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Wolf Pack negotiating key apparel deal with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour

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When the Wolf Pack basketball team hit the court this season, sitting on the right shoulder of the players’ jersey – any of the baker’s dozen used by the team – sat one of sports’ most recognizable symbols: the Nike swoosh.

That could change next year. Nevada has been a Nike school since 2008 when it switched from Adidas to the most popular sports retailer in the world. The Wolf Pack is in the process of negotiating its next apparel sponsorship deal. With a rising hoops program, Nevada has drawn interest from The Big Three – Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

“The good news is each of the three major companies are interested in us, and that’s not normal in the Group of 5,” Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth told the Reno Gazette Journal. “We got into some competitive conversations, which is good.”

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The Wolf Pack has used a number of apparel companies over the year. From the mid-1990s until 2004, the Nevada football team wore Russell Athletic before shifting to Adidas from 2005-07 and eventually Nike in 2008. Wolf Pack basketball used Nike in the early 2000s until the move to Adidas from 2005-07.

Wolf Pack athletics struck an all-sports deal with Nike in 2008 and has had back-to-back five-year deals with the company, with the second contract being extended in 2013 shortly before Nevada hired Knuth.

These contracts can be ultra-lucrative. In 2016, UCLA and Under Armour, which has become increasingly competitive in the market, agreed to a 15-year, $280 million deal in cash and apparel, the largest in college athletics history. Michigan (Adidas, $174 million total value), Texas (Nike, $250 million) and Ohio State (Nike, $250 million) also have struck it rich recently. The median Power 5 school deal is roughly $3 million annually, per a 2016 report by Forbes, but that money is much lower for non-Power 5 schools.

Nevada, which is a member of the Mountain West, part of that so-called Group of 5, doesn’t have nearly the sweetheart deal of those Power 5 schools. Its contract, which expires May 31, includes $400,000 in apparel with no pure cash value. Nevada’s deal also included $10,000 in product for participation in the Nike N7 program, which supports Native American communities, and bonuses for postseason play in football and basketball (for example, Nevada earned a $10,000 bonus for reaching this year’s Sweet 16).

In addition to equipment allowance, Nevada can purchase additional apparel at a reduced rate, including 50 percent off retail and two-for-one football cleats.

“That’s a pretty good deal,” Knuth said, “but it’s not a big deal relative to our conference and relative to other people like us.”

Boise State is the MW standard-bearer in this department. The Broncos’ deal with Nike, which expires June 30, 2019, is valued at $1.275 million annually, with all but $50,000 of that being equipment and apparel. New Mexico’s deal with Nike, which expires on July 31, 2020, is valued at $1.050 million (all equipment and apparel). UNLV also has a $1.015 million deal with Bike that expires on May 31, 2019.

Of the MW’s 11 full-time members, Nevada is one of nine schools contracted with Nike. Colorado State has a deal with Under Armour (as does football-only member Hawaii). San Jose State uses Adidas.

While Nike’s contract states it has “first dealing and first refusal” before the expiration of its contract with Nevada, the Wolf Pack was able to negotiate with third parties beginning March 1. Knuth said Nevada has been in contact with Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, the three giants of the business after Russell Athletic dropped out of the college game.

Nevada has had a good relationship with Nike, which handpicked the Wolf Pack in 2011 to be a part of its N7 campaign and has helped Nevada produce the 13 basketball jerseys it used this season (12 in the regular season, one in the preseason). The Wolf Pack football team also debuted new football jerseys in 2017, Jay Norvell’s first season.

Over the next couple of weeks, Nevada will decided if it will remain a Nike school. 

“Still working, still negotiating,” Knuth said. “We’re probably two or so weeks away from making a decision and another week or so for contract stuff and within four weeks we’ll have an announcement.”

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