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Final Four Means Financial Frenzy for College Vendors

Fans in line at Cole Field House

Terp fans line up in front of the Ticket Office at Cole Field House to buy their Final Four tickets.
(Photo by Kate Springle)



By Nikki Hawkins
Maryland Newsline
Thursday, March 29, 2001; Web posted at 7:15 p.m.

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—University of Maryland juniors Catherine Murphy, Elizabeth Alberts and Kathleen Collins are on their way to the Final Four in Minneapolis, Minn., but have no idea how they’re getting there.

“We all just bought our tickets,” Alberts said. “We’re winging it.”

The three women purchased the tickets at the Cole Field House Ticket Office Tuesday. “I wasn’t even sure if we were going to be able to get tickets,” Murphy said. “I’m glad we didn’t have to sleep in line for them.”

And despite the price, $160 apiece, the three women agreed that the experience will be priceless. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Alberts said. “It’s totally worth it.”

No matter how the women travel to Minneapolis, making the Final Four trip is expensive—and expensive is keeping College Park vendors happy.

“I’ve been here for eight years, and this is the busiest I’ve seen it,” said Anita Theobald, manager of general merchandise for the University Book Center. “Everyone’s extremely excited about this—everywhere. We’ve gotten calls from all over the United States [for Maryland Terrapin basketball merchandise]. Plus we are processing about 300 Web orders per day. That’s a lot more than usual.”

Theobald said that the Book Center is receiving two to three shipments a day of Final Four T-shirts, hats, visors and youth shirts. By the close of business Wednesday, the Book Center had sold 7,000 T-shirts alone.

Theobald’s favorite? The shirt with the Final Four schools’ logos.

The public’s favorite? The white visor forward Terrence Morris wore at a press conference after last Saturday’s win over Stanford. University Book Center General Manager Stan Lohman said that style sold out, and he is unable to order more.

“We called other schools to get a sense of what to expect going into the Final Four,” Lohman said. “Based on what we were told, this is well above our expectations.”

Lohman said that after last Saturday’s win, the Book Center had Final Four T-shirts printed that were on sale by early Sunday afternoon. Should the Terps make it all the way Monday night, Lohman plans to have national championship shirts available by Tuesday morning.

The university will gain money from sales of all merchandise with any of the school's logos. Maryland, like all other schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, shares an 8 percent royalty on the wholesale price of such merchandise with Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co., which handles contracts and other dealings with manufacturers. The school's share is split evenly between the athletic department and the university.

Brian Darmody, the university's assistant vice president for research and economic development, said Maryland merchandise earned roughly $300,000 in royalties in 2000, about $100,000 of which went to athletics. Darmody, who is also Maryland's trademark licensing director, said the Terps' Final Four appearance means there is "no question this will be a record-breaking year for royalties, even if we lose to Duke."

Many Terp supporters can't wait to wear their recent red and black purchases. Norwood S. Swann, a university employee in Facilities Management, was just one of hundreds of walk-up patrons at the University Book Center Tuesday.

“I hope to be wearing these on Saturday,” Swann said of the two caps and shirt he bought.

Greg Schiller, ticket in hand (Photo by Kate Springle)
Greg Schiller, associate ticket manager for University of Maryland Athletics, says this event is among the busiest he’s experienced.

“I’ve been here for about two years,” Schiller said, “and I was at the University of Miami before that. This is the most chaotic thing I’ve ever seen.”

The University of Maryland was allotted 4,500 tickets for the Final Four event. Tickets went on sale March 26 and were sold out by the next afternoon to students ($160 each) and Terrapin Club Members ($140 or $160 each). Alumni never had the chance to purchase tickets.

“I got here at 7 Monday morning, and there were close to 200 students already in line,” Schiller said.

Maryland's athletic department will get a portion of the tournament revenues, which are evenly divided by member schools of the ACC. Conference schools shared $7.4 million in 2000, said Nikki Watson, assistant to the NCAA's director of finances.

As it turns out, Murphy, Alberts and Collins bought some of the last available tickets to the tournament on Tuesday afternoon. But will they drive? Will they fly?

It remains to be seen. The trip by car is estimated to take about 19 hours from College Park, but is less expensive than flying. General Web searches for roundtrip airfares from the D.C. area to Minneapolis showed them ranging from almost $300 to well over $1,000, depending on departure times and locations. Then there are room accommodations and meals.

The list goes on. But it’s worth every penny to some.

“I never thought I’d have the chance to go to the Final Four to watch my school play,” Collins said.

Capital News Service staffer Richard M. Todaro contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism.

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