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No wait for Bison back-to-back champions apparel

Rachel Herme, a student at North Dakota State University, looks through a collection of NDSU Bison clothing Sunday at Sports City in West Acres mall. The store had new championship clothing made soon after the Bison won the title game Saturday in Texas. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

FARGO - North Dakota State University senior Rachel Herme said she recently realized the extent of her Bison pride while reorganizing her closet, finding more than 30 pieces of green and gold apparel.

Still, she was browsing the racks at Sports City in West Acres on Sunday, getting ready to add one more shirt to the collection - this one celebrating the Bison's 39-13 domination over Sam Houston State on Saturday, giving them back-to-back Football Championship Subdivision national victories.

Luckily, Herme and the other Bison fans in Fargo had plenty of choices to showcase their home team's achievement, with Sports City packed full with about 1,000 T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies made by local vendors right after the Bison won so they'd be ready to buy when stores opened Sunday.

"I didn't realize that they would be out already, so I wasn't really looking for it," she said.

Plenty of people in West Acres had the same surprised grin as Herme, discovering they wouldn't have to wait to brag about their favorite team's victory. Whole families would catch sight of the Bison logos out of the corners of their eyes, abruptly changing course in the mall's hallway to check out the selection.

"It's so green and yellow in here," remarked one customer.

Event leader Caryn Olson said Scheels was well-prepared for the equivalent of a Black Friday shopping spree to stock up on Bison goodies after their victory. Like Sports City, orders were placed with local distributors long before the Bison even landed in Frisco, Texas, to prepare for the game - conditional orders that said to start screen-printing boxes and boxes of apparel the moment NDSU had won the championship.

She said Scheels learned some lessons after last year's rush to get Bison gear, when the championship apparel was right in the front of the store - causing big lines of eager shoppers. The Bison section was moved further back in the store last February, meaning the rush on Sunday was more spread out and didn't block the main doors or checkout counters.

Still, part of the store's preparation was a gamble. Olson said Scheels leaders wanted to make sure there would be shirts on hand the moment the Bison won, so they ordered basic white T-shirts boasting the back-to-back winners that went on sale - and sold out instantly - on Saturday.

"We thought we better do a manageable quantity just in case something were to happen and we wouldn't have won the game," she said. "So that worked out pretty well."

She said a broader selection of FCS champion apparel will be hitting the shelves over the coming weeks as more detailed, creative designs that take longer to make and are produced by national vendors start to arrive.

NDSU alumna and Lawton, N.D., Bison fan Paula Halvorson was at Scheels to stock up on six championship shirts - one each for herself, her husband and three children, and a second one for her daughter. She also was buying Bison food storage containers and water bottles, further showing her team pride.

It was enough gear for one trip to Scheels, but she said she wouldn't be surprised to make a return visit to get newer gear in the coming months.

"We always stop at Scheels on our way through, so we probably will be buying more stuff," she said.

Fargo transplant Darin Okland also was combing through the racks at Scheels, trying to find a long-sleeve shirt with a reminder to the world of the team's "back-to-back" champion status. He said he knew the store would have plenty of selection, something he's seen with professional sports as apparel makers take a gamble and pre-make clothes with the hopes that their team will actually win.

"They're on the ball here," he said.

Sports City Manager Mike Gorde said the days leading up to Sunday were busy, too - both with Bison fans stocking up before they drove to Frisco for the game, and Minnesota Vikings supporters getting their shirts to cheer on the team in the NFC wild-card game.

But sales were definitely in favor of the Bison on Sunday, maybe because Vikings fans were still reeling from their team's 10-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"They've sold really well coming up to the last game, but I don't think we've sold much today," he said.