GAINESVILLE — Ex-Florida and NFL star Aaron Hernandez, jailed while awaiting trial in the killing of three men, is Mr. July in the Gators' 2014 sports calendar. The school said Tuesday that officials approved the publication months before he was charged with murder.
The calendar is still available for sale through Target.com and features tight end No. 81 in the Gators' white jersey and blue pants with an orange stripe carrying the football under his right arm and almost looking into the camera. It includes his height, weight and hometown of Bristol, Conn.
Hernandez started 29 games for the Gators between 2007–2009, catching 111 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, according to the team's website. He later went on to star for the New England Patriots, with 175 catches for nearly 2,000 yards and 18 TDs from 2010–2012.
After the 2012 season, on June 26, 2013, Hernandez was arrested in the slaying of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park about a half-mile from Hernandez's mansion in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Hernandez faces a murder trial starting Oct. 6. Others also face charges in the case.
Officials approved the calendar last spring, months before the arrest, said Florida spokesman Daniel Apple.
Since then, the 24-year-old Hernandez has also been indicted on two counts of first-degree murder in the drive-by shooting of two other men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado and faces trial next year. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, and is in jail in Massachusetts.
Apple said the calendar was not produced by the university, but a third party. Since it's already been printed and distributed for sale, there's not much the school can do, Apple said.
"There are thousands of Gators products for approval in the pipeline at any given moment," he said.
He added that the school just became aware of the situation on Monday.
Apple says the school advised the calendar's maker that Florida no longer approves of the product, but that those already printed will not be recalled.
The calendar was first reported on Deadspin.com, and the official Florida Gators football Twitter feed responded, also saying the calendar was approved before Hernandez's legal troubles were widely known.