Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today Sports

Cal's new Under Armour deal requires some soul searching among the Cougar faithful

NEWS LAST WEEK that Cal and Under Armour agreed to an $86 million contract that will outfit Golden Bears teams in UA gear for a decade starting in 2017 no doubt sent heads spinning throughout the Pac-12. And the follow-up 10-year, $96 million deal between Under Armour and Wisconsin confirmed that we're not in Kansas anymore.

Cal and Wisconsin are attractive properties, but those types of numbers heretofore had been the province of the Notre Dames, Michigans and Texas' of the world.

ESPN says Under Armour will pay Cal -- currently a Nike school -- a $3 million signing bonus, $3.5 million in cash per year and an average annual product allowance of $4.76 million.

By comparison, Washington State's new contact signed with Nike last year featured a $1 million signing bonus, $200,000 per year in cash and $2 million of Nike footwear and apparel annually, as reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal

The 10-year deal is collectively valued at $23 million.

The $2.2 million per year total in cash and product nearly doubles WSU's previous Nike contract, and, according to the PBSJ's public contracts database, puts the agreement on par with Nike's Oregon State, Colorado and Utah contracts and within sniffing distance of Oregon's $2.98 million annual deal.

Cal's new contract, of course, dwarfs 'em all.

Washington, at $3.5 million per year from Nike, is the gold standard for apparel contracts in the Northwest, but it is far from Cal's new deal and also well behind Adidas' West Coast standard bearers Arizona State ($4.42 million annually) and UCLA ($7.5 million annually). Arizona reportedly comes in at $3.8 million per year with Nike.

Cal's Under Armour contract -- at $8.26 million per year in cash and product -- raises the proverbial bar significantly for everyone in the conference.

Now it's important to note that comparisons among the Pac-12's pubic schools aren't apples-to-apples. As ESPN notes, Cal's contract "might be the most comprehensive deal in college sports" because it also covers club teams, includes discounts for faculty and students, access to UA's MapMyFitness technology, and more. In addition, Cal offers more varsity sports than WSU, for instance, and every last one of those swimmers, divers, gymnasts, beach volleyballers and lacrosse, softball and field hockey players will need to be clad in Under Armour beginning in 2017.

Another footnote in comparisons is how the product portions of these contracts are calculated. For example, according to the Business of College Sports, Adidas allotments are based on wholesale prices and Nike allotments are based on aggregate retail value, meaning Adidas schools are getting more bang for the buck.

Regardless, it's clear the market rate for outfitting teams in a particular brand has been supercharged.

That may be unfortunate for WSU because it's locked into its contract with Nike until 2025 with what looks to be older standards, while each of its Pacific Northwest brethren, as well as Colorado, Utah and UCLA, will be free to seek new deals as soon as next year and no later than 2019. Under Armour's aggressive moves on Nike and Adidas territory can only add up nicely for every school, whether they switch alliances or not.

"College athletics has become a big business poised to only get bigger, and the nation's largest apparel companies are battling to grab the biggest piece of the pie," writes Laura Godlewsit of Athletic Business.  "The three major players, Adidas, Nike and Under Armour, are outbidding each other by record numbers to gain what is considered prime advertising real estate — college athletes whose games are broadcast for millions to see."

For Cougar fans, this would seem once again to highlight the importance of buying season tickets, donating to the CAF scholarship fund and supporting capital campaigns like the Indoor Practice Facility.

The Pac-12's equitable sharing of TV revenue is a boon, yes, but you have to remember that those monies are split evenly, which means donor generosity and apparel contracts are arenas where advantages can be gained or lost. Short of a string of New Year's Day bowl games in football and Sweet 16 appearances in hoops that would necessitate a come-to-Jesus-renegotiation of incentives with Nike, WSU's apparel contract will not be carrying the Crimson and Gray over the financial hump.

But proud and enthusiastic fans can do much to even the playing field. That's the bottom line: WSU needs existing donors to dig deeper and legions of prospective donors to join the ranks.

To that end, the timing of Kirk Schulz's hiring as president of WSU couldn't be better. He's both a proven fundraiser and someone who realizes the broader marketing value to the university of a top-flight athletic program. He said as much Saturday in Spokane, telling the Pac-12 Networks' Ashly Adamson that WSU needs to start marketing itself on a national scale and a stellar football program can help make it happen.

Here's another arrow in the quiver of the importance of good football: Unofficial word out of Pullman this spring is that freshmen applications to WSU are up significantly -- a development hard not to think coincides with what was the best football season on the Palouse since 2003.

So prepare to be asked to open your wallets, Cougar fans. And ideally, be prepared to give and give generously.

Cal's deal with Under Armour is another clarion call for all Coug fans to get in the game.


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