointed. We’ll not agree with everything A&M officials or players or coaches or fans do. When we don’t, we’ll write about it. Just as we’ll say plenty of nice things when we do like what’s going on in College Station.
I don’t think anyone accused me or the other writers at this site of being “yellow journalists” when we wrote this piece. Or this one. We call it like we see it. If you want to read pro-Aggie news all the time, better sign up for A&M’s Scout or Rivals sites. If you want an outsider’s opinion — an opinion that you can take or leave — then you’re more than welcome to hang out here.