North Carolina's 'yard sale' brings the shoppers out

North Carolina held its first ever "yard sale" on Saturday morning, selling off old and used sports gear that was simply taking up too much space in its athletic department equipment rooms. Unlike most friendly neighborhood yard sales, the university had to first clear it with the state.

"We first started talking about it a couple of years ago, but we had to navigate all the state requirements for distributing state assets," UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said.

That's right.



Normally items sold -- such as jerseys, shoes and lacrosse sticks -- get forwarded to the state's surplus store because technically, at a public university, the equipment purchased is state property. That is why the Tar Heels didn't just give the jerseys to the former players who used to wear them and it's also why the university had to allow the public equal opportunity to purchase them.

It made for an early morning sale that felt a lot like the start of Christmas shopping.

Waiting patiently

The school announced it would not allow fans to camp out and that the official line would not start forming until 4 a.m. Consumers came out before then anyway. And the unofficial line began well outside of the stadium, with the university issuing wristbands in an attempt to maintain order. "People were calling their friends to come up. Once we sat down in Fetzer they had everybody hold up their wristbands," said Chris Hodges, 34, of Durham, North Carolina. "There were two guys -- one had a purple and one who didn't have one at all -- so they got sent to the back. Everybody cheered. Other than that it wasn't too bad." Cunningham said about 3,000 wristbands were issued before the doors opened at 7 a.m.

Doors open

Clarence and Camilla Edwards arrived at about 5:30 a.m., after a two-hour drive from Elkin to the Eddie Smith Field House. Clarence Edwards is a track coach at Elkins High School who bought track shoes for their children. He first learned of the yard sale through a student on the team, Hunter Simmons, who also made the trek in search of bargains. "This was like Black Friday madness, and I don't do Black Friday, so this was overwhelming for me," Camilla Edwards said. "It freaked me out, in all honesty; it was like too much going on at once." Organizers tried to avoid having too many people shopping at once by staggering the amount allowed in. Edwards and his wife had a strategy -- split up in order to cover more ground -- but many of the items they wanted were already gone. "You see people come out with these Santa Clause bags of stuff, but at the same time for what we were able to do and what we got you can't help but be satisfied," Clarence Edwards said.

It's gotta be the shoes

Organizers expected the Jordan brand shoes and those with the argyle pattern would be in high demand, so they limited shoes to one per person. The limited quantity was enough to make Jason Pollard, 41, from Greensboro, North Carolina, forget about his appetite. Pollard said he and a friend arrived around 1 a.m. after watching the Tar Heels' baseball game and catching a late showing of "Captain America: Civil War." He didn't bring any snacks to bide his time while waiting six hours before the doors opened. "We haven't even ate, ain't ate a bit. I was nervous about getting some Jordans," said Pollard, who has the Ramses mascot tattooed on his left shoulder and was already the proud owner of a Carolina blue pair of Nikes with the argyle pattern on back. One fan told athletic director Bubba Cunningham he drove three hours from the beach town of Morehead City specifically to buy shoes with the Carolina blue argyle.

Amid all those jerseys, one important one was found

Donti Coats, who played defensive tackle for the Tar Heels from 2000-02, found the needle in the haystack. The No. 94 jersey he played the 2000 spring game had a small rip in the back left shoulder. "I remember that there. I have a picture of it with the rip," said Coats, whose alarm went off at 4:25 a.m. so he could drive to Chapel Hill from an hour away. Coats probably wasn't among the first 1,000 people to arrive for the yard sale. But he figured he'd have a good chance of buying his number in school, just by "looking at the size of people," in front of him. Coats no longer looks like he tips the scale around his 290-pound playing weight, but he still takes a 4XL. When he finally got inside the sale, Clarence Edwards also had a 94 in blue, but gave it to Coats when he explained that it was his playing number. Coats tried to save a jersey for a former teammate, "I called Jermicus Banks [No. 90] and he didn't pick up so we threw that jersey back because that was more expensive."

Field house or mad house?

