Arguably the most iconic uniform in college football is getting an overhaul—or, at the very least, a notable brand change.
According to ESPN's Darren Rovell, Under Armour has reached an agreement with the University of Notre Dame to replace Adidas as its uniform sponsor when the school's current deal runs out later this year. No deal has been officially signed as of Thursday, Jan. 9, but Under Armour was said to have been the front-runner for such an arrangement for the past month.
Rovell later reported that the deal would likely be worth $90 million:
The private school did not reveal the value of the 10-year deal, which will begin when its contract with adidas expires at the end of June, but sources told ESPN.com that the value of the deal, in cash and merchandise combined, is worth about $90 million.
That would make the deal worth more than the $82 million adidas is paying in cash and product to Michigan over 10 years.
The deal could eventually be worth even more to the Fighting Irish, as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick noted that it allows the school to take some of the cash in company stock.
Notre Dame has been outfitted with Adidas apparel since 1997. The current 10-year arrangement the two sides signed in November 2005 is due to expire at the end of this school year. Although the Irish and Adidas have become synonymous with one another, Rovell notes the brand's relationship with the University of Michigan has created some conflict.
Jack Swarbrick, the Notre Dame director of athletics, told Mike Monaco of The Observer in December that the school's new partner—which came down to a renewal with Adidas or new agreements with Nike or Under Armour—must recognize the power of the Notre Dame brand:
We really need our apparel partner to embrace that concept and to treat us differently. It sounds selfish but it’s just about being a national brand. There’s one approach when you’re primarily a regional brand and a great regional brand, but we’re not. We’re a national brand and need a partner who can help fuel that.
Rumors had already surfaced at the time about an agreement between the Irish and Under Armour, but Swarbrick denied those claims. Rovell noted that Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank was in South Bend on Thursday, likely working to finalize the agreement.
Although its market share might not be that of Nike or Adidas (by far the two biggest sports apparel companies in the world), Under Armour has been making major headway in college sports. It currently has 10 school-wide deals in place, per Rovell, including BCS National Championship runner-up Auburn.
That said, Notre Dame instantly becomes the company's highest-profile client. Even through lean years on the gridiron, hardwood and elsewhere, Notre Dame's golden dome and colors are among the most recognizable in college sports. The university has attempted to diversify its uniforms, specifically with Adidas' Shamrock Series release this year, so Swarbrick could be making the switch with more large-scale changes in mind.
Financial terms have not been disclosed, but it stands to reason Notre Dame will at least challenge the $8.2 million yearly sum Adidas pays Michigan. Brian Kelly has led the Irish to four consecutive winning seasons since taking over in 2010, bringing them back from the nadir of the Charlie Weis years. Mike Brey is one of the longest-tenured basketball coaches in the nation, and Notre Dame has made four straight NCAA tournament appearances.
With the two biggest revenue-generating sports—football and men's basketball—in good standing, this is a win-win deal for the two sides.
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