Notre Dame's rise pulls up sales of memorabilia

SOUTH BEND -- Jim Augustine heard the roar from across South Bend Avenue.

The owner of Augie's Locker Room, a Notre Dame sports memorabilia shop east of campus, worked late Saturday night while watching the games that cleared the way for the Fighting Irish to rise atop college football's rankings.

First, Baylor upset No. 1 Kansas State. Then Stanford beat second-ranked Oregon with a field goal in overtime.

And, for the first time since 1993, the Notre Dame faithful knew their undefeated team would rule the next day's polls.

"From the apartments to the campus, you could hear the screams," Augustine said. "Everybody was outside dancin' and screamin'."

In addition to dancing and screaming, Fighting Irish fans are expressing their euphoria by spending.

They're calling Augustine from across the country. They're trying to get their hands on the gloves -- colored green, white and orange -- that players wore against Navy for the season opener in Ireland. They're asking if it's possible to buy the avante-garde helmets from the Shamrock Series game against Miami. They want anything that has anything to do with star linebacker Manti Te'o.

Fans also barraged Anthony Travel, the university's official travel partner, on Monday to ask about packages for the national championship game Jan. 7 in Miami. The Irish can play their way into the title game if they win Saturday at rival USC.

"Our phones are ringing off the hook," said Jacqueline Kronk, manager of client initiatives at the travel agency. "Since the games this past weekend played out the way they did, we've had hundreds of e-mail inquiries. ...

"Everyone who has ever been a Notre Dame fan is coming out of the woodwork," she said.

Notre Dame has been the best-selling type of college sports merchandise this season on So far, the online retailer has sold more than twice as many Fighting Irish items than it had at the same point last year.

Coincidentally, Alabama -- which is ranked second in every major poll -- is also second in terms of sales on

Steiner Sports, a New York-based company that works with athletes, coaches and teams to market authentic autographed and game-used merchandise, has noticed the difference too.

Brett Schissler, the company's executive vice president, said many people are looking for merchandise that represents Notre Dame's history.

The most-requested items, however, have been the helmets players wore against Miami. He said Steiner obtained 10 to 15 helmets that were made for but not used in the game at Soldier Field in Chicago. They sold "instantaneously" for $1,000 apiece; he said game-used helmets will sell for $2,000 to $5,000.

He estimated that a Te'o jersey worn in the title game would sell for $10,000 to $15,000 -- if not more.

"I can see what's happening, and it's very, very similar in our market to when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004," Schissler said. "Because of the history of Notre Dame and the time between the championships, people are gonna want a piece of this game."

Augustine said he noticed a real boost in business about a month ago when the Irish reached No. 3 on the Bowl Championship Series rankings.

If the team wins a national title, he said, "Then I can't imagine it gettin' any better."


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