- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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A little more spice has been added to Saturday’s game between No. 24 Florida and SEC newcomer Texas A&M.
There's a humorous billboard standing in Gainesville, Fla., heralding Texas A&M and taking shots at the SEC.
The billboard reads: “You've been annexed by Aggie Nation. The Best Academics & Cleanest Program in the SEC. WHOOP! Real Football. Real Tradition.”
Texas A&M spokesman Jason Cook said on Twitter that the university isn’t associated with the billboard and had nothing to do with it being planted in Gainesville.
“The Gainesville billboard was NOT placed by Texas A&M University. We are investigating,” Cook tweeted.
Cook later came out with a statement in which he clarified even more that the Aggies had nothing to do with the billboard:
"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. 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."
Well, that's just no fun at all. Nothing wrong with a little trash talk and strategically placed billboards.
While the location of the billboard, which is at the intersection of 13th Street and 53rd Avenue, sits about four and half miles away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and Florida's campus, someone in Gainesville is bound to be irked by it.
"I really didn’t pay attention to it," Florida safety Josh Evans said. "I saw it but my mind ain’t on that. I’m about winning this game."
You just can't get upset at Texas A&M about it. The school didn't put it there and is associated with it by name alone. Still, it's funny. The creator of this sign used some interesting word play by stating that Texas A&M is the "cleanest" program in the SEC. How soon we forget about the two times A&M was hit with the "lack of institutional control" label under Jackie Sherrill and R.C. Slocum. And 1988 wasn't so great for the Aggies, as the NCAA uncovered numerous incidents involving improper incentives for prospective student-athletes.
Also, I think we can all agree that Vanderbilt takes home the academic trophy in this league.
The billboard is all in fun, but I'm sure Will Muschamp and his staff will find someway to use it as motivation for their players. And it's not like Texas A&M needs the Gators to be even more motivated. They are playing their first game of the season -- in their new conference, against a new conference foe -- while Florida is a game ahead. Florida can see what it needs to fix from an actual game. And something says the offense wants to do much better than it did over the weekend.
2dMark Schlabach and Sharon Katz