Florida makes moves to distance itself from former Gator Aaron Hernandez
The University Athletic Association has spent the past few weeks trying to distance itself from former All-American tight end Aaron Hernandez, who remains in a Massachusetts prison charged with first degree murder.
On Thursday, the UAA announced it has removed Hernandez's likeness from multiple areas of its football complex, and removed Hernandez from the bricks commemorating its All-Americans.
"We didn't feel it was appropriate to celebrate Aaron Hernandez,'' the University Athletic Association said in a statement. "We put together an immediate plan after the initial news broke to remove his likeness and name in various private and public areas in the facility, such as the South Endzone team area, locker room, football offices, Heavener Complex, Kornblau Lobby and the brick display entrance to the football facility."
Hernandez, 23, has been accused of orchestrating the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player who was the boyfriend of Hernandez's fiancée's sister. He has pleaded not guilty to murder.
Florida and former coach Urban Meyer have come under serious scrutiny over Hernandez during his tenure at UF. The Gators continue to maitain that Hernandez failed just one drug test while with the Gators - which he was disciplined for.
During the Big Ten media days on Wednesday, Meyer, now the head coach at Ohio State, defended himself and his former Gator players and coaches.
"That was four years ago a player played for us," Meyer said. "Our staff did, as they do with all players. I've had incredible coaches, incredible players. And I think the focus a lot of times when it gets taken away from those great players who are great people and great coaches on my staff, it just bothers you a little bit. But you have to move on, and we certainly have."
Whether removing Hernandez references from its program will ease that scrutiny remains to be seen.
"We were able to implement some of the changes immediately and this (brick removal) was a more complex process to complete with our vendors," the UAA statement said. "The plan was to have everything completed before the end of July."
All references to Hernandez and his UF accomplishments remain in the 2013 media guide, which was printed prior to the decision for removal.