At first, it appeared that Regency (which reportedly is co-owned by Brian Kennedy, a prominent USC donor) had sided with the Trojans. As the Los Angeles Times noted in a sprawling print story on Monday, Regency recently erected a sky ad featuring USC quarterback Matt Barkley right next to the UCLA campus, in Westwood Village -- another way of letting Barkley sneer down upon his rivals. But as soon as the controversy hit the sports blogosphere, the ad was ripped down:
"USC billboard in Westwood covered -- but who's responsible?" asked the Times. And ESPN's SportsCenter fanned the flames by Tweeting before-and-after photos to almost 4 million followers.
Athletic department spokesmen for both USC and UCLA quickly denied that the universities themselves had anything to do with blacking out the billboard."You'd have to check with the ad agency," USC's Tim Tessalone told L.A. Weekly.
"We contracted with several outdoor ad agencies to put up 30 billboards throughout the Southern California area," he explained, and suggested that Regency would have to make up for taking this one down:
"I'm sure our people will have to figure something out" with the billboard company, he said. "We didn't agree to this."
Tessalone made no attempt to hide the animosity in his voice. So we did as he said, and gave Regency a ring to ask what was up.
"No comment," said a woman on the other end of the line. "So you guys had nothing to do with taking the billboard down?" we asked.
"Yeah, we did, but no comment," said the Regency employee. Then, before we could ask for her name, she hung up. (FYI, mystery woman: "No comment" only works if you actually don't comment.)
So there you have it. Everyone can stop speculating that some guerrilla billboard-buffers from the Bruins' camp took matters into their own hands this morning, or that the college football gods have spoken, or whatever, because nope -- we get to blame both Matt Barkley's awkward Westwood enthroning and his highly politicized takedown on Regency Outdoor Advertising. Thus proving, once again: When in doubt, blame it on the billboard companies.