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Top-ranked team's fans flock to stores for all things Irish

Local retailers say there's no doubt about it – Notre Dame football fans are stocking up before this weekend's game.

Tuesday evening, several businesses reported a busy day of sales, including sweatshirts, jerseys, framed photos and Fighting Irish hats.

No. 1 Notre Dame plays the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on Saturday night. If the Irish win, they will have completed an undefeated regular season and will play in the Bowl Championship Series national title game on Jan. 7.

Ryan White, assistant manager at Clem's Collectibles, said he's already had a busy week with shoppers stopping in to find Notre Dame knickknacks. Clem's at Jefferson Pointe doesn't sell apparel, but other items have been attracting customers, he said.

"It's been a lot of the standard stuff so far – auto accessories, photos of the stadium, that sort of thing. We have a nice item that's a framed picture of a player with a helmet being hoisted up in the air. That's a real popular one," he said.

White said it could take a few days to see whether there has been an increase in sales, but as far as foot traffic, there's no question Irish fans are out and about.

At Glenbrook Square, UniversiTEES, a sports store specializing in licensed apparel, has been fielding questions from customers seeking sweatshirts and jerseys all week, store manager Mike Twarogal said.

But because Notre Dame signed a contract with Adidas, and UniversiTEES doesn't carry the new merchandise, there's not much left for the picking, he said.

"We have about five styles of T-shirts left. Anything bigger than a large is gone," Twarogal said. "There's definitely been an increase of people coming in and looking for it. I can tell you that."

Jacob Benedict, president of Fort Wayne's Notre Dame Club, said he's seen several emails from fans hoping to join one of the group's "game watches," which Benedict described as social gatherings of football fanatics to watch the Fighting Irish play.

The club has about 100 dues-paying members, he said.

"We had a game watch for the Boston College game, and I'd say that's the most successful one we've had in years," Benedict said.

"We had 30 or 40 people there and we usually only have 15 or 20, so that was great."

Benedict said there are about 900 Fighting Irish fans on the group's mailing list – but with all of the excitement surrounding the team, there may be more names to add soon.

Fans have also been shopping online, according to

Notre Dame has been the best-selling type of college sports merchandise this season on the Fanatics website. So far, the online retailer has sold more than twice as many Fighting Irish items than it had at the same point last year.

Fans are trying to get their hands on the gloves – colored green, white and orange – that players wore against Navy for the season opener in Ireland.

They're asking if it's possible to buy the avant-garde helmets from the Shamrock Series game against Miami.

Fans also barraged Anthony Travel, the university's official travel partner, on Monday to ask about packages for the national championship game Jan. 7 in Miami.

Steiner Sports, a New York-based company that works with athletes, coaches and teams to market authentic autographed and game-used merchandise, has noticed the difference too.

Brett Schissler, the company's executive vice president, said many people are looking for merchandise that represents Notre Dame's history.

The most-requested items, however, have been the special helmets players wore against Miami. He said Steiner obtained 10 to 15 helmets that were made for but not used in the game at Soldier Field in Chicago. They sold "instantaneously" for $1,000 apiece; he said game-used helmets will sell for $2,000 to $5,000.

He estimated that a Manti Te'o jersey worn in the title game would sell for $10,000 to $15,000 – if not more.

"I can see what's happening, and it's very, very similar in our market to when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004," Schissler said. "Because of the history of Notre Dame and the time between the championships, people are going to want a piece of this game."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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