USF warns about fake tickets and merchandise

In the past, USF never had to worry about counterfeiters knocking off their sports tickets or merchandise. But with the success of the University of South Florida football team this year, counterfeiters are taking their shot.

About 50 counterfeit tickets were sold for the USF-West Virginia game. Fans are being warned to look out for counterfeits for Saturday's game against the University of Central Florida, USF officials said Thursday. With the popularity that comes with a No. 5 national ranking — including sold-out games — the best way to avoid counterfeiters is to buy tickets through the USF ticket office or Ticketmaster.

Roger Frazee, a Bradenton financial adviser and Bulls season ticket holder for the past decade, said he gave his tickets away when game time was moved from 7 p.m. to noon to accommodate TV. "There's a huge demand for tickets," he said.

Dave Bristow, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, said he has heard of no complaints locally. But anyone who buys a counterfeit ticket is probably in for an unhappy surprise. With the use of bar codes and holograms, many counterfeit tickets will be screened out at the admission gate.

Another concern is the lucrative merchandising of USF clothing and memorabilia. University officials, working with the Collegiate Licensing Company, plan to have enforcement teams working in the Tampa Bay area todayand and Saturday, looking for counterfeit and unlicensed merchandise.

“Demand for officially licensed merchandise is at an all-time high for the University of South Florida,” said Mike Carlton, director of University Services for Collegiate Licensing Company. Royalties from the sale of Bulls merchandise help fund scholarships and campus development projects, he said. In the past five years, USF royalties have increased 77 percent.

Although Carlton had no reports of counterfeit merchandise being sold in Manatee and Sarasota counties, he said knockoffs have been spotted in areas around Raymond James Stadium where fans tailgate. "A lot of times we get leads from licensed vendors," Carlton said.

Among the Tampa Bay area retailers who have expanded their assortment of officially licensed Bulls merchandise are Champs, Bealls, Wal-Mart, Dillard's, Lids and Hibbetts. The craze for anything with a Bulls logo should carry well into 2008, Carlton said. Karen Filips, promotions director for Bealls Inc., confirmed her company is heavily marketing Bulls merchandise in the Tampa Bay area.

"We're selling a ton of it," she said. But for Bulls fans who have moved away from the area, the merchandise is still as close as a mouse click away at www.beallsflorida.com, she said.

To ensure proper licensing, merchandise should: - the “Officially Licensed Collegiate Product” hologram somewhere on the product - Depict the USF logo and marks in a tasteful manner - an intact tag on the garment - Bear the name of the manufacturer - the trademark designation next to a specific name or design USF's next game

The South Florida Bulls host UCF at noon Saturday. The game will be on ESPNU.