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Taking school spirit all the way to the grave

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Walston, CEO of Collegiate Memorials in Macon, GA., has been selling memorial products with college logos on them since 1999.

"Being in the south, you have to understand the loyalty people have to their university," Walston said.,”Scott Walston is redefining how to be a "diehard" college fan.

Walston, chief executive officer of Collegiate Memorials in Macon, Ga., has been selling memorial products with college logos on them since 1999.

"Being in the South, you have to understand the loyalty people have to their universities," Walston said.

Collegiate Memorials had sold caskets emblazoned with the University of Georgia logo until 2003, when the Board of Regents prohibited the company from using UGA's logo, Walston said.

Since 1982, the Board of Regents has banned burial items, toilet seats, sex toys, alcoholic beverages and religious artifacts from bearing the UGA logo, said John Millsaps, spokesman for the Board of Regents. This law applies to 35 public colleges in Georgia, he said.

Walston said he asked the Board of Regents to revisit the issue at its board meeting in January. He said he thinks he stands a good chance of overturning the law.

"I'm very optimistic," Walston said. "Our product has no negative connotation. It hasn't had in 10 years."

The members of the board have asked their staff to review the policy and come back with recommendations, he said.

UGA alumni were top buyers of the burial items before the Board of Regents made Collegiate Memorials aware of the law. Walston said a number of alumni are eager to purchase the UGA burial items.

Collegiate Memorials creates logos for about 40 to 50 schools, he said. The University of Oklahoma, University of Alabama and University of Kentucky are now the top buyers.

The company's caskets sell for $2,600 to $3,600, he said.

The caskets with logos are popular with the baby boomer generation, he said. Many families have generations that attend the same university and want to celebrate that tradition.

"They want to identify with it and have it go along with their life achievements," Walston said.

Jessica Koth, communications coordinator for the National Funerals Directors Association, said the college logos on burial items are a continuation of the personalization trend in funerals.

"People are creating funerals services that truly reflect the life of the person who died," Koth. "Many people are loyal to whichever college they graduated from and want to carry that love on once they've died."

Aside from college logos, people are also buying burial items sports logos.

Eternal Image Inc., in Farmington Hills, Mich., sells caskets with logos from 13 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. Top sellers include Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs logos, said Robbie Raffish, spokesman for Eternal Image.

The company also sells Star Trek, Precious Moments or Vatican burial products.

People also buy memorial products for their animals, including an American Kennel Club or Cat Fanciers Association urns, she said.

The products have been successful and the first shipment was sold out before it arrived in the store, Raffish said.

"There hasn't been a significant change like this in the funeral industry in decades," Raffish said. "We had the opportunity to bring licensing into the market where it had not been used before."

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