Even as large capital projects loom for the Texas Longhorns in the relatively near future, the biggest short-term test for new interim athletic director Mike Perrin will be his ability to negotiate a new apparel contract.
The exclusive negotiating window for Texas with Nike ends on October 1, so if Perrin decides that he doesn't need to hear about an offer from an upstart company like Under Armour, the deal will get done in the next two weeks.
A recent apparel deal signed by Michigan should only help Texas, as the Wolverines signed a deal with Nike that surpassed Under Armour's deal with Notre Dame to become the most lucrative ever:
According to contract details released by the Michigan athletic department, the university's deal with Nike is worth $169 million over 15 years, making it by far the richest of all apparel deals in collegiate athletics. The contract, which will supply all 31 U‐M athletic programs with uniforms, footwear, apparel and equipment, will pay $76.8 million in cash and $80.2 million in apparel.
The astounding numbers represent good news for Texas as negotations continue with the apparel giant, which has never before been willing to match competitors like Adidas and Under Armour to create massive paydays for the top programs nationally -- before Michigan's deal, Nike's biggest contract sat outside the top five nationally.
And the deal for Michigan makes the recent contract signed by Notre Dame appear insignificant -- the Fighting Irish signed with Under Armour for $90 million last year.
Horns Digest's Chip Brown reported in late May that Under Armour could offer Texas $150 million over 10 years, a deal that Nike once seemed unlikely to match or exceed. No longer -- with proof positive that Nike is willing to set the market in a major way, the odds are now much higher that Perrin can cash in and stick with the industry leader.
However, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com points out that three other schools recently signed deals with Nike below market value -- Arizona, Florida, and Georgia. None of those schools have the same type of national footprint as Michigan or Texas, but it does raise the question of how willing Nike is to hand out another contract with a similar value as the one Michigan just signed.
On one hand, Nike could be pooling some extra resources to make a huge run at Texas or it could simply decide that having Michigan is enough and losing a major account like Texas wouldn't significantly hurt the bottom line for the apparel giant.
The guess here is that Nike doesn't want to lose the exposure and revenue-generating opportunity of having the Texas contract, which would leave the decision up to Perrin.
There had 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.
With Perrin now in charge, though, the odds would seem much lower that he'd be willing to risk alienating a portion of the Texas fan base by dumping Nike. After all, his primary intent is on repairing the damage done by Patterson to the school's relationships with donors, faculty, and fans. And moving away from the swoosh might not play well with the traditionalists and those who otherwise have a strong attatchment to the company.
As a letterman at Texas who played defensive end and linebacker from 1966 to 1968, Perrin also has a deeper connection to the school and its traditions than Patterson, who seemed unlikely to leave money on the table to stick with Nike.
Still, don't sleep on Under Armour -- Dodd says the company is a "major player" for Texas, even though it hasn't been able to start negotiating with the Longhorns yet.