Stay tuned, Texas Longhorns fans -- if a Tuesday report from Bloomberg proves accurate, Nike won't renew its apparel contract with the nation's richest athletic department before its exclusive negotiating window closes on October 1.
Hitting the open market for the first time since abandoning Reebok in favor of the industry leader in 2000 would virtually guarantee a huge payday for the Longhorns, but might leave fans unhappy once again if interm athletic director Mike Perrin decides to ink with Under Armour or Adidas.
If Nike does opt not to let the exlusive negotiating window pass, it would come as something of a surprise -- the recent apparel deal signed by Michigan looked like it would 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 represented a major shift in strategy for Nike, which had 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 made the recent contract signed by Notre Dame appear insignificant -- the Fighting Irish reportedly 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 appeared much higher that Perrin could cash in and stick with the industry leader.
Now that may not be the case, as it would make business sense for Nike to avoid the bidding war that will inevitably result if the Horns could officially get a massive offer from Under Armour or Adidas. The caveat is that Nike has the 15 days to match any deal extended by another company, but why let it come to that?
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 the Longhorns wouldn't significantly hurt the bottom line for the apparel giant.
There had been speculation that the Longhorns could leave Nike after former athletic direcdtor Steve 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.
Still, don't sleep on Under Armour -- Dodd said the company is a "major player" for Texas, even though it hasn't been able to start negotiating with the Longhorns yet. By Thursday, that may change, and it could result in a new logo adorning Texas gear in the near future.