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Billboard's 12-week run ends abruptly

9/4/2009

After three days of local unrest and national intrigue, Billboard-gate is over.

Sort of.

Burkhart Advertising, which leases billboard space, on Thursday took down a controversial billboard poking fun at Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis.

The recently deleted 14-word message was written in gold letters on a blue background on a sign hovering over the well-traveled intersection of Edison Road and South Bend Avenue in South Bend, Ind. It read:

"Best wishes to Charlie Weis in the fifth year of his college coaching internship."

In its space Thursday evening was a message promoting the U.S. Marine Corps.

"They took away my freedom of speech," said Tom Reynolds, a former Notre Dame reserve linebacker who said he paid Burkhart to run the message for 12 weeks. "And Notre Dame pressured them to do it."

Notre Dame officials deny having anything to do with having the billboard removed. Burkhart personnel didn't return phone calls asking for comment.

Reynolds is a retired college marketing professor who lettered for the Irish in 1967. He claims to represent roughly 50 former Irish football players, mostly from his era, who are like-minded in their opinion of Weis' 29-21 record after four seasons.

Reynolds said he and other former players plan to wear green T-shirts emblazoned with the expunged billboard's message at Saturday's season-opener against Nevada.

Reynolds lives in Wyoming, but is a Notre Dame season ticket holder and plans to be at every game this season.

"I hope they don't take that away from me," he said.

Reynolds wouldn't go as far to say he that he would consider legal action against Burkhart, but he vowed, "This isn't the end of this."

Eric Hansen covers Notre Dame for ESPNChicago.com.