University Of Washington, Adidas, And The Rest Of The Northwest

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This week, news broke that the University of Washington came to an agreement with Adidas on a huge new apparel deal. It’s one of the richer deals in college athletics, and it will keep the school on Montlake flush with cash for the next ten years. At the end of March, I’d speculated this new deal to have easily cleared $10 million per year, but I didn’t think that the deal would exceed five years. The University of Washington signed with Adidas for ten years for about $120 million, and it’d been a crime for Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen to deny the prospect of getting $120 million, which may be why the deal had closed quicker than expected.

What does this mean for the Huskies now? Simply, the athletic program now has to perform up to standard. Men’s basketball and football are on the rise, with women’s volleyball as the powerhouse at the school. Maybe the deal could be a boon for men’s baseball and help retool women’s basketball. For the most part, the school should feel relaxed that the money part is taken care of.

The big loser in all of this is Under Armor. Reportedly Nike didn’t come close to Adidas’ offer to the UW, but Under Armor is already invested in UCLA and University of California. Under Armor signed gargantuan deals with both of those schools, and didn’t even attempt at expanding market share into the northwest. It should be noted that since those deals, Under Armor’s stock prices have tanked. Nike remains king of the northwest, but now Adidas enters the fold as fierce competitors. Soon, Oregon and Washington football games will add a corporate dimension to the already heated rivalry.

What about the rest of the schools in the northwest?

Washington State University is being left behind, with UW athletic director’s one fell swoop of the pen. The school in the east have seven years left with their Nike contract, paying just about $2.3 million per year. For comparison WSU’s coach Mike Leach is making $4 million per year. While the school’s athletic program isn’t as big as UW’s, Oregon’s, or any school in California, seeing this deal go down for the University of Washington has to hurt for WSU. While sports operates on a year-to-year basis, it sucks not getting a chance at diving into this engorged cash cow that is college sports branding. And unfortunately, this could be just the beginning of a rift between schools like WSU and the rest of the PAC-12. While most other schools are cashing in, WSU will be dealing with budget shortfalls for the greater part of the next decade. If your apparel deal can’t pay for just one of your athletic coaches, how can an athletic program viably develop and compete?

Oregon State University would be the next school to keep an eye on for a new apparel contract. The current deal is with Nike and expires after the 2019 athletic season, so it’s expected that Adidas would again be in the fold for negotiations with the school. Adidas would have to beat any offer from Nike again, so OSU could make out on a great deal. I’d expect another long-term deal for OSU in the $7-8 million per year range. At this point, no one should expect Under Armor to even show up at the door.

The Oregon Ducks have been in the long haul with Nike, and their current deal runs for another decade, so no, Adidas won’t have a chance at stealing the Ducks. However, the deal with UW is larger and pays more per year, so it may be a boon for the Ducks looking to renegotiate with Nike the next time around. That’s way too early for speculation, but if college football remains to be the television darling for America then anything’s possible. It might not even matter, since Nike has contributed to the school in ways outside of the current scope of the contract.

Nonetheless, college football is still roaring strong. The war for the northwest may have just begun, and the University of Washington is just the first shoe to drop. Can Adidas stay aggressive?

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Sebastian Pycior

Sebastian is an industrial professional, having graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Political Science in 2013. He remains largely interested in the effects sports have on greater society. From Las Vegas, he’s moved on from the world of 'odds' and has embraced storylines and aspects surrounding Seattle sports.

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