Sports teams' success boosts sales of Illinois merchandise

Big wins translate to bigger profits for the University of Illinois.

Sales of all things Illini climbed last year, setting another record for the university.

The UI's royalty income from merchandise sales, from Rose Bowl hoodies to Juice Williams jerseys, came in at $2.18 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, up from $1.93 million in fiscal year 2007 and $1.8 million in 2006. Back in 2000, the income was $435,000.

"Overall, the trend has been moving up at most schools," said assistant athletic director Marty Kaufmann.

But the Rose Bowl, not surprisingly, provided a nice boost in sales for UI items, he added.

"We feel good about our increases," Kaufmann said. "Certainly success on the field leads to more products, and there have been more licensees and more (product) options."

More licensees means more companies are offering a variety of Illini items and apparel designs for sale.

Also, in April the university's royalty rate increased from 8 percent to 10 percent. The royalty rate is the percentage of the wholesale price that goes to the university.

Most Big Ten universities now have royalty rates at 10 percent, Kaufmann said.

The majority of the income earned from UI-licensed merchandise is funneled into the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics operating budget.

The UI ranks 18th among U.S. universities and colleges for the amount of royalties it earned through June 30, 2008, according to the Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles the UI's licensing. At the top is Texas, followed by Michigan and Florida. Other Big Ten universities on the list include Penn State, which ranked ninth, and Wisconsin, which ranked 13th.

"We certainly have room to grow," Kaufmann said. If Illini teams contend or win a national title, "that's when we can jump up to that next tier," Kaufmann said.

Over at Brownfield Sports in Urbana, sales of Illini merchandise have been swift over the last year. Sales especially jumped after the football team advanced to the Rose Bowl and following news that Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn would continue playing with the Illini.

"Everyone wants their numbers," Kris Brownfield said.

"We've just seen a big increase in the last few days. Everyone's getting excited about the big Missouri (football) game," she said.

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