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Florida distances itself from Aaron Hernandez

GAINESVILLE — As former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez sits in a Massachusetts jail charged with first-degree murder, the University Athletic Association on Thursday continued an effort to distance itself from him.

The UAA, which oversees athletics at the school, announced it has removed Hernandez's photos from multiple areas of the football complex as well as his brick plaque outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in an area commemorating Florida's All-Americans.

Hernandez, who played for the Gators from 2007-09, was a first-team All-American in 2009, when his 68 catches set a school record for tight ends. He also was part of the 2008 team that won the BCS national title.

"We didn't feel it was appropriate to celebrate Aaron Hernandez," the UAA said in a statement. "We put together an immediate plan after the initial news (of his alleged involvement) broke to remove his likeness and name in various private and public areas in the facility."

The UAA said it plans to have "everything completed" by next week.

Hernandez, 23, stands accused of orchestrating the death of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister. He pleaded not guilty. A trial date has not been set.

The university and former coach Urban Meyer have come under scrutiny concerning Hernandez and his behavior during his tenure at Florida. The Gators say Hernandez failed just one drug test, for which he was disciplined.

But in 2007, Gainesville police questioned him and three teammates after a shooting and arrested him as a juvenile after a fight at a restaurant.

Wednesday, Meyer, now the 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, never referencing Hernandez by name. "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."

Last week, Florida coach Will Muschamp did not answer questions about if any of Hernandez's items would be removed but called the situation "tragic" and said his thoughts and prayers were with the victim's family.

Hernandez and his accomplishments are in the 2013 media guide, printed before the decision to remove other references was made, and the school said there are no plans to remove them.

Around the nation

Georgia: Right tackle Kolton Houston was reinstated by the NCAA after three years under suspension for an anabolic steroid he was given for shoulder surgery. The touted recruit was declared ineligible in January 2010, his first semester, when a test detected 19-norandrosterone. The substance showed up in subsequent tests. Houston, projected as a starter had he been eligible entering 2012, has two seasons of eligibility and can petition for a third.

South Carolina: The school said it found no wrongdoing in activity between All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Jay-Z, the rap star turned sports agency head. It added while the two talked, Clowney did not receive impermissible benefits nor was there an agreement for representation made.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Florida distances itself from Aaron Hernandez 07/25/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 25, 2013 10:11pm]
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