Out of the thousands who perused the tables and turf of the field house, none were probably more pleased than Durham Jordan High School athletic director Shelba Levins and football coach Anthony Barbour. They purchased about 120 practice jerseys for football, including white, blue and green colors. "Financially, we don't get that much money to run our program, so anything like this helps," said Levins, who also purchased track spikes and volleyball kneepads. "We can also help maybe some kids who are lacking some equipment, who can't afford something like that." Barbour said their current practice jerseys didn't even have numbers and their purchase should last about three years. Barbour had a personal dilemma, though, seeing as though he played running back at rival NC State from 1988-92. "The kids will be excited to get these," said Barbour, who is still ranks third in single-season rushing yards for the Wolfpack. "I might tell them it's from State though."

Preparing for chaos

North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the school consulted with other schools -- including NC State and East Carolina -- that have had similar sales for tips. The most insightful suggestion came from Illinois in having enough volunteers to restock items after the first wave of people come through. Cunningham was already thinking of ways to improve the sale for the next time the school holds the event. Among the ideas: having a lottery for the line: "I would randomize the start so it doesn't make any difference what time you showed up, everyone would have an equal chance to be the first person." Cunningham said they weren't really able to predict what would be most popular. He did say they should have put a limit on basketball jerseys. "We knew basketball was a popular item, I think we misjudged that," he said. "At least it was orderly. People did a wonderful job of waiting their turn and going in, and there was some disappointment, but overall it went well."

This man was first in line

Joey Gault, 34, arrived from Greenville, South Carolina, with his wife at about midnight and was the first person. When the doors opened, Gault went straight for the men's basketball jerseys, which sold for just $20. "I just tried to grab them all," he said. And he did -- until an official made him return to the table and told him he could keep only 10. Gault picked out the numbers he wanted, "as everybody was trying to elbow and get to me." As he finished his purchase in the checkout line, one woman anxious to retrieve a No. 44 jersey asked if she could buy one from him. "She told me a price and I said, 'Well, there's been people hounding me the last three hours telling me they want much more than that for the jerseys, so sorry.' It's simple economics, you know," said Gault, who said he'd already been offered $200 for one. Gault didn't endear himself to other shoppers who were hoping to get a jersey. They might be bothered more knowing that he didn't plan on keeping all of them. "If it's a situation that someone is going to pay me $200 for something I got for $20, unless it's got sentimental value, I think anybody would do that," he said.

Blue light special

The university advertised more than 12,000 items for sale, starting in price from $5 socks and wristbands. The most expensive two items were $50 navy blue football jerseys and argyle shoes. Everything else seemed to range between $15-25, including white and blue football jerseys, baseball bats and men's basketball shorts. Shoppers were given large plastic bags when they entered and many stuffed them with items they later spread out and examined before they checked out. Some bartered with other shoppers to gain items. Some were gathering merchandise to resell on the Internet to turn a profit. Most were like Megan Kruse, who simply were fans out shopping for themselves. "My family thinks I'm crazy," said Kruse, a student at Liberty University, who came from from Lynchburg, Virginia. "It was worth it, I got quality clothes for pretty cheap."

Y'all come back

Under any other circumstance, it would seem absurd for people to stand in a line 60 yards long. At its height, the wait was nearly triple that, with people wrapping another the entire field. Cunningham said when the total amount is tallied, "we could end up with $100,000." The money will go toward purchasing a new washing machine for the football equipment room. The machine normally costs around $17,000. Cunningham said he'd "put the rest toward the student-athlete's fueling station. It makes a little more sense to target these resources back to students."

Any army of one

Wayne Faust, a 31-year-old Chapel Hill resident, came to the yard sale with a "shopping list." Faust contacted several of his former classmates, several who were in ROTC and some he met while taking classes in Peace, War and Defense. "They're all military members. I'm prior service. They're deployed around the world, so I emailed them and said, 'Hey guys, they're having a yard sale, so what do you want me to get?'" Faust purchased a pair of shoes, shorts, socks and two shirts for himself. The items he'll ship to his friends who are as far away as Germany included 14 shirts, two football jerseys and a baseball helmet. "I was supposed to pick up nine basketball jerseys," Faust said. "I got zero basketball jerseys."

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