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03-07-2015, 05:06 AM

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl could have simply dissected his team's loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, and not mentioned the black memorial ribbon pinned to his suit jacket.

I'm glad he did, because the back story unveils the occasionally-untold beauty of sportsmanship between competitors.

"It makes me proud that Texas A&M is part of the SEC family," an expressive Pearl said following the Aggies' 80-55 victory over the Tigers in Reed Arena. Here's why:

On Saturday morning, former NBA forward Anthony Mason, father of Auburn guard Antoine Mason, died in Manhattan following complications from an earlier heart attack. Antoine already was with his loved ones, but Auburn rightfully felt compelled to somehow honor the Mason family in a game nationally televised on the SEC Network (or even if it wasn't).

Problem was, Auburn already was in College Station, and the Tigers' jerseys were even laid out in the Reed Arena visitors locker room, hours before a 7:30 p.m. tip against the Aggies. That's when Auburn head equipment manager Dana Marquez reached out from Auburn to his friend and counterpart at A&M, Matt Watson.

Watson has served as A&M's head equipment manager since 2000, but is only 43 - a testament to how diligent and good he is at his gig. This is one more example. Watson received the call from Marquez at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, only four hours prior to tip.

Marquez asked if the Aggies could do anything at all to help the Tigers honor Mason. The result was an example of the oft-untold good in sports.

"It was the right thing to do," Watson said. "Life happens, and it doesn't always happen in a timely manner." And time was of the essence. Watson immediately called Randy Horvath, who runs Core Image Group along with his wife, Jessica, and turns out both were feeling a bit under the weather on Saturday. It didn't matter - SEC West foe Auburn needed help.

"They do our embroidery and silk-screening and things like that for football," Watson explained of CIG. Randy sprang into action, and Watson made calls to arrange collecting the Auburn jerseys at Reed Arena. (Imagine those headlines if Auburn didn't know of Watson's good intentions).

Watson phoned Mike Caruso, A&M's associate athletic director for events who happened to be at A&M's baseball game at the time, and Caruso called over to Reed to give arena security a heads up.

"The jerseys were already out and ready for the game," Watson said. "I scooped them up and ran them over to Randy's store. I also put Randy in touch with Dana (Marquez) to make sure they were OK with whatever we planned to do."

Marquez's reaction?

"Anything you can do," he said, "is better than what we've got."

What Horvitz and Watson came up with was exceptional and fitting: A gray twill background on a black ribbon, each stitched on to the blue Auburn jerseys. The gray background, painstakingly added separately, helped the memorial ribbon stand out more against the already dark uniforms.

Sewing each uniform took time, of course, and meanwhile Horvitz came up with an adhesive ribbon for each of the Auburn staff members that also could be pinned to their jackets.

"We were done at 5:30, and I ran the jerseys back over to Reed and put them back in the locker room," Watson said of the commute from George Bush Drive East to back across the railroad tracks. "Auburn showed up at 6, and the jerseys were waiting on them."

Like they had never been lifted in the first place - except for that incredible little patch that meant so much to the Auburn and Mason families.

"Any time you have a tragedy like that, the A&M family steps up," said Aggies coach Billy Kennedy, whose surging squad plays at Florida starting 8 p.m. Tuesday. "Everybody still wants to win games, but we also know there's a bigger picture."

Indeed, and that bigger picture - one where the nation witnessed Auburn honoring one of its own - had Pearl emotional and appreciative afterward.

"They took care of everything," Pearl said. "Those are the kinds of things you don't hear about in sports, when teams like Auburn and Texas A&M are competing. That meant a lot to our team."

Added Watson, "We're all in the SEC together, but really it's just trying to help someone out. And Auburn needed our help."
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03-07-2015, 08:17 AM
Pretty awsome

03-07-2015, 11:43 AM
There should be no shock that a program headed by Billy Kennedy did something like that. He's one of the nicest guys in the business. One of my friends went to church with him when he was at Murray State. Kudos to them.

03-07-2015, 02:59 PM
Maybe someone can confirm this.

During yesterday's women's tournament in Little Rock, following A&M's loss to LSU, the A&M band, pom squad, and Yell Leaders stayed to take on the responsibilities for Georgia's team for their game with Missouri since their respective counterparts were late and/or unable to make it to the arena due to travel associated with the recent weather.

Anyone know for sure?

03-07-2015, 04:36 PM
I didn't hear about that and I've been watching the Women's Tournament.

03-08-2015, 05:13 PM
I didn't hear about that and I've been watching the Women's Tournament.

Okay, thanks.

03-08-2015, 05:22 PM
Doesn't mean it didn't happen.