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You can get a man's 10-karat-gold signet ring for $195 and a "Tar Heel Four Corner Rug" for $500. Don't laugh. The manufacturer of the rug says that he's sold more than two dozen of them.
Carolina Canners, Inc. of Cheraw, S.C. rushed Carolina Blue Soda onto the market and within two months had distributed 120,000 cases, 24 cans to the case. Carolina Blue Soda was a pale blue, grape-flavored drink. It sold for $1 a can in many stores but went for $2.59 a six-pack or 43� a can at Fowler's Food Store in Chapel Hill. Asked what Carolina Blue Soda was like, Linda Woods, one of Dean Smith's secretaries, thought for a moment and said, "It was like drinking your swimming pool."
Coca-Cola bottlers in North Carolina issued commemorative bottles of Coke that sold for 63� (the winners' score) at most major outlets. About 1.1 million were sold in the first month, and in July the bottlers gave the school a small percentage of the proceeds—some $21,000.
That was one of only three enterprises to which Smith, via radio spots, lent his name. He also wrote the foreword of a book, March to the Top, which was co-authored by one of his assistants, Eddie Fogler, and Art Chansky. And Smith is autographing 16 X 20 photographs, price $150 apiece, with proceeds going to the fund for the school's new $30.5 million, 21,100-seat athletic center. The photo, taken with six seconds left in the game, shows James Worthy dribbling the basketball after making the critical steal, with a scoreboard showing what was to be the final score in the background, along with some joyful Tar Heel players.
Smith turned down a number of offers from which he could have profited personally. He said he feels the school, not he, should benefit.
Except for the Coca-Cola bottles and the autographed photos, the school is receiving no income from the marketing blitz. As one might expect, Athletic Director John Swofford admits to mixed feelings about that. "Our biggest concern was that the merchandising be done in good taste," he says, "and generally it has. There have been pluses, such as free exposure for our program. And those who have produced these products had every right to do it because our logos [the school emblem, the UNC ram mascot emblem and the foot with tar on the heel] weren't registered trademarks.
"But more and more schools—Southern California, UCLA, Alabama and Florida for example—are licensing their logos and we're doing it, too, now. We don't want to take something away from the people who've supported our athletic program, but with the financial strain in colleges today, it's something to consider as a new source of revenue."
Swofford says he's been amazed at the extent of the fervor over the UNC championship. "There's not a great deal of difference in losing the championship game to a fine Indiana team the year before and winning the next year," he says, "but there obviously is with the public. It's just indicative, I suppose, of the Number One syndrome."
When asked to explain that syndrome among Tar Heel fans, Dr. James Wiggins, a UNC sociology professor, said, "I don't think anybody knows the answer. There haven't been, to my knowledge, any studies on the subject, and I wouldn't even venture a guess." Max Muhleman, a marketing executive in Charlotte, did venture a guess. "Ordinary people have few ways of associating with the team. When they buy a souvenir, they say to themselves, 'That's a little piece of James Worthy and the UNC championship.' I think part of it is a desire to impress others by associating themselves with a champion."
In The Shrunken Head, where you can buy your own Woody Durham play-byplay to listen to at home, the difference between being No. 1 and No. 2 is dramatic. Hanging on a wall, amid all the championship stuff, is one of the plaques the owners had made up before Carolina lost to Marquette in 1977. It reads, TAR HEELS, FIRST IN OUR HEARTS, FIRST IN THE NATION, NCAA CHAMPIONS. ALMOST.