Get Ya Merch – How Merchandising Works in Colleges
According to ESPN’s list of schools who made the most money as a result of royalties through the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which regulates sporting merchandise officially licensed for sale by colleges to fans, the University of Texas topped the revenue list for the eighth year in a row. The top ten universities, in terms of their revenue from licensed merchandise sales, were:
- The University of Texas at Austin
- The University of Alabama
- University of Notre Dame
- The University of Michigan
- University of Kentucky
- Louisiana State University
- University of Florida
- University of Georgia
- University of North Carolina
- The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Altogether, the CLC reported that fans, schools, and athletes combined spent a total of $4.62 billion on officially licensed merchandise, ranging from shoes, shorts, and caps; to bandanas for family pets; to novelty garden gnomes. All the money generated from merchandise sales is returned to the universities to support student groups and campus projects, but a closer look reveals some of the divisions within the college merchandise sales and marketing arena.
Apparel deals in college athletics have become extremely lucrative, so much so that failing to secure the right merchandise deal with the right supplier can spell the difference between a losing season and a winning season. For instance, Eastbay, Inc., is a major supplier of apparel and footwear that works directly with Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas to provide both professional and college athletics programs with gear and footwear. As a major supplier of athletic gear, they also offer access to consumer channels. College athletics programs who can show they have the backing of big-name suppliers and manufacturers are often far more successful in recruiting high school students through a combination of scholarships, marketing, and student life programs.
The academic life of student-athletes has been further complicated by concerns that efforts to professionalize college sports harm the educational opportunities that should be priorities for these young people. For example, Division I NCAA coaches earn comfortable salaries. The high-profile student-athletes recruited by Division I schools who benefit from their enrollment are often thrown into leadership positions that require extensive travel, media training, and long hours both on and off the field. These additional responsibilities deprive students of time that could be spent on academic pursuits. Although success in college athletics can lead to celebrity status for these young athletes, and potentially to lucrative professional contracts, academic regulations do not allow them to profit from these efforts while they are enrolled in the university.
The NCAA was originally founded to focus on both sports and education, but these two elements are no longer balanced. The NCCA’s current incarnation as a billion-dollar corporation has altered the playing field for all students entering the college application cycle, regardless of their professional aspirations as student-athletes. CNAA recognizes the value that a disciplined, well-staffed, and well-funded athletic program can bring to the education of the whole student. The NCAA and the big business of college and professional sports will continue to evolve. At the same time, high schools and universities will continue to address the needs of all students. Well-funded, well-staffed athletic programs that emphasize the value of athletic programs to instill discipline, a sense of community, respect, integrity, and a passion for lifelong learning will continue to be an integral part of that effort.
CNAA has made tremendous progress in its efforts to ensure that Catholic schools throughout the United States continue to enjoy access and bargaining power that keeps then on an equal footing with even with the most well-funded public-school athletic programs. CNAA’s close partnership with Eastbay, Inc., provides further assurance that schools in the CNAA network will offer students the best opportunity to enroll in premier universities, whether their goal is to rise to the top of the NCAA pyramid, or translate their success in student athletics to success in academics and the business world.