Clothes Aid Recruiting For Illini Football

Athletes choose colleges for many reasons. One aspect of variable importance to different players in favoring a school is the company that produces their athletic apparel. More obvious in basketball, practice and game clothing available for football players also influences college decisions. The Illini feel they have an advantage with Nike.

It is Trent Chesnut's job as Illinois football equipment manager to know everything about athletic apparel. The Illini have a long-term relationship with Nike. He says some kids choose schools on that basis.

"Yeah. With Nike being such a major brand, we have a great relationship with Nike. 1997 is the first year Illinois went with Nike in an all-sport contract. We were one of the first 13 schools in the country to get an all-sports deal.

"So not only are your major sports of football, basketball and baseball gonna have Nike, but also track, gymnastics. Every sport is gonna sport the Nike Swoosh. We just resigned a contract in 2007 for another 10 years.

"There's some kids that will only go to schools that have Nike. They don't want to wear Adidas or Reebok or Under Armour. It's good for us. I think it's more prevalent in basketball, but if a kid has a connection to Adidas, he will choose from those schools. I think that Nike and Adidas stuff is more prevalent in basketball than it is in football."

If a competitor develops an improved design, Nike is quick to create similar products.

"Nike has stuff out now that's the "Under Armour material." Under Armour was the first to come out with the Dri-Fit, wick-away the moisture type of material for t-shirts, shorts and stuff. Nike has all that now, and it's called Pro Compression. That's really big with the kids.

"A lot of kids now, they're so well built and they all wear stuff really tight. Their Dri-Fits are really tight. Back in the day, linemen wore 3X, 4X loose fit stuff. But even linemen these days want tight-fitting stuff for undergarments."

The pants have also gone through a number of improvements over time.

"The pants have really changed through the years. The material now is all Cordura material. It's the same material that runs through the side panels of our jerseys and shoulders. It's real stretchy, real lightweight."

Nike also likes to experiment with new color combinations and designs. Some like them, some don't.

"You see out there today, Nike makes some wild stuff. Especially with the undergarments. The Dri-Fit, Pro Compression type stuff, you'll see kind of a warrior logo. There was some tribal stuff they came out with a couple years ago. They kind of incorporated that into all their Dri-Fit stuff.

"Schools like West Virginia, Florida State have it. One sleeve is one color, one sleeve is another color. I think it's pretty wild. We stay more traditional here. I think most teams in the Big 10 are kind of that way too.

"We like solid color undergarments, no multicolor stuff. That may change in the future, but right now we kind of stay with the traditional look."

An amazingly large number of Illini fans are interested in changing the appearance of the Illinois football uniform. In part 4 of this 8-part series, Chesnut talks about uniform changes.


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