If the Tigers defeat the Sooners this weekend, they’ll be wearing Big 12 Conference Champions hats and shirts before postgame interviews even begin. But getting these shirts to players and fans so quickly isn’t as simple as it looks on TV.
The presentation of championship T-shirts and hats has only emerged as a college football tradition in the last 15 years, said Heath Price, director of university services at Collegiate Licensing Company. And fulfilling the tradition requires printing shirts for both teams in advance.
Near the end of the game, Collegiate Licensing Company staff will bring the winning team’s shirts and hats to the field. Sometimes, Price said, the game is so close the staff has to be prepared to run out with the right shirts at the last minute.
Kiosks are also set up so fans can purchase the exact product the players are receiving on the field, or what Price called the “locker room products,” on the way out of the stadium.
The losing team’s apparel is immediately shipped back to the Collegiate Licensing Company, Price said.
The conference then has two choices: It can either dispose of the hats and T-shirts in a landfill or have them shipped to a Third World country, Price said.
Collegiate Licensing Company will also be on the lookout for unofficial championship shirts in San Antonio this weekend.
“We see quite a bit of unlicensed merchandise,” Price said. “Around championship events we see a real spike.”
Price said the unofficial merchandise often looks shabby — sometimes with misspelled team names. A few years ago, Price said he saw a shirt that spelled Georgia’s team name the “Buldogs.”
Championship apparel makes up a significant portion of the total apparel revenue sold during the season, said Bob Burda, assistant commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. More apparel is usually purchased when the game’s winner isn’t as used to being in the championship game.
Burda said he still has championship T-shirts from his college, Florida State.
“It’s nice to be able to point to it whenever I’m around Gator fans,” he said, “especially the Florida State apparel that says National Champions.”