Penn State caps, other items continue sales slump

At the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, admirers created a make-shift memorial with flowers and momentos. One such admirer -- Todd Speck, a 1982 PSU graduate who lives in Shirleysburg, PA -- was wearing a Joe Pa t-shirt of the legendary Penn State coach. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer) EDITORS NOTE: JPMain23-a 1/22/2012 Reaction to the death of Joe Paterno from State College.
At the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, admirers created a make-shift memorial with flowers and momentos. One such admirer -- Todd Speck, a 1982 PSU graduate who lives in Shirleysburg, PA -- was wearing a Joe Pa t-shirt of the legendary Penn State coach. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer) EDITORS NOTE: JPMain23-a 1/22/2012 Reaction to the death of Joe Paterno from State College.
Posted: August 23, 2013

Almost two years after Pennsylvania State University was rocked by sex-abuse charges filed against former coach Jerry Sandusky, sales of school shirts, caps, and other items continue to plummet.

Royalties from licensed merchandise dropped more than $700,000 from last year, according to school officials, and that number was down almost $1 million from two years ago, when sales were at their highest.

Penn State has dropped to No. 19 on a list ranking the country's universities in terms of merchandise sales from 12th last year, according to Collegiate Licensing Co., a trademark business that represents more than 200 schools. In 2011, Penn State was in No. 10, and alternated between No. 8 and No. 9 in earlier years.

The rankings, released this week, were made using university-reported figures from July 1, 2012, through June 30 on all collegiate merchandise sold through the company.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the numbers were no surprise.

"It would be impossible for a university - or any organization - to experience the unprecedented events that Penn State has been through and not expect some decline in sales," she said in a statement.

After years of falling just short of $4 million in merchandising sales, Penn State reaped a little more than $4 million in 2011, according to figures from the school. After the revelations about Sandusky came to light that year, sales tumbled by 40 percent, according to retailers. Last year, the total sales figure was a little more than $3.1 million.

The scandal exploded in November 2011 with the indictment of Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, on charges of molesting boys. The charges led to the swift ouster of head football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State president Graham B. Spanier, now one of three former PSU officials set to go to trial next year on charges of failing to report concerns that Sandusky was abusing children.

The fallout continued with a series of unprecedented sanctions placed against the school last summer by the NCAA, which fined Penn State's football program $60 million and eliminated several scholarships. It also banned the school from postseason play for four years, which means no PSU merchandise will be licensed for those games.

Still, the Nittany Lions' winning season on the football field last year under coach Bill O'Brien has given some sellers and school officials hope for the future.

Retailers were cautious in their orders of PSU merchandise for the fall of 2012, Powers said, but as the season progressed, those retailers saw upticks in sales. Additionally, much of the clothing now sold in support of the team - such as shirts that read "Billieve," "O'Brien's Lions," and "Success With Honor" - is not subject to licensing, Powers said, and are not reflected in official sales figures.

"Penn State has a strong, dedicated fan base, and we believe sales will continue to rebound," Powers said. The money from merchandising sales goes to scholarships and student-related capital projects, Powers said.


Contact Allison Steele at 610-313-8113 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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