As Tennessee's women's basketball team made its way through two far-flung road trips recently, the scenery at each venue was strikingly similar.
The bright orange "We Back Pat" T-shirts were on display at Madison Square Garden, Rutgers, UCLA and Stanford, as the Lady Vols made a 10-day road swing, going 3-1.
The shirts are a vivid reminder of Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt's widespread popularity. They're also a reminder that this UT season is about more than women's basketball.
When Summitt announced she has early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, she wanted to be forthcoming as she sought to continue coaching. She didn't aspire to become a national symbol.
But she has become just that. She is the face of the fight against a dreadful disease.
And there's no way to calculate the impact she has had, or will have. The T-shirts give you an idea, though.
Jed Dance, the vice president of Bacon and Co. in Knoxville, Tenn., estimates he has printed more than 50,000 T-shirts since the end of August.
"It has been unreal," he said.
Darlene Hawn, a buyer for the University of Tennessee Bookstore, has seen the same reaction to the hot-selling shirts, whose proceeds all go to fund Alzheimer's programs in Tennessee.
"It has been the No. 1 selling item in the history of the bookstore," she said. "We probably are close to 16,000 (shirts sold). It beats all I've ever seen."
Another 10,600 T-shirts have been sold on UT's athletic website, according to Hawn.
"I have to order the shirts daily," she said. "We get 200 to 250 (requests a day overall) on our website and 90 percent of those include a 'We Back Pat' T-shirt."
Stephen Deel, general manager of Sports Seasons in Knoxville, said his store has sold more than 2,000 shirts.
"We got involved with it just from seeing that at the (UT) bookstore," Deel said. "We jumped on board when we saw that all the funds go to Alzheimer's."
Jimmy Delaney, UT's marketing and sales director, said the fan response to the shirt has been comparable to that from the sale of national championship apparel after the Vols won a national title in football in 1998.
"It just blew up and caught on right away," Delaney said. "You were just taken aback by the fan support."
The idea for the shirt was a group effort involving the UT coaching staff, marketing department and bookstore.
Hawn said UT assistant coach Daedra Charles-Furlow wanted to do something to recognize Summitt. Hawn then discussed the idea with Dance and the Alzheimer's Association.
"They (Alzheimer's Association) came up with the 'We Back Pat,' " Hawn said. "We did the back: 'Our Coach. Our Friend. Our Family. The University of Tennessee.' "
The original included another line: "Our Icon."
"Pat wanted that taken off," Hawn said.
The longtime retailer was well aware of Summitt's popularity. But even she has been surprised by the widespread national interest in the shirt.
She has received requests from businesses, schools and teams. Rarely does anyone want just one shirt.
Her most recent long-distant order came from a school in Maine that wanted its basketball team to wear the shirts in warm-ups "to raise awareness" of the disease.
The project is doing just that.