What’s in a T-Shirt?
For the past forty years I have had the privilege of being part of the McGowan Cross Country Invitational at Watkins Memorial High School (originally the Watkins Invitational.) Since 1984, I have been the meet manager. This meet has grown from a dozen teams running in four races, to over 100 high school teams and over 100 middle school teams running in eighteen races. We are one of the biggest meets in Ohio.
For the first 38 years of the meet, the Cross Country Team and Track Team ran all of the elements of the meet except for ticket sales and parking. No one was particularly interested in a small meet. As we grew, the work became greater, and the finances became more complicated. Four years ago, the teams gave the concessions to the Watkins Athletic Association.
So the Coaches and athletes of Watkins Cross Country and Track organize and execute one of the biggest meets in Ohio. While we do it for the love of the sport and the love of our woods at Watkins, we also use this as our team fundraiser for the year. We do this by selling meet T-Shirts. Unlike other teams that have to sell and hustle everything from candy bars to popcorn to light bulbs: we are able to mostly fund the needs for four teams: the boys and girls track and cross country teams, from the McGowan Invitational. And we do it mostly from folks who live outside the SWL school district.
In 2016 the McGowan Invitational finances were:
- Gate – $32000
- Entries – approx. $18000 (meet costs – approx. $13,000)
- Concessions – approx. $5000 net
- T-Shirt Sales – ($16769 gross – $7475 net profit to Track/CC Acct)
We have three T-Shirt logos that we have rotated for the past several years. One is the “Running Warrior”, designed by one of our athletes in the 1990’s. One is the “Mudfoot”, conceptualized by our staff and created by our T-Shirt vendor, Ohio Select Imprints. One is the “Tiger in the Woods” also created by Ohio Select.
As all of these shirts have been sold with great success, and as athletes competing in the meet move on, we rotate the logos. This year I chose the “Running Warrior”, which we sold as the meet shirt two years ago, and used last year as our bright orange “staff shirts.”
As the boys track coach (forty years) and as the meet manager of several invitational meets in track and cross country at Watkins I have never been asked to get “approval” for T-shirts designs. This included Warrior logos on the 2017 Track team shirts. When the track team went with “spider jerseys” several years ago, I did get approval from the Athletic Director as this was a team uniform.
To recap: we sold this design two years ago, we used this design at the meet last year, we were never informed that we should get approval, and we did what we have done for the past thirty four years – we purchased shirts (800). The total bill for the shirts was approximately $6800 (the actual bill was turned in for payment two weeks prior to the meet.) Anticipated revenue from the sale would be around $17000, thus raising $10000 for the track/cc fund held by the Athletic Association. While this is the primary fundraiser for the boys and girls track and cross country program. Other actions that raise money: T-Shirt sales at the LCL meet ($1200 – 2016), T-Shirt sales at the District meet (fee for sales – $800 in 2016) and the Watkins Pole Vault Camp ($2131 in 2017.)
On Friday afternoon (around 3:00) I was called in from the cross country course and told that the cover for the program was “unacceptable” and had to be removed. There were 350 programs. I then informed the Athletic Director that the logo on the program was the logo for the T-Shirts. I was originally told that the T-Shirts were “on me” and that I could proceed with T-Shirt sales, but that the program cover had to be removed. The Athletic Director said she would tear the cover off of the programs, and I said that was fine.
I then went to the Principal’s office and said that it was these kinds of actions that made it difficult to work/coach at Watkins, and that it was one of the reasons that I retired from coaching track after 40 years. The Assistant Principal and Dean of Students were present as well. The Principal didn’t have much to say, and didn’t speak to me again. He did text me early the next morning.
About an hour later I was called back into the Athletic Director’s office, where I was met by the AD and the Assistant Principal, and informed that we were not to sell the T-shirts. I was told that the Superintendent and the Board President agreed (I later talked to the Board President, who had no idea about the issue). After some discussion, I raised the two major concerns:
- who was going to pay the bill to Ohio Select
- how was the Track/CC program going to be “made good” for the loss of income.
I was told that these issues would be “taken care of” but that there wasn’t an “answer” yet.
I proceeded to set up the rest of the meet. At 5:37 am the next morning, Mr. Tanchevski texted me asking whether it was possible to take orders for T-shirts to be delivered later. I told him that I didn’t think that would be successful, based on order taking at previous meets. I also noted my concern about how to pay for the shirts we had. His response was that “we’ll figure it out.” I didn’t speak to him again, either during the meet or after.
During the meet, the meet staff (and I) answered many questions about the T-shirts. I told the staff to answer the question by saying that we were told by the Administration that we were not allowed to sell a shirt with the “running Warrior” on it.
The 2017 McGowan was a tremendous success, with over 5000 entries, and near 4500 finishers in the races. Ticket sales were $34,000, our best year. Adding that to the entry fees paid by schools of approximately $18500, and the total gross for the Athletic Department was well over $50000. Expenses are around $12000, leaving the Athletic Department with a “profit” of near $40000. The Athletic Boosters have in the past made between $4000 and $5000 profit on the meet as well.
From a Cross Country meet standpoint it went flawlessly. Races were on time, the timing system worked well, the course was fast, and we had very few injuries of note. From what I understand, parking was better with the addition of the north field parking lot, and the bus parking at the Church went well. There was way too much garbage overflowing during the day, and the portapots become unacceptable as the day went on. These and T-Shirts were the only complaints I heard.
On Thursday, September 14th I received an email from the Athletic Director stating that they had not determined how to pay for the shirts. In the same email it was made clear that the Cross Country/Track Programs were simply going to be “out” the money that would have been raised (as they suggested other fund raising events.) I also talked to Bob Martin at Ohio Select, who was waiting on his money.
I sent much of the information above to the Athletic Director, Principal, Superintendent and School Board members at that time. Since then I have been told that “it will be taken care of” and to “hang tight.” Rumors abound. However, there are two points that need to be made clear:
- The T-Shirt Bill must be paid to Ohio Select (not from Track/CC funds)
- The Track/CC Athletic Association Account needs to be “made good” for the loss of the sale opportunity.
The Athletic Director should have informed me that shirts needed to be approved. The SWL schools should have informed all of us that the “Warriors” are now restricted. I certainly would have honored either. The Athletic Director had the “right” to make the call she did. But she also has the responsibility for the consequences of that decision – consequences that should not be inflicted on the student/athletes of the Watkins Boys and Girls Track and Cross Country programs.
Cross Country Meet Manager