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He's the Man of the Cloth

Atlanta company had executive on the sideline making sure the winners were wearing right gear.

January 06, 2006|Greg Johnson | Times Staff Writer

Athletes celebrating a bowl game victory by immediately donning championship caps and T-shirts are as much a part of the big game as marching bands. As if by magic, the boxes stashed behind the winning team's bench are ripped open during the final seconds so the victors can enjoy their spoils.

It doesn't happen by accident. On Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl, Cory Moss was charged with making sure that Texas could strut its stuff -- and that the USC merchandise didn't end up on EBay. The vice president of Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co. was standing on the USC sideline for much of the game but had to execute a quick end-around as the Trojans' lead evaporated.

"If the tables had started to turn again we would have run back to the other side," he said.

Collegiate Licensing, which handles apparel and merchandise licensing for the BCS bowl series, had 144 of the Nike-produced championship hats and T-shirts available for each team's players and coaches.

Why 12 dozen hats and T-shirts? "We've been doing this since 1995 and that number just seems to work," Moss said.

Moss works with team equipment managers and trainers to make sure players and coaches get their souvenirs: "You don't have much time to do it and there are a lot of hands grabbing." His squad also keeps close tabs on boxes stuffed with the loser's merchandise.

Though the celebratory hats and T-shirts have become a post-game ritual, their real purpose is to help Nike and other apparel companies market the flood of related merchandise made available almost immediately through retail outlets in the championship team's hometown and at kiosks and storefronts in cities where bowl games are played. Some of the merchandise is shipped to retailers weeks before the game. Most costlier products, though, are manufactured after the game ends. The University of Texas bookstore, for example, won't ship many of its upscale items until Jan. 19.

"Licensed companies have production staff sitting in their factories," Moss said. "They're probably watching the game on television and hit the button so they can begin shipping later that night."

What will happen to the USC caps and T-shirts? The Rose and other bowls now try to ship the loser's garb to charitable organizations outside of the U.S. "They try to find a good use for it -- as long as it's not in this country," Moss said.

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