courtesy Illinois athletics

Illini, Nike sign 10-year, $44 million deal

Extension gives Illinois a top-20 apparel deal in the country

Illinois and Nike have signed a 10-year extension that will give Illinois about $44.5 million of apparel over the lifetime of the contract, UI associate athletic director Marty Kaufmann told on Tuesday.

"It's a great deal for us," Kaufmann said moments after the university announced the deal. "Certainly, there's been much-publicized deals across the country. We're confident this is a top-20 deal in the nation."

The deal, which is expected to give Illinois about $4.45 million of apparel per year according to Kaufmann, goes into effect on July 1. The current deal -- a 10-year contract that paid Illinois $1.2 million of apparel annually and $325,000 of cash annually -- expires at the end of June.

Kaufmann, who has worked on contract negotiations for about 18 months, said the school was spending more than $300,000 a year in cash, including "closer to half a million dollars" last year due to the athletic program rebrand, on apparel.

Kaufmann said this deal will save Illinois from spending cash from their budget and ensure all its sports teams are fully-equipped.

"It allows us now to really cover all our 21 programs with everything they need, including some of the Olympic programs," Kaufmann said. "Everybody had their product, but some of them had to spend cash. Some of them had to spend their budgets (on apparel) more than they would have liked. Now, none of them are going to have spend their budgets on Nike apparel or shoes or accessories.

"I think you're going to see, especially on the Olympic sports that student-athletes are going to have everything they need and the coaches from a recruiting standpoint are going to be able to tell recruits that they have absolutely everything they need and more from a recruiting standpoint. That's the two areas we wanted to make sure we hit the most."

As the business of college sports booms -- thanks in large part to monstrous television revenues -- apparel deals with universities continue to rise rapidly.

Just last week, Ohio State signed a monstrous 15-year, $252 million deal with Nike.

Last year, Indiana agreed to an eight-year, $53.7 million deal with Adidas; Wisconsin signed a 10-year, $96 million deal with UnderArmour; Michigan State signed a 10-year, $34 million deal with Nike; and Michigan signed a 15-year, $169 million deal with Nike.

In 2014, Minnesota signed a deal with Nike that pays them about $2.2 million annually.

Kaufmann said he feels the Illini got fair market value. 

"We're pleased with where we ended up at," Kaufmann said. "We know the marketplace. We know what our peer institutions are doing. Certainly there are schools that have higher numbers, but you have to go into it with realistic expectations. I think Nike treated us very, very fair. We let it be known to Nike a year ago or more that we wanted to be with them and we wanted to try to work it out. Because we showed we were definitely interested in them, I think they made a commitment that gave us everything we needed to try to make a long commitment to them."

Kaufmann said the dismissal of athletic director Mike Thomas did not derail the negotiations as most of the agreement had been signed off on by university administration before Thomas was dismissed in November.

"In an ideal situation, we certainly wouldn't have had all the transition involved," Kaufmann said. "But we had pretty much agreed on how the contract was going to be structured and rough figures by the beginning of the fall. Really, the last three to four months has just been really fine-tuning everything in the contract, agreeing to all language and all nuances and getting it signed.

"We felt it was in our best interest and in conversations with (UI interim athletic director Paul Kowalczyk) we were far enough along that there was no reason to hold it up. We didn't want it to be a question for a new athletic director when it was already decided."

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