Could Louisville Become To Adidas What Oregon Is To Nike? New Deal Will Bring More Uniforms, Money, Exposure To Cardinals’ Football

Nike has Oregon, Under Amour has Maryland, and now, Adidas seems to have Louisville. Each major sporting brand has a flagship school; they pour money into these athletic programs, giving them all the equipment and uniforms it could need, in the hope it will bring more exposure to their company through the success of the teams. 

Earlier Thursday morning, the University of Louisville inked a five-year, $40 million deal with Adidas that keeps the school with the company through 2018-19. It’s the third biggest apparel deal in collegiate athletics. 

Adidas does give Michigan more money than it will Louisville, and Under Amour pays the Fighting Irish more than it does Maryland, but moving forward, when people think of the three major brands (Nike, Adidas, Under Amour) and college sports, they’ll likely think of Oregon, Louisville, and Maryland. 

What Adidas and Under Amour are doing with Michigan and Notre Dame, respectively, is paying for tradition. The two schools are already well established. The Wolverine and Fighting Irish athletic programs will thrive regardless of the logo sported on their uniforms. The two brands probably want to be able to say, “Look, these two historic programs are wearing our stuff.”

What the two brands are now doing with Maryland and Louisville, though, is similar to what Nike did with Oregon: growing a program with the help of cool uniforms and attire. They can’t do that with Notre Dame and Michigan. Can you imagine the uproar those teams’ fan bases would have if their classic jerseys were to be messed with?

Maryland has been outfitted by Under Amour, a Baltimore based company started by Terrapin alumnus Kevin Plank, since 2008. Since then, the Terps’ football and men’s basketball programs have worn dozens of different uniforms, the most famous being the “Terrapin Pride” threads debuted against Miami in 2011.

Maryland’s football program hasn’t been too successful in recent years (13 wins in three seasons under Randy Edsall) but they’ve been recruiting well. Why? Partly because of the variety of the uniforms the team wears. Despite being a middle-of-the-pack team with regards to wins, two top-35 recruiting classes, as ranked by Rivals.com, have come to College Park over the past three years, including five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who had scholarship offers from nearly every school in the country. 

The effect Nike has had with Oregon is almost immeasurable. The Ducks have won three conference titles since 2009, prior to that year, they’d won just three since 1957. Each year since 2010, Oregon has had a top 20 recruiting class per Rivals. Why? A lot of it has to do with Nike. The Ducks have a sparkling football facility, built with money donated by Phil Knight, Nike’s founder, and have, according to most youngsters, the best uniforms in the country. 

“It all starts with the uniforms,” said Rachel Bachman, a former sports business reporter now with the Wall Street Journal. 

Could Louisville benefit in similar ways? The Cardinals have modest football tradition (nine career bowl wins) and have had good success recently (two Big East titles and a Sugar Bowl win in 2013). But they’re making the move to the ACC, a better conference, this season, and the upward ascension needs to continue. 

Adidas could help the Cardinals stay on an upward trajectory. 

They’ll have new uniforms. 

And better facilities. 

More exposure.

And maybe, a better football program.


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Andrew Holleran is an editor at College Spun.