Apparel licensing becomes revenue issue

In college sports, schools such as our neighbor across the tracks, Florida State University, along with the University of Florida and the University of Miami, have merchandising and licensing deals with Nike yielding them millions of dollars every year and helping to further advance the already lucrative athletic programs.

Even North Carolina A&T State University, a fellow historically black college and university in Greensboro, N.C., scored a deal with the Jordan Brand to provide it’s athletes with top of the line gear-albeit due to the fact that MJ’s brother Larry is an alumnus.

“In order to make your comparison accurate, don’t compare us to major schools like Florida, Michigan and Georgia,” said Earl Kitchings, Florida A&M University director of athletic marketing “We’re never going to be like them; we simply don’t have the numbers.”

According to Kitchings, FAMU generated approximately $981,680 in sales from its sports gear, but only received seven percent ($67, 318) due to the nature of the contracts between FAMU and the makers of its athletic clothing.

Law prohibits colleges and universities to make a profit on specific players by selling jerseys with their names printed on shirts. However, there is no law or National Collegiate Athletic Association sanction that stops them from selling exact replicas of the actual jerseys worn in games by the student-athletes with the numbers of the teams’ best players to allow students, alumni and fans to represent and support their school and its athletes. But this opportunity doesn’t exist in the FAMU Family.

Replica jerseys aren’t sold anywhere.

Lakesha Clark, the athletic apparel department manager, at the campus bookstore said she takes a look at what the vendors are offering, and then decides what the store will or will not make available to the public.

“Russell (Athletic Apparel, which manufactures uniforms worn by Rattler athletes) has the capability to mass produce replica jerseys,” Kitchings said. “There hasn’t been a concerted effort for them.”

Kitchings also said these companies will not mass-produce replica jerseys if their demand isn’t a high demand for them, making it profitable for Russell to put them on the market.

“If 10 people want them, they (Russell) aren’t going to make them,” Kitchings said.

“We try not to get anything that’s cheap; we look for quality products. That’s why when you come into the bookstore, our prices are a little steep,” Clark said. “But you can wash our shirts and the color won’t fade.”

While there are 100 companies, including Headgear Sportswear, which is authorized to make FAMU athletic apparel, Clark said all of these vendors are not authorized to be sold in the Barnes and Nobles owned store, where a gray hoody can cost as much as $75.

Clark said negotiations have begun between the University and Russell Athletic to make FAMU replica jerseys available by next year.

“We’re waiting for the University to go ahead and get the contract completed,” said Clark, who is also the buyer for the bookstore.

However, Kitchings said he does not know what Russell’s marketing plan for FAMU is or when, if at all, replica jerseys will be available.

“We do have a contract with Russell to make the uniforms that the (student) athletes compete in,” said Kitchings. “I don’t know what the details of the contracts are as far as extending it to retail. I’d have to look it over.”

Rattler head men’s basketball coach Mike Gillespie Sr., who coached last year’s squad to a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, said while the manufacturing of game-quality jerseys requires money up front, the school could possibly generate more revenue for the athletic program. Gillespie also said the school could make more money by capitalizing off of “throwback” jerseys of past Rattler greats who went on to excel in the professional ranks such as Jerome James (National Basketball Association), Andre Dawson and Marquis Grissom (Major League Baseball).

“There are a lot of guys out there who could be marketed better and possibly generate a little more revenue,” Gillespie said.

A representative from Russell Athletic Apparel was not available for comment.

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