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Texas A&M Aggies

Statue of E. King Gill at Texas A&M University

By Johnny Horton

Special Contributor Texas A&M

Merriam-Webster defines grand larceny as “the crime of stealing something that is very valuable”.  In the case of the use of the 12th Man slogan by the Seattle Seahawks, a new term should be coined: “The Five Grand Larceny”.

In 1922, a young man named E. King Gill from Texas A&M came out of the stands and suited up for the Aggie football team as players were getting injured left and right and the team was literally running out of able bodies.  While Gill never actually played in the game, it spawned a tradition that involves the student body standing during the entire game, ready to be called into battle if needed.  A brand new statue of Gill is being unveiled tomorrow at Kyle Field, the real HOME OF THE 12TH MAN.

Somewhere along the way in the early oughts, a gaggle of Seahawks fans started using the moniker as their own.  A&M had officially trademarked the name “12TH Man” in 1990. After this theft of the name began to resonate and build some steam up in Seattle, A&M sent a cease and desist letter.  Finally, the university and the professional football team reached a settlement in 2006. Let’s just call it one of the worst negotiated deals in sports business history.

Texas A&M agreed to let the Seahawks use the 12th Man name if they would make an initial one lump sum payment of $100,000 and a $5,000 contribution annually for five years through 2011.  That’s right, the most tradition rich university in the country practically agreed to share the rights for a mere $125,000 with the stipulation being that Seattle could not benefit off of merchandising using the logo.

Texas Aggies

The original 12th Man E. King Gill

Naturally the Seahawks renewed that agreement in 2011 because hell, what billion dollar organization wouldn’t take that steal…er deal?  Flash forward to Seattle winning Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, and suddenly the bandwagon of the faux 12th Man is raging louder than ever.  As a 3rd generation Aggie, this is bothersome on so many levels.  One, you can bet your bottom dollar that 80% of those fans inside Century Link Field have no idea that their beloved organization essentially stole a tradition that was born nearly a century ago.  You can also bet that they sit their asses down every time the ball changes possession.  Something that no true Aggie would ever dream of doing during once in four hours even in  100 degree plus heat.

Secondly, A&M is seeing a complete resurrection of their football program by building a winning team again but also through incredible, creative branding, the likes of which little ol’ College Station has never seen.  It truly boggles the mind that anybody would have ever agreed to such a chump change deal at only $5,000 per year.   The current agreement is set to expire in 2016 and the going rate next time around needs to start at 5 million dollars per season at a bare minimum.  Otherwise, shut it down. If Texas A&M has any sense of pride in E. King Gill, it’s student body, and all that the 12th Man stands for then it better prove itself by upping the ante.  Otherwise, if the five grand larceny is allowed to continue beyond two years from now, there better be some administration heads rolling.

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