Tradition, Tigers and T-Shirts

Flying Cow Shirt Co. helps turn the city into a sea of black and gold with its wearable works of art
Monday, October 20, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Homecoming T-shirts are seen on everyone, from students and faculty to campus visitors and alumni. Yet getting them on the backs of so many during Homecoming proves takes a lot of time, organization and MU spirit.

Andy McCarthy, director of the merchandise team for the 2003 Homecoming Steering Committee, said the T-shirts provided in the Homecoming Survival Kits are his team’s largest contribution to Homecoming.

“The T-shirts are one of the most visible signs that promote the spirit atmosphere on campus through black and gold,” McCarthy says.

The T-shirts, along with other student-friendly products, make up the Homecoming survival kits that are made available to organizations competing in Homecoming events, as well as other supporters wishing to purchase one.

This year’s survival kit is packaged in a gold drawstring laundry bag which displays the “Forever Fearless” logo. It includes a pen, T-shirt, stadium cup, Post-It notes and other products from homecoming sponsor Procter & Gamble.

The Merchandise Committee chooses the items for the kits with the Homecoming tradition and students in mind.

“We try to gear the items toward things students can use,” McCarthy says.

The Merchandise Committee began to work on designs for this year’s T-shirt with the Flying Cow Shirt Company in early spring 2003, and it continued through the summer, says manager Ben Parsons. The Flying Cow not only makes the homecoming shirt, but also designs shirts for the Homecoming Blood Dive and the 5K Walk/Run.

“We eventually come down to one main look for Homecoming to keep across the shirts,” Parsons says.

The shirt ventures to uphold this year’s “Forever Fearless” theme, as it displays a tiger leaping off the back of the gold shirt.

“We wanted something that looks fearless,” McCarthy says.

The tiger that would represent this look of fearlessness was a subject of negotiation between the Merchandise Committee and the Flying Cow. The Merchandise Committee suggested what it would like to see on the shirt, and the Flying Cow then produced sample designs. They exchanged ideas until the final design was selected.

“Sometimes it’s quick, and sometimes it takes a little longer,” Parsons says.

The first order of shirts is usually between 3,000 and 4,000, according to Parsons, and it is usually not the last. McCarthy reported making three rounds of orders last year, and expects to make about the same number this year, upping each round’s volume of orders slightly.

The Merchandise Committee’s most important day was Pack Day, Sept. 28, in which the survival kits ordered by all campus organizations were distributed. Committee members packed all of the survival kit contents into the laundry bags and ensured that each campus organization received the order during its 15-minute pick-up time.

“We work as fast as we can to get the orders filled and out to everyone,” McCarthy says.

Parsons says time runs short when distributing Homecoming T-shirts, a job he starts earlier than any other.

“We try to keep (committee members) happy by working within their time frames,” Parsons says.

To do so, the Flying Cow often must work on Homecoming shirts before and after hours to keep up with its other jobs. The demands are higher because of the volume of shirts that must go through the printing process, which produces about 250 shirts per hour.

“It’s challenging, and we’re always busy, but we try to stay on top of things,” Parsons says.

The University Bookstore must also stay on top of things when it comes to T-shirts and other items on display. Public relations manager Michelle Froese says Homecoming weekend is so busy that clothing staff and cashiers are perpetually busy stocking, straightening and selling MU apparel and spirit items.

“Homecoming weekends are crazy here,” Froese said. According to Froese, Friday’s customers tend to be mostly students, while Saturday attracts more alumni and visiting parents.

So when all the Homecoming supporters finally get some spirit on their backs, the Merchandise Committee’s work is done.

“It is very rewarding when you walk around campus and see students wearing something you helped create,” McCarthy says.

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