While Nike will pay the university $25,000 if its men’s basketball team makes a Final Four tournament appearance, the school can lose money from Nike should the university be banned from television appearances or if Nike’s swoosh is “materially diminished” in size and placement on a school uniform and shoes.
Coach: Not ‘over the top’
School officials defend the arrangement, even as some of them have faulted Nike’s products.
“I don’t think it’s over the top,” John Anderson, the longtime Gophers baseball coach, said of Nike’s on-campus presence.
Anderson said he and other college coaches successfully convinced Nike not to force their teams to use its aluminum baseball bats — he believed they were not as well made as others — and also exempted his middle infielders, first baseman and catcher from having to use Nike’s baseball gloves.
“They didn’t make a very good first baseman’s glove — they admitted it,” he said.
Anderson said Nike has not been pushy regarding its contract.
“I haven’t felt that somebody’s walking around, checking to make sure I got my Nike shoes on every five minutes,” Anderson said as he sat in his office, wearing a school pullover with a Nike logo.
Of the number of Nike swooshes on his own coach’s uniform, Anderson laughed and said: “I think I counted 20-some one day.”
Negotiating a deal
Even though Nike’s agreement does not expire for another year, school officials who are being pushed to increase athletic department revenues have already begun preparing for the next contract.
Although other companies are expected to compete for the new deal, Nike already might have a leg up. Mike Ellis, the school’s new senior associate athletic director, will play a key role and only last year helped negotiate a contract with Nike while at Virginia Commonwealth.
“I’ve been involved with Nike for a long time,” said Ellis, who was hired by new athletic director Norwood Teague, who also came from VCU.
The university’s contract is similar to Nike deals with the seven other Big Ten schools, particularly those with similar marketing brand values.
Purdue has an eight-year contract with Nike, with annual in-kind product payments that began at $900,000 and have escalated to $1.1 million. If a player at Purdue cannot wear Nike shoes for medical or comfort reasons, Nike will at least temporarily allow the player to wear a competitor’s shoes provided the name of the competitor is blocked out.
Patrick Rishe, a professor specializing in sports economics at Webster University in St. Louis, said that — like them or not — athletic apparel contracts are here to stay.
“The cost of running an athletics department is increasing,” Rishe said. “You need revenue from wherever you can get it.”
Rishe said that because the University of Minnesota “will pale in comparison” as a marketing brand compared with other major college programs — such as Alabama, Florida and Southern California — it is no surprise that the Gophers get less money from Nike.