Okoboji's football team (The Fighting Phantoms) always wins. No student demonstration has ever ruffled the tranquil campus, and the school refuses to raise tuition. The university's financial resources are awesome: a new Howard Hughes will recently turned up in the salad bowl of a local restaurant, leaving all the billionaire's fortune to the Iowa university. Too good to be true?
Precisely. Six years ago, Herman Richter--who runs a clothing store with his brother in tiny Milford, Iowa--produced a batch of University of Okoboji T shirts as a lark. He then concocted a mythical institution to go along with them. Richter's idea caught on. The school's T shirts have appeared as far away as Saudi Arabia, and Okoboji pennants and car decals are popping up across the U.S. This year, Richter expects to sell $100,000 worth of his university's souvenirs.
Loyal sons of Okoboji actually have formed alumni groups in five cities, and 1,000 people attended a homecoming weekend in July, which featured polka dancing and a marathon around Lake Okoboji (the resort north of Milford that gave the school its name). "The biggest thing we teach is perspective on life and a sense of humor," says Richter, 34, who named himself dean of student affairs. Last week, the hottest selling item in his store was a ticket to the annual Notre Dame game. In another rousing victory, the Fighting Phantoms of Okoboji won, 72-0.