A tweet by CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell (who has 200,000 followers) turned into the Internet’s most clamored-about college football story Tuesday.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 17, 2012
As ESPN.com and the Associated Press reported, the shirts were not produced by Texas A&M, but rather, College Station retailer Aggieland Outfitters, which issued an apology for what its Twitter feed called “Mapgate”:
We would like to apologize for a t-shirt that has come under fire for its inaccuracies. Many members of the media, especially those connected to other schools in Texas, have insinuated that Texas A&M made these shirts, and that Texas A&M doesn’t know geography. That’s simply not true. Aggieland Outfitters designed the shirt and simply made a mistake.
The t-shirt was originally designed to reflect the SEC states before expansion on the front, and then refer to the addition of a “Texas style of football” on the back. The original sketch did not have North Carolina on it, but when an artist drew the map, it was added by mistake.
Texas and Missouri were never part of the design, as it was supposed to be a nod to the original 12 members of the SEC.
While it was a simple error, our biggest concern is that Texas A&M is associated with it, and that was never our intention.
(The best part of that of course, is the reference to media “connected to other schools in Texas.”)
Aggieland Outfitters itself is best known for its “Saw ‘Em Off” t-shirt. In 2006, the store was sued by the University of Texas for a trademark violation; that case was settled early the next year, with Aggieland paying a one-time fee of $25,000 and agreeing to make changes to the artwork.
According to AP, only a few dozen of the “mapgate” shirts were printed before being recalled.
At Aggiesports.com, A&M spokeman Jason Cook put the best possible pro-SEC spin on the incident, telling David Harris:
A year ago, if this situation would have happened, no one would have cared. It would not have been part of the national dialogue in the Twitter world today as part of that. But now, because we’ve changed conferences it is national fodder because we’re on the radar. This time last year, we weren’t. That tells me there’s a lot more growth in the exposure of the brand.
“Maybe one day Aggieland Outfitters will appear omniscient for its ability to predict conference expansion,” wrote Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle.
That seems like fair conjecture: Four of North Carolina’s FBS schools are in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which the University of Texas had been linked to during the last round of crazy realignment rumors.
And at Fox Sports Southwest, Keith Whitmire’s column included this helpful addition:
What the apology doesn’t explain is the long-standing Texas tradition of telling Aggies jokes. The jokes, usually told in good fun, portray Aggies as having low intelligence, which is in direct contrast to the school’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading research universities.