Nike to brand all sports teams

by Tiff Clements

The University athletics department is putting the finishing touches on an exclusive merchandising contract with Nike. The seven-year deal will bring nearly $9 million into the department in apparel, shoes, equipment and cash compensation.

About half of University athletics teams currently have merchandising contracts, with each team making its own decision and merchandising through a variety of companies.

According to Tom Wistrcill, who is handling the deal in athletics, the University chose Nike over Adidas and Under Armour for a number of reasons. In addition to Nike offering the largest financial commitment, it has experience in quality service at other major universities.

The contract means every shoe and article of clothing will come from Nike.

“It includes every piece of equipment,” he said. “Within some sports there is some flexibility given based upon the type of product Nike has or whether they even make the product.”

Wistrcill said Nike’s offer is based on the University’s success in prominent athletics programs – programs that can bring the company attention.

“This is a fair amount of money for our program, and we’re pretty happy with it,” he said.

Nike spokeswoman Maggie Mahler said the company is proud of its tradition with branding collegiate athletics.

“At Nike, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have athletic footwear, apparel, and equipment partnerships with many colleges and universities, including the last eight national champions in football, the last six in men’s basketball, and the last five in women’s basketball,” she wrote in an e-mail. “We are especially excited to extend and expand our efforts with the University of Minnesota’s student-athletes, teams and coaches.”

Varsity softball player Katie Meyer said she sees this contract as an opportunity for smaller teams to enjoy some of the bonuses more popular teams have enjoyed for some time.

“Football is pretty set with big deals, and they have a lot of benefits,” she said. “A deal like this might trickle its way down to the smaller teams like softball or track.”

Heather Horton, a varsity track and cross country runner, said the contract should ultimately be a good thing for at least one of her teams.

She said a large increase in athletes in recent years has left the women’s track team short on matching warm-ups. The new contract should provide the money necessary to buy warm-ups for everyone.

“This should just help us look a little more professional at meets,” Horton said.

The first-year dental student said her coaches discussed the logistics of the contract with members of the team. She said members of the track team will only see one major change under the new contract.

“When we’re competing we’ll wear Nike spikes, which not everybody (on the team) is doing,” Horton said. “But when we’re practicing, we don’t have to have the Nike stuff on.”