Nobody's Laughing Anymore

I can't remember when I first heard of the Collegiate Licensing Co. It may have snuck up on me because the name of the company is identical to the process so it's quite possible that I heard the name of the company and thought it was referring to the process of licensing Tar Heel "stuff".

Now I suppose there has been Carolina stuff around almost from the outset of athletics, maybe even before, but I don't think anyone started thinking about licensing until around 1982. Initially, the concern was probably about control as much as money but over the years, that has certainly changed. While the University does not want its name on just anything ( how about the porn site "UNC Girls" that was finally forced off the internet because UNC threatened a lawsuit), a more important consideration became money.

I recall reports being issued around as far back as15 years ago that usually had Michigan occupying the top spot and Carolina in the runner-up position as far as total sales go.

I am not even sure that I gave much thought to the income aspect for the University until about 10 years ago. I'm sure, however, the folks in Chapel Hill were fully aware of the income aspects of the sale of licensed products, but I don't think the average fan or alum was aware of how significant the amount generated from memorabilia ( see I know the right word ) sales had become.

I have been able to get some figures to show how this phenomenon has grown but I was frustrated in my efforts to get complete and up to date figures. If I lived nearer Chapel Hill I would probably be pestering somebody every day for some kind of information on UNC. Here are the figures I was able to get:

UNC Proceeds Year

$2,1 million '94

$2.2 million '95

$2.4 million '96

$2.6 million '97

$3.0 million (expected) '98

There has been a 29% increase in the amount UNC has realized in '01 compared to the amount we received in '00, so I think we can safely conclude that UNC is receiving approximately $3,000,000 annually from the proceeds of licensed merchandise. We receive 8.5% of the wholesale price of the items licensed and we get 8% of items sold that have "National Championship" or "Final Four" anywhere on the item. The NCAA gets an additional 2% on these items which obviously sell at a higher level than other merchandise.

According to the Collegiate Licensing Co., headquartered in Atlanta, which represents over 180 colleges and Universities, UNC joined their organization in 1998. I have been told but have been unable to verify that a second organization exists which many peope thought had Notre Dame as one of their clients but that information turned out not to be correct. While there may be another organization similar to Collegiate Licensing Co. they don't have Notre Dame as one of their clients. Notre Dame joined the Collegiate Licensing Co. in 1996. The reason I bring up Notre Dame is because every time I ask someone to try and guess which schools are the leaders in the university licensing sales are, invariably Notre Dame will be mentioned. I think there was a time when Notre Dame probably was the national leader because of the dominant role they played in college football each year and the fact they have a national following. But if you haven't noticed, ND doesn't do all that well in football anymore and the pop culture of today may find them a bit too conservative for their tastes.

Which brings us to another subject that makes some Carolina people edgy. That is the question of the connection between UNC apparel and the "gang" culture. Let's begin by saying that there can be no denial that there is a connection. The extent of the connection and the influence it might have on sales is something that is not so clear.

It has been said that the "Crips" one of the most notorious national gangs has adopted the Carolina apparel as their own and actually refer to the NC to mean "Nation of Crips." I see many indications that this may be true even though it pains me to do so. Anyone who watches "Cops" on the Fox network as I do, probably squirms every time they see a person apprehended who has a Carolina jacket or cap on. The shoes aren't so obvious.

Which brings us to a second point of discussion. Why do people buy Carolina merchandise? It has been said and I agree, there are three reasons. They are:

1. school or team loyalty

2. UNC's popularity

3. fashion

There is no question about the fact that some people are drawn to UNC apparel because they like the colors. I have talked to several Managers of Apparel Shops and they confirm the fact that some people buy Carolina solely because they like the colors. So next time you see someone on MTV with a Carolina jacket on, think about the effect this has on sales which in turn puts more money in UNC's coffers.

Which reminds me, I haven't told you what is done with the money once it is received by UNC. It goes for SCHOLARSHIPS. I don't think this is the case for every school because I know the University of Michigan had to cut it's Athletics Department budget several years ago when revenue from licensed products sales dropped $600,000 below projections. So it sounds like some schools use the proceeds for Athletic Department activities.

That's about all I have at the present on the subject but I thought some of you might be interested in knowing what a phenomenon this has become if you didn't know before. Mrs. RamFanatic says that's all well and good but that I am not going to bring another Carolina jacket in this house. Something about we've reached our capacity and I really don't want to move. Maybe I will just get a small replica of Kenan Stadium instead. I can put that on our dinner table with no ( maybe I should say little) difficulty.

At any rate, I'm not laughing about the insignificance of this subject anymore, in more ways than one.