Univ. of Louisville men’s basketball players “will wear special warm-ups" from adidas honoring injured teammate Kevin Ware prior to Saturday's Final Four game against Wichita State, according to Chris Chase of USA TODAY. UL coach Rick Pitino “announced the tribute" yesterday and pictures of the gear “had hit the Internet” by the afternoon. The UL-centric blog Card Chronicle reported the team will be wearing a warm-up with "All In For #5" written across the chest. The warm-up is “available for sale on Louisville's official team website,” and it retails “for $24.99 (plus $6.99 shipping)” (USATODAY.com, 4/3). In Louisville, Eric Crawford reported Ware apparel is “springing up around the city faster than spring flowers, and that has raised the eyebrows of some who wonder whether the university should be profiting from a player's injury.” But UL SID Kenny Klein said that the school “isn't raking in cash from the apparel sales.” He said that when Ware “went down, U of L players asked if they could wear a tribute shirt for him at the Final Four.” adidas in response created the "RI5E TO THE OCCASION" shirts, and in “expectation of fan demand also produced them for retail sale.” UL Associate AD/External Relations Brent Seebohm said the school "proactively decided to waive any traditional licensing royalties revenue connected to the No. 5 graphic to be worn by the team on the court.” Still, Crawford wrote, “As with anything, somebody's making money” (WDRB.com, 4/3).
FOLLOW THE MONEY: NBCSPORTS.com’s Daniel Martin wrote, “Regardless of whether Louisville says it is profiting or not, it highlights the reality of big-time college athletics. It’s about money.” adidas is using Bulls G Derrick Rose’s comeback story as a "way to sell shoes and apparel, too.” The "only difference" is Rose inked a $260M deal with the company. Ware has “no such contract and won’t see a dime of the revenue” (NBCSPORTS.com, 4/3). CBSSPORTS.com’s Matt Norlander wrote it is “an endearing idea for a shirt, and it'd be fine -- if only Ware saw some of the cut.” Fans will “buy these because it's a way to support the team and a way to connect beyond simple fandom at the Final Four.” It is “smart marketing,” as plenty will “purchase the shirts without realizing the background/unfairness behind the concept: Adidas is making money off the image and emotional connection to the most powerful story in sports/at the Final Four.” Even with “some of the portion going to good causes, Adidas will still at some level make money off this injury.” Norlander: “Blame Adidas, blame the NCAA. Don't blame Louisville, now that we know the school's position. But regardless, this doesn't seem the right move on the whole” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/3). USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken on Twitter wrote, “The sick part is, if fans sent Kevin Ware $25 checks instead of shipping it to Louisville and Adidas it would be a violation.”
SHOP TIL YOU DROP: In Ann Arbor, Ben Freed noted Michigan’s journey to the Final Four has been a “source of increased income" for a number of local businesses. Underground Printing co-Founder Ryan Gregg said, “Our sales in the last 48 hours have probably been 1,000 times higher than they would have been otherwise, it’s that much more significant than a non-event weekend.” Gregg said UM’s wins over Kansas and Florida triggered what his team calls a “hot market.” He said, “The theory is that the best market for something this significant exists for 24 hours, so you want to print a lot to make sure you’re stocked up for Sunday and Monday.” The M Den President Scott Hirth said, “The regional championship T-shirts and the hats they were wearing on the court when they cut down the net, those are the most popular by far.” He added, “Anything to do with Trey (Burke) has been a great seller.” UM also will “benefit handsomely from the deep tournament run.” UM Trademark Licensing Dir Kristen Ablauf said that the department “closed its quarter on March 31, so it is still too soon to measure the royalties from increased apparel sales” (ANNARBOR.com, 4/3).