Head football coach Tim Brewster has generated a lot of buzz around the University since his arrival earlier this year, from his lofty predictions of postseason success to keeping promising recruits in state. But who would have thought the latest buzz surrounding Brewster would be over a T-shirt?
The University has pulled the plug on further production of a T-shirt it feels is too closely related to alcohol.
The slogan in question? “Brew’s Crew.”
The controversial T-shirt displays those two words surrounding an “M” branded football across the chest, a reference to football fans and their support of Brewster.
The University has the authority to regulate the production of apparel and merchandise with its trademarks and exercised that right in this case.
Tom Wistrcill, University associate athletics director, said the University figures the slogan is an alcohol reference it would rather not be associated with.
“We think that the word ‘Brew’ has a direct tie to alcohol,” Wistrcill said. “We don’t think it’s in our best interest – for the athletic department and the University – to associate ourselves with that inference to alcohol.”
The Goal Line Club – the official booster club for University football – printed the T-shirts as part of a promotion to raise money for the athletics program. Boosters sold the shirts at the annual spring scrimmage to students for $10, $6 of which went to the athletics program.
Goal Line Club President Teresa Grim said shirt sales are just a small part of the money raised for the athletics program. Most funds were generated through donations and membership fees.
“In the past we used to just do T-shirts for our own members,” Grim said. “But now we’re just trying to find more ways to raise money for the program.”
Grim added that the T-shirts reached production because of a miscommunication between the boosters and the athletics department.
“Normally we have to get any merchandise with the school logo on it OK’d by the department,” Grim said. “We didn’t know it was a problem before it was too late.”
The booster club is still selling the remaining shirts at goallineclub.com, but halted further production. Now, boosters are looking into other ways to support the new coach, Grim said.
Wistrcill said the University can only regulate products made through official vendors and had no jurisdiction over third-party products.
Nadine Babu is a former member of the Barnyard Executive Board, a group of volunteers who promote the University basketball program. The group, she said, has experienced similar problems before.
Last semester, the University halted production of shirts bearing the slogans “Better dead than red” and “Who hates Iowa?” – shirts that the Barnyard Executive Board created to generate enthusiasm among basketball fans. Several hundred of the shirts were recalled and destroyed at the University’s request, according to Babu.
But as of Tuesday, the University Bookstore still showcased its own “Better dead than red” tee on its Web site.
“(The University) makes it hard to be a Gopher fan,” Babu said, “what with all their rules and regulations, when they could really focus on ticket sales and enhancing the atmosphere.”
Michael Conway, a University sophomore who purchased one of the Brew’s Crew shirts, said he feels that the University might be overreacting in its decision to stop the shirt sales.
” ‘Brew’ is just short for his last name – you can assume whatever you want, it’s still just a nickname,” Conway said.
“I don’t think this will hamper Brewster’s momentum at all, but this will be negative to the students’ involvement,” he said. “You’re limiting the students’ creativity and how they want to support the team.”