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Wednesday, Jan 18, 2017
Local News

Clemson got the victory, others will get the spoils

TAMPA — So just what do you do with 144 "Alabama National Football Champions" T-shirts?

With the big game over and most fans already departed, Tampa on Tuesday remained a town festooned with banners, street-lamp signs and memorabilia from the College Football Playoff national championship.

Huge posters of Clemson and Alabama players still hung over the entrance to the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. Close by, a popup store offered two-for-one deals on T-shirts and other apparel in a last-ditch bid to off-load its supply.

But soon, every vestige of the city's big party will be gone.

As much as possible, banners and other promotional material will be reused for next year's playoff final in Atlanta, said Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff.

The six glistening silver foam football player statues that stood outside venues like Raymond James Stadium and the Florida Aquarium last weekend will hibernate for the next 12 months in a Dallas warehouse.

That is also the destination of other reusable signage such as street-lamp banners that advertise Playoff Fan Central but omit both the host city name and the playoff year.

Other memorabilia will have mysteriously disappeared before a decision about its future has to be made.

"Our decor adorns the basements of many fans around the country," Hancock said.

Some items cannot be reused, like the "2017 #CFB2017" welcome mats placed in downtown hotels. Those that list the competing teams will be offered to the two schools, though Alabama may not necessarily want a memento, acknowledged Michael Kelly, College Football Playoff chief operating officer.

Other promotional material will end up going to charity.

"The hotels all have a lot of decor they've got to take down," Kelly said. "Sometimes we recycle it; sometimes we send it to schools and they use it in fundraisers."

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission also produced promotional items, including street-lamp banners. Those may be given to event volunteers who staffed more than 2,200 shifts, executive director Rob Higgins said.

"That took a lot of commitment and manpower," he said. "Potentially, we could look at contributing some of these street bowl banners to each person as a small token of our appreciation."

And those "Alabama National Football Champions" T-shirts?

Seconds after Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw his winning 1-yard touchdown late Monday night, staffers at 12 popup retail locations operated by Event Merchandising Services were tearing open boxes containing 864 orange Clemson "national champions" T-shirts.

The company had ordered fewer Alabama shirts, just 144. The apparel equivalent of the Chicago Daily Tribune's famous 1948 "Dewey defeats Truman" headline remained sealed in boxes to be returned to the licensee.

The company will have to pay a small percentage of the wholesale price known as a "kill price" for ordering the shirts, said Steve Sodell, president and CEO. But the outlay is worth it to guarantee they have the winning team's T-shirts on hand.

"The Alabama shirts get shipped back to the licensee and they either have to destroy the shirt or they have a program in place to ship them to third-world countries," Sodell said.

The company's popup store in the lobby of Embassy Suites by Hilton hotel on Florida Avenue was still doing brisk business Tuesday morning as Clemson fans snapped up T-shirts before heading home. Everything was on sale except for $30 "Clemson National Champions" T-shirts.

Whatever is left unsold will be shipped this week as consignment to retailers in Alabama and South Carolina, Sodell said, so his staff can focus on their next big event.

"We're leaving town on Thursday and headed to Houston, Texas, to prepare for the Super Bowl," Sodell said.