Texas A&M billboard on 13th Street swiftly removed

Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 10:37 p.m.

A billboard in Gainesville that seemed to insult the Gators on behalf of Texas A&M University has been taken down, but the mystery of who paid for it remains.

The billboard had been located near the intersection of Northwest 13th Street and 53rd Avenue. It touted the football program at new Southeastern Conference member Texas A&M and said that Gainesville has been “annexed by the Aggie Nation.”

“The Best Academics & Cleanest Program in the SEC. WHOOP!” the billboard said.

Texas A&M University officials said they didn’t authorize the sign. After sending a cease-and-desist letter alleging trademark infringement Tuesday afternoon, billboard owner Clear Channel replaced the billboard with a message advertising the company.

“To protect any trademark we’ll take it down, and if they resolve it, we’re happy to put it back up,” said Jim Cullinan, head of communications for Clear Channel.

Texas A&M is hosting the University of Florida on Saturday in the Aggies’ first SEC football game. The billboard is “not in line with how we have handled our transition to the SEC,” said Jason Cook, Texas A&M’s vice president for marketing and communications.

Cullinan said a Houston media company representing a group called Aggie Nation bought the billboard. But Cook said the university has a “strong suspicion” that it was not placed there by anyone affiliated with Texas A&M or its supporters.

“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.

He said the university had “strong leads” about the identity of those behind the billboard, but wouldn’t say whether fans of the University of Texas or another rival were suspected.

The billboard’s use of the Texas A&M’s maroon color and the term Aggies violated the university’s trademark, the cease-and-desist letter alleged. Texas A&M officials were not aware of the billboard until Tuesday morning and acted Tuesday afternoon to get it removed, Cook said.

“We’re very appreciative of Clear Channel for the quick response and very apologetic that the billboard was placed there,” he said.

Contact staff reporter Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com. For more stories on the University of Florida, visit www.thecampussun.com.

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