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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 6, 2005

Colleges hauling in cash with licensed team merchandise

By Brian Vernellis
Shreveport (La.) Times

Each time Louisiana State University fans Benny Van Osdell and Debbie Guidry buy a licensed shirt or hat with their beloved Tigers on it, they're supporting their team in more ways than one.

Schools that sell the most

In early February, the Collegiate Licensing Co. announced its top-selling clients from July 2004 to December 2004. CLC is the nation's leading collegiate marketing and licensing representative, helping clients secure licensing deals and protect their school logos. The top sellers:

1. Michigan

2. Texas

3. Georgia

4. Oklahoma

5. North Carolina

6. Tennessee

7. Notre Dame

8. Florida

9. LSU

10. Alabama

A school's licensing and merchandise rights have become important revenue streams for universities, no matter their size. The Tigers' popularity skyrocketed after they won the 2003 national championship, for example, and their royalties reflected it.

"I haven't got too much, only two or three shirts," Van Osdell said. Guidry has a closet crammed with LSU T-shirts and estimated she has about 300 of them in her house filled with memorabilia and merchandise.

Michigan gear was the best-selling among colleges in the country in 2004, according to the Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading collegiate marketing and licensing representative. Texas was second. LSU came in ninth, and was as high as fifth in the weeks following its national championship.

LSU made more than $960,000 in royalties for the 2002-03 season. The school tripled that for the 2003-04 season, raking in nearly $3 million in royalties. University licensing director Heath Price attributed $1 million of that to the national championship.

"Universities have found out that this can be a profitable thing," he said. "It's revenues that can be spent in very good places — building funds, scholarships in some cases. The money can have an impact on some programs and things you want to accomplish on college campuses."

Hiring a company like CLC can be a big step in merchandising rights for smaller schools. Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La., also work with the Atlanta-based company.

When throwback jerseys were the hot trend, CLC helped Tech capitalize on it. Tech agreed to a throwback jersey for NFL legend and Tech alum Terry Bradshaw and it became one of the school's biggest sellers.

Tech generates between $8,000 to $13,000 from royalties a quarter depending on the season.

"CLC has helped us get our arms around taking control of what Tech's image is on all the different merchandise that's on the market," said Kate Archer, the school's director of marketing and public relations, who also serves as Tech's licensing director.

Northwestern State signed up with CLC in March 2002 and has seen the fruits. The Demons missed a golden opportunity when the men's basketball team went to Dayton, Ohio, for the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament.

"I remember the CLC guys telling us: You missed out on some revenue because of this," NSU athletic director Greg Burke said. "One of the T-shirts I still wear has the Northwestern logo on it, and we could have realized some money back from the sale of those when I bought that shirt in Dayton."

While a national championship plays a large part in spiking a team up CLC's rankings, there are other factors that come into play like school colors and alumni and fan base.

"People love that North Carolina blue," Price said. "Michigan's maize and blue are awesome colors. Texas' burnt orange is very popular."