When the Texas Longhorns start the 2016 football season in Austin against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the familiar Nike swoosh may not adorn the left breast of the classic burnt orange jersey tops.
Instead, the Horns may be wearing the same Under Armour crest as the Fighting Irish. That's because the upstart apparel company is set to make a market-setting offer to Texas and athletics director Steve Patterson, according to Chip Brown of Horns Digest. The eye-opening numbers? Brown reports the deal could be worth $150 million over 10 years:
Nike has always been seen as the leader because of the history between Nike and Texas. But officials said Under Armour is not deterred and will continue to make an aggressive bid and that Steve Patterson is enamored.
There's been speculation that the Longhorns could leave Nike after Patterson bucked the status quo by dumping industry giant Collegiate Licensing Co. as the school's master licensee for retail needs, instead joining USC as the only major college brand represented by another upstart company in Dallas-based 289c Apparel.
Here's a key factor -- Nike hasn't been willing to pay out large sums of money for apparel deals. In fact, of the top 10 apparel deals nationally, five are adidas, three are Under Armour, and only two are Nike, a telling statistic.
What's the current market for Nike schools re-upping with Phil Knight and company?
Georgia finished No. 5 in CLC royalties in 2013-14, but signed a new Nike deal in 2014 worth at least $40.8 million over 10 years. Tennessee ($5.5 million from adidas), Auburn ($4.3 million from Under Armour), and LSU ($4.2 million from Nike) lead the way in the SEC, even though LSU ranks behind Georgia in royalties, a rough approximation of brand strength.
So even the top schools aren't exactly cashing in with Nike at the moment.
The current market-setting deal came from Under Armour, too, as Notre Dame inked with the Maryland-based company last year for a reported $90 million over 10 years, a deal that also reportedly includes the ability for the Fighting Irish to take some of the contract in stocks.
With the rise of Under Armour stock overall -- up 80% from early 2013 to early 2014 -- and the 3% boost provided by the Notre Dame deal alone, the addition of Texas could create an even more pronounced bounce. Not to mention the fact that it would give the university significantly increased earning potential from a deal that would in turn, if Brown's report is true, make Texas the recipient of the most lucrative apparel deal in college sports history by an astounding 66.7%.
Nike certainly wouldn't want to match that deal and set such a high precedent with Alabama's own deal with the company coming up at the end of 2018. However, the Swoosh did match a lucrative Under Armour offer of $300 million to Texas Ex Kevin Durant to keep him with Nike instead of hometown Under Armour, a surprising move.
So there is at least some recent history of Nike standing toe to toe with Under Armour, but considering that Florida State is the highest-paid Nike school after signing a contract extension last year that will pay the Noles $5 million per year, what's the highest that Nike would go with Texas?
Even offering $100 million over 10 years would represent a doubling of the biggest contract given out by Nike in college sports. Going 50% higher than that? It's hard to imagine, even if it is Texas.
As a result, even if the reported contract offer from Under Armour to the Longhorns is off by anywhere from $50 million to $70 million, Texas might well have a new apparel supplier in 2016 because there's no way that Patterson is turning down millions of dollars in revenue. Nor should he.
And while Under Armour has produced some universally-despised uniforms for schools like Texas Tech and Maryland, it didn't mess with Auburn and it didn't mess with Notre Dame, either. If the Horns do sign with Under Armour, then, perhaps the traditionalists won't have too much to worry about.