The Big Uniform Question

What do uniforms actually mean in the big picture of college athletics? Would a switch from Adidas to Nike help Scott Drew and his Bears?

As reported earlier this week, the Baylor Bears basketball team is looking at making the switch from Adidas to Nike as their uniform supplier. The Bears have been with Adidas for most of the Scott Drew era, and have been a Tier 1 school for the past several years. Being a Tier 1 school has given the Bears some of the latest uniform designs, and has given the Bears special post-season uniforms, which have been met with some good and bad reactions.

There is little doubt that the relationship with Adidas has given the Bears a higher profile in the basketball world, as they have risen from one of the biggest rebuilding jobs in basketball history to a Top 25 program most years during their time with Adidas. The Bears might not be the hottest name in basketball, but for a small religious school in football country, they more than hold their own.

The Bears though are in an interesting position. Larger athletic departments do university wide deals to maximize their potential revenue return with a single company. This also allows for a stronger deal across the athletic department, rather than each sport having to dictate what they do on an individual level. The Bears have put the buying power in each sport’s hands, with football and women’s basketball choosing Nike.

The two major brands in the uniform race are Nike and Adidas, with Under Armour being a distant third with many other smaller brands on the fringes of the industry. They have been fighting over the same schools for years and years. Tennessee is a recent program that made the switch from Adidas to Nike. Some of the perks that the Vols received for leaving their 17-year partner in Adidas? How about $3 million per year in Nike merchandise credits, or $950,000 per year in payments, not including the $2 million signing bonus Nike paid.

Michigan receives around $8 million per year from Adidas, to simply allow the company to outfit Michigan athletes, students, and fans in their gear. They receive $4.4 million in apparel and merchandise, and $3.8 million in cash. Michigan has the most lucrative apparel deal in the country, at least for now.

Notre Dame is making the switch from Adidas to Under Armour, with a 10-year deal announced recently. While the details have not been released, it is expected to be the new largest deal in the country. As you can see, this is big-time money right here.

These are very important revenue streams for colleges, and another way to bring revenue to a university. However, the impact of a uniform change is not just limited to the bottom line. There is also the benefit on the exposure and “cool” factor that prospective student athletes and young fans see in the program. This is why programs like Oklahoma, steeped in tradition and with uniforms that simply do not change, unveiled new uniforms for a few games in 2014.

This is what the Bears have done in football; unveiling “cool” new uniforms that are not meant to impress 50 year old boosters, but rather their children. The men’s basketball team has done this as well, to good and bad results with Adidas. Most recently, the Bears were banned from wearing Adidas made uniforms for their NCAA tournament run, featuring a slogan (Sic’Em Bears) rather than the traditional school name or mascot.

While the change for the men’s basketball team from Adidas to Nike is not official (and we don’t know the details of whether this is a school wide change), this could have quite a large impact on the men’s basketball program. While football is just purely about maximizing dollars and getting the attention of recruits, basketball uniforms have a much deeper relationship with schools and prospects.

AAU teams are funded by shoe companies, such as Adidas and Nike. This is a big money industry, where millions of dollars are pumped into these training grounds for 14-18 year old kids. With all of that money going into the development of these players and their coaches, the motivation of keeping these kids in the same type of uniform in college is quite strong. While this is not a major factor in a prospects recruitment, it is prevalent.

With the Bears switching to Nike, you might see a change in the AAU teams that they focus on. In fact, the two that Baylor has been involved with the most for 2015 and 2016 are both Nike teams. The Texas Titans, which features commit King McClure and top prospects DJ Hogg and Tyler Davis, are a Nike team. De’Aaron Fox plays for Houston Hoops, another Nike squad.

Year Player Position Stars AAU Team Shoe Brand
2007 Lacedarius Dunn SG 5 Dream Team Louisiana Adidas
2008 Quincy Acy PF 3 Texas Blue Chips Adidas
2008 Anthony Jones SF 4 Houston Hoops Nike
2009 Nolan Dennis SG 4 Dallas Mustangs Adidas
2009 Givon Crump SF 3 Arizona Magic Adidas
2009 AJ Walton PG 3 Arkansas Wings Nike
2009 Cory Jefferson C 3 Texas Select Under Armour
2010 Stargell Love PG 3 LBA SEAWOLVES Adidas
2010 Perry Jones C 5 LBA SEAWOLVES Adidas
2011 Duece Bello SF 4 D-One Sports Adidas
2011 Quincy Miller PF 5 D-One Sports Adidas
2012 Taurean Waller-Prince PF 1 San Antonio Legends None
2012 Ricardo Gathers PF 4 Nike Team Louisiana Nike
2012 Chad Rykhoek C 3 Family First None
2012 L.J. Rose PG 4 Houston Hoops Nike
2012 Isaiah Austin C 5 Texas Pro Nike
2013 Allerik Freeman SG 4 Boo Williams' Elite Nike
2013 Ishmail Wainright SF 4 Team Takeover Nike
2013 Jonathan Motley PF 3 Houston Defenders Under Armour
2014 Kobie Eubanks SG 4 E1T1 Nike
2014 Terry Maston PF 3 Team Texas Elite Nike
2014 Damiyne Durham SG 3 Franchize All-Stars Adidas
2015 King McClure SG 4 Texas Titans Nike

As you can see, the Nike signings have become much more prevalent in recent years, after depending on Adidas programs (such as D-One, LBA Seawolves, and Dallas Mustangs). The Bears have had more signing without a major AAU shoe sponsor (2- Chad Rykhoek and Taurean Waller-Prince) than Adidas (1- Damiyne Durham). So, could a change to Nike help the Bears recruiting as well? Honestly, it can’t hurt it, but it is impossible to truly know the net impact of a move for Scott Drew and his team. If this does happen, they will join Texas as the other big school under the Nike banner (Texas Tech is Under Armour and Texas A&M is Adidas).

Bears Illustrated Top Stories