Misprinted T-shirts pulled spell shortage for fans here NCAA TOURNAMENT THE ROAD STARTS HERE

March 17, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

College basketball fans from all over the country converged on the Baltimore Arena yesterday in search of NCAA tickets and T-shirts.

For fans of Wake Forest, Drexel and Saint Louis, the T-shirts were harder to come by.

Tournament officials pulled $15,000 worth of T-shirts from those schools off the shelves because the school or its nickname had been misspelled.

Harry Block, the Baltimore Arena's merchandising manager, said removed 432 Wake Forest, 180 Saint Louis and 143 Drexel misspelled T-shirts at the request of the NCAA. The T-shirts sold for $20.

Customers were allowed to exchange the misspelled shirts for a refund, Mr. Block said.

Henry Koether, a 1971 Wake Forest graduate who lives in Millersville, knowingly bought one of the misspelled shirts. He would not give it back. "It's been 33 years since Wake Forest has won the ACC championship," Koether, 45, said with the T-shirt tucked under his arm. "I'll be 78 the next time they do it. I'll take the misspelling."

The shirt reads "Wake Forest Demon Decons," instead of Demon Deacons. Drexel was misspelled as "Drexal," and the Saint Louis Billikens as "Billikins."

"At least they didn't spell it 'Weak Forest,' " Koether said. "I have to put up with Maryland fans all the time. This is one more thing they'll tease me about."

Properly spelled Wake Forest and Saint Louis T-shirts will be shipped to Baltimore by today, said Alfred White, the NCAA marketing director. If Drexel is eliminated, new T-shirts will be made available to their fans in Philadelphia.

The printing company, Indianapolis-based Logo 7, is responsible for the misspellings and will replace the T-shirts for the NCAA at no charge. Roger Hayes, the company's vice president of special markets, apologized to the fans of those teams, blaming the mistakes on the rush to produce shirts for the day after the announcement of the 64-team field.

"I don't think an English professor would be able to spell them correctly, with all the logos correct, all the colors correct," Mr. Hayes said.

Baltimore was the only first-round site with misspelled T-shirts, Mr. Hayes said.

That did not please local vendors who had three fewer kinds of shirts to sell at the Arena. "It affects me and my commission," Mike Garlick said. "I'm bummed."

T-shirt sales for other schools were brisk. Two Penn students bought 20 T-shirts, at $20 each, upon entering the building, one vendor said.

For people with deep pockets, caps sold for $25, sweat shirts for $75 to $85 and a warm-up jacket for $125.

Most people saved their money to buy tickets.

Two supervisors at a Minneapolis auto accessory company jumped in a car at midnight Tuesday and arrived in Baltimore at 8 a.m. yesterday.

They made their 20-hour trip without tickets. "Wherever they were going to be playing, we were going to go," Scott Krick, 24, said of the defeated Golden Gophers.

,5 To pass the time in the car, Krick's co-worker, Michael Zurn, 24, copied a detailed map of the Baltimore Arena's seating chart out of the NCAA Final Four program onto a napkin.

The Minnesotans could afford to be choosy. It was a buyers' market yesterday morning, with individual tickets going for as low as $20 right before game time and as high as $75.

The Baltimore City Police Department had two uniformed officers patrolling the promenade by the Arena and at least four or five plainclothes officers, Officer Tony Brown said.

The police were not needed, not because of an absence of scalping, but because of an absence of high prices. Few scalpers were getting the $75 they were asking for yesterday morning.

"That's if they're lucky," one scalper said. "But they'll go for more than that when the Philadelphia people come in here."

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