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You Won’t Be Buying a No. 7 Texas A&M Jersey

Texas A&M declining to produce No. 7 football jerseys might be an unpopular decision with fans, but it’s the smart business decision. The No. 7 football jersey is worn by quarterback Kenny Hill, who had a school-record 511 passing yards in Texas A&M’s unexpected rout of South Carolina to kick off the season last Thursday.

It’s no surprise there’s some demand from retailers to carry a No. 7 jersey, but there’s absolutely no good business reason for Texas A&M producing it. The revenue simply isn’t worth the risk.

It’s easy to look out at a sea of jerseys in the stands on Saturday and think universities are making millions on the sales, but it simply isn’t reality. Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles licensing for nearly 200 universities, bowl games and other college sports-related entities, has previously estimated for me that jersey sales account for an average of just 1.1 percent of all licensing revenue generated by a university. As you can see below, Texas A&M’s $59,690 for jersey sales in 2012-2013 (for all sports) represented just 1.53 percent of the university’s licensing revenue:

Revenue from Jersey Sales

(2012-2013)

% of Total Licensing Revenue

Texas A&M

$59,690

1.53%

West Virginia

$56,728

1.62%

Wisconsin

$47,437

1.23%

Clemson

$12,375

<1%

And they would be putting their necks on the line, especially given the recent O’Bannon ruling. In essence, the ruling gave student athletes the right to share in some revenues generated by use of their name, image or likeness, such as those produced by television broadcasts and video games. Jerseys (and bobbleheads) were specifically excluded from the ruling, but only because the plaintiffs abandoned those arguments earlier on in the case. If the O’Bannon ruling is upheld it’s not a stretch to say it could easily be expanded to include items such as jerseys featuring the numbers of current student athletes.Texas A&M told me their cut of each jersey sale was just 10 percent of wholesale price, which increased to 15 percent if the jersey was sold in their on-campus bookstore (which accounted for approximately 8 percent of sales). Consider that most athletic departments share licensing revenue with the university (many 50/50), and that fans don’t purchase a new jersey every year, and it’s easy to see why athletic departments don’t want to put their necks on the line to sell a few jerseys.

Texas A&M doesn’t need to invite legal issues, or even the issues that surround calculating what portion of revenue is directly attributable to a student athlete’s name/image/likeness, for less than $60,000 in revenue. It’s the smart business decision.

Meanwhile, Oregon isn’t exercising the same caution as Texas A&M. USA Today reported last week that Oregon is offering 25 different versions of the No. 8 jersey (the number worn by Heisman-hopeful Marcus Mariota) in a variety of colors, sizes and even limited edition versions.

In fact, you can wear the same number as just about any Heisman hopeful this season (with the exception of Kenny Hill, who will certainly be in the chase if last Thursday wasn’t a fluke). Florida State has six different No. 5 jerseys, the number worn by last year’s Heisman winner, Jameis Winston. I counted four UGA jerseys featuring the No. 3 worn by Todd Gurley on the university’s official online store.

Notre Dame offered the most varieties in its official online store with 21 options for No. 5 jerseys, the number worn by Everett Golson. However, it’s worth noting Notre Dame made the switch from Adidas to Under Armour this year, so they have both back stock from Adidas and new stock from Under Armour.

Texas A&M’s decision isn’t unique, however. Arizona and Northwestern have also stopped producing jerseys with active player numbers. I expect more will follow suit.

Kristi A. Dosh is a sports business reporter, attorney and author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires

Written by Kristi Dosh