The University of Illinois will continue its long-running partnership with Nike, as the school signed a 10-year extension with the athletic giant on Tuesday.
According to an official press release, the Fighting Illini and Nike have worked together for the past 20 years, and their new deal ensures 21 varsity sports teams will be decked out in Nike apparel through the 2025-26 academic year.
Per the release, Illinois interim director of athletics Paul Kowalczyk believes the new contract is a significant one for the university in terms of maintaining its status as one of the top colleges in the nation when it comes to athletics:
We are extremely pleased to extend our outstanding relationship and partnership with Nike. Their commitment to us reinforces the fact that we have one of the strongest brands in college sports as this agreement has a value among the Top 20 in all of collegiate athletics. We will continue to work together to equip our student-athletes with the most exciting, cutting-edge apparel and equipment, while providing our fans a myriad of ways to display their Fighting Illini pride.
While there is no question that remaining attached to the Nike brand is a coup for Illinois due to the cachet that comes with it, that alone won't be enough to push the school's top sports teams back into the elite ranks.
Illinois football hasn't enjoyed a winning season since 2011, and it hasn't won more than seven games since 2007.
The men's basketball team, on the other hand, hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2012-13, and its last foray past the third round came back in 2004-05 when the Fighting Illini made a run to the national championship game.
Being in the Big Ten and having the support of Nike are two factors that should give Illinois a leg up on much of the competition when it comes to recruiting and bringing in the best talent possible.
That hasn't manifested itself in recent years, but locking down Nike for the foreseeable future is an accomplishment that certainly won't hurt its cause.
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