2013 NOLA Bowl Shirts Ready!
Official 2013 R & L Carriers' New Orleans Bowl t-shirts and apparel are stocked and available for purchase as Ragin' Cajun fans prepare to Paint the Quarter Red for this year's big event. The match-up between the Cajuns and the Tulane Green Wave is set for Saturday, December 21st, at 8:00 in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
There are several local vendors selling shirts celebrating the "three-peat," but many people may not be aware that the University itself is actually a retailer. The Red Zone, located at the corner of Johnston Street and E. Lewis on the UL campus, is a division of the University Bookstore. According to Director Tim McFarland:
"The University Bookstore and The Ragin’ Cajuns Red Zone are self-supporting auxiliary services owned and operated by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette."
McFarland says that UL does reap the benefit of its logo and moniker off of any approved merchandise from any vendor; they simply see a greater profit from The Red Zone. All vendors pay a royalty fee when they purchase a product of any kind (i.e., a cap, a t-shirt, a flag, etc.) wholesale. The Red Zone pays that same royalty fee up front, but the university also receives any profits from the sales of the merchandise.
University-owned bookstores and merchandise shops are not a new phenomenon. Several other universities, like Alabama and Auburn, operate similar businesses. Retail and merchandising serves to help not only the athletic programs but several of the auxiliary and academic programs as well. Royalty fees alone at some of the major colleges like University of Texas can and have garnered upward of $20-million a year.
Because the money from these retail shops goes directly into the general fund, the administration decides where the money is best used. Over the years, it could be allocated for athletics, dorms, capital improvements or a specific academic specialty. The UL Bookstore/The Red Zone make the money and deposit it into the university coffers.
Besides being a potential profit center for the university, The UL Bookstore/The Red Zone is also a local employer and it's self-sustaining. There are 30 employees and 9 student workers between the two locations. They are all hired through the human resources department at the university, but their wages and salaries are paid through the Bookstore itself, not through the university.
Sarah Armentor, Assistant Director, says there have been several die-hard UL fans for years that have come through the store, but they definitely saw an uptick when the Cajuns started winning football games. And, she says, when they opened the doors on the free-standing Red Zone in October of 2012, fans were very excited to see a store in Lafayette that featured nothing but UL Ragin' Cajun merchandise:
"We literally unlocked the door to our location and were pulling stuff out of boxes. But people walked in and they looked around, and they were so excited to see a place that was just for them."
Speaking of new places, The Red Zone will remain where it is for the time being, but the plan is to move it to Cajun Field along with the new athletic department offices. Armentor says keeping it accessible to the public during regular hours and having enough parking space is important. The current location is also slated to become a parking tower in the future (everyone send up a cheer).
Armentor is quick to remind folks that their first priority at the UL Bookstore is to provide service to students, staff and faculty. But she is a graduate of UL and admits she likes all the gear they are able to offer to students, faculty and the fans:
"This is just a fun perk!"
She and McFarland both say they enjoy a great working relationship with all the local vendors who carry UL Ragin' Cajuns apparel and gear. Yes, there are items they all have in common. But there are also many things that they have that are unique to each store. So have fun looking around, and GEAUX CAJUNS!!!!!!