A few years back, using formulas that included social media search traffic, sports revenues and television media markets, American statistician and writer Nate Silver concluded that Ohio State (OSU) had more fans than any college football program in the country. That estimate, of just over three million, probably needs revision, considering this year’s National Championship victory against the University of Oregon, 42-20. Even for a team that critics had counted out many times throughout the season, the win was no surprise to loyal Ohio State Buckeye fans, or to Kathy Smith, manager of the Barnes & Noble at The Ohio State University Bookstore.
“We had been planning for various ‘what-if’ scenarios throughout the season,” Smith explains, “and we had a good idea what it meant when we beat Alabama, so you can imagine the atmosphere on campus prior to the Oregon game.” As chance would have it, the game was scheduled the night of the first day of classes at OSU, so in addition to anticipating a stampede of celebratory fans, the bookstore was also in the thick of Spring Rush.
In anticipation, Smith brought in extra staff to ensure customers were helped — be their interest academic, fan-related, or both. Enlisting the help of retired managers and student booksellers, who came in between classes, even when they weren’t scheduled, help was on hand for everything from shipping online orders to answering course-material questions.
Smith also liaised with suppliers to ensure that the celebratory ‘OSU Undisputed National Champion’ shirts were in plentiful supply. Nike had contracted with local printers who started printing the special shirts the moment Ohio State’s win was announced. Smith personally picked up the initial orders in the early hours of the morning after the win, distributing to all three of her store locations, so merchandise would be available for Buckeye fans at their 8 a.m. opening. “We had some history going back to our win in 2002 to use as an ordering guide, but in the weeks immediately after the game, we were selling thousands of units a day,” she says. “That required placing daily reorders with our vendors and constant communication with our home office team to coordinate ordering and next-day deliveries,” she adds.
Throughout that week, bookstore staff were kept busy helping with not only textbooks for the first week of term, but also for souvenir shirts, banners and pennants. On the weekends, the Ohio State community, comprised of local fans, parents and alumni, thronged the store for memorabilia. Loyal fans of Buckeye football also extended beyond the state borders of Ohio, with online orders pouring in from all 50 states — and from as far away as Japan!
In the unpredictable world of college sports, experience can be a valuable commodity. While the bookstore team helped support Buckeye pride and celebrate a very special victory, it also provided a smooth start to the semester. With the Spring Football game scheduled for April, Smith will ensure there’s plenty of stock on her shelves for a series of orientation events scheduled throughout the summer and carrying into the official football season. “We’re so proud of our team and we love sharing in the celebration of these events,” Smith says. So, what is her prediction for next year’s Championship? “Go Buckeyes!”