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Change to new outfitter means higher prices for Gamecocks apparel

COLUMBIA -- The price of being a Gamecock fan keeps going up.

Season ticket prices rose $40. Parking is no longer free for Gamecock Club members.

And have you tried buying any of the team's new football gear?

The new Under Armour jerseys, shirts and sweatshirts worn by USC coaches and players cost $4 to $18 more than the team's official gear from last year, made by Russell Athletic.

Why?

Under Armour says its goods are made of more expensive climate-control material. Plus the brand is known for being a bit more upscale.

Not that much of a hassle

But loyalty to the Gamecocks and affinity for the modern material has made the price increase an afterthought for many fans, several Columbia merchants said.

One customer bought 14 University of South Carolina Under Armour "Tech T-shirts" at $29.99 each last week, said John Sparrow, a manager at Gamecock Country on Rosewood Drive.

Sparrow said he expects sales to keep rising as USC's first home game against Louisiana-Lafayette approaches on Saturday.

"Under Armour is definitely a hot brand," said Tim Robertson, co-owner of Todd & Moore, a sporting goods store with two Columbia-area locations. "Their niche and modern fabric has made it a hit with customers."

Robertson said fans like the way the Under Armour fabric wicks away perspiration and keeps them dry. And it doesn't hurt that the gear has been used by football players and other athletes for years.

While fans might be paying more for Under Armour gear, USC is benefiting from the new deal.

The $1.8 million a year that USC gets from Under Armour is a huge boost from the $250,000 to $300,000 a year that Russell Athletic paid.

Four colleges under contract

South Carolina is the fourth university to sign up with Under Armour. The 10-year-old company - founded by former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank - also outfits his alma mater, Auburn University and Texas Tech.

USC athletics marketing director Jeff Crane said he expects Under Armour's impact to be significant for the university.

"Just gauging the calls from retailers," he said, "which is driven by customers ... (there) is tremendous interest.

"For the last three years, our licensing revenue has been increasing by 15 percent per year," said Crane, who expects sales to rise because Under Armour is so popular among youth.

David Houser, 13, said he likes how Under Armour gear keeps him cool. The Columbia baseball player and Carolina fan browsed through a new shipment of Under Armour shirts and hats at the Hibbett Sports store in Forest Acres on Friday.

His mother, Lynne, said the extra $10 or so she spends for David's T-shirts is "worth it."

Some of the most popular gear from Under Armour, USC football's official supplier, costs $4 to $18 more per item than football wear made by the Gamecocks' supplier last year, Russell Athletic. A look at the costs:

Gameday/Sideline polo shirt

$68 -- Under Armour

$50 -- Russell Athletic

T-shirt

$24-$30 -- Under Armour

$20 -- Russell Athletic

Hooded sweat shirt

$65 -- Under Armour

$50 -- Russell Athletic

Jersey

$65 -- Under Armour

$50 -- Russell Athletic

-- Sources: Hibbett Sports, Todd & Moore, Gamecock Country, Gamecock Stop and Amazon.com

Under Armour, higher price

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