LINCOLN — Nebraska athletics has been outfitted by Adidas for more than two decades. Pending University of Nebraska Board of Regents approval next week, NU will extend that partnership into a third decade.
On Aug. 11, Regents will consider a new sponsorship agreement between Husker athletics and Adidas that would cover 11 years and more than $128 million. The deal would include $64 million in cash and nearly $64.7 million in athletic apparel and equipment products. If passed, the proposed agreement will replace the final year of the current contract — a five-year extension that was signed March 15, 2013 — and go into effect immediately.
The deal would continue to make Nebraska one of Adidas’ top schools, and gives NU two “look in” spots in the contract to ensure that. Adidas, which has lost significant apparel contracts with Michigan, Notre Dame, Tennessee and UCLA in the past three years, didn’t lose the Huskers or coach Mike Riley, who was a staunch Nike supporter when he was coach at Oregon State.
In the past two years, Adidas won Riley over, he said in an April interview with The World-Herald. In the spring, Riley and other coaches at top Adidas schools — such as Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen — went on a spring break retreat to Costa Rica sponsored by Adidas.
“They’re working at this very hard,” Riley said of Adidas. “Their product, and how they’ve better connected with kids over the course of the last three, four, five years; they’ve made a big move. Our relationship and service with Adidas, I think, is outstanding. I’ve enjoyed it. It was new territory for me — and concerning because I’d been with Nike for so long and appreciated that relationship, but I’ve been really been pleased with Adidas, and I’ve liked working with them.
“They’re forward-thinking. They’re aggressive. They’re thoughtful.”
Adidas has been aggressive in recruiting, becoming the sponsor of Rivals prospect camps and training combines — supplanting Under Armour — and helping coordinate satellite camps for Adidas-backed schools. NU attended several such camps in June at Texas A&M, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, among others. In the last month, NU revamped the interior of its indoor football facility with Adidas-sponsored banners.
The words “Three Stripe Life,” which references Adidas’ iconic logo, are prominent. Adidas even had a “grassroots” marketing expert at the Huskers’ spring game.
Hints of a reworked Adidas deal have been bouncing around for months. On Friday, Husker recruit Masry Mapieu, who wears Adidas gear for York High, said he already knew Nebraska was getting a new deal.
“It’s awesome,” Mapieu said.
NU football first started wearing Adidas uniforms in 1995. The current five-year agreement between Nebraska and Adidas was worth $15.53 million and followed an eight-year contract signed in 2005 that totaled $22.7 million.
The Board of Regents approved the 2013 extension with a 7-0 vote. It called for $8.03 million in cash and $7.5 million in Adidas apparel and equipment over the five years.
At the time, former UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said: “It’s not a significant increase over the deal we had before, so in that sense, I’m disappointed.”
Perlman added that Adidas was the best offer Nebraska had, too.
Under a new deal, the increases for the 2017-18 fiscal year would go from $1 million to $3.5 million with cash and from $3.4 million to $5.05 million with product. By 2027-28, those figures would jump to $5.5 million in cash and almost $6.8 million in product.
The exclusive contract also consists of a qualified sponsorship agreement for which Adidas “will receive major signage and other permitted forms of sponsorship recognition.”
As stated in the explanation for the Aug. 11 Board of Regents meeting agenda item: “While the proposed 11-year deal is a notably long commitment, it is more than reasonable, given the significant contract value (approximately triple the present arrangement), accompanied by two ‘look-in’ periods in the fourth and seventh contract years.”
A look-in allows the parties “to adjust the contract to reflect market value in such a manner that UNL retains its status as an elite Adidas university program. If the ‘look-in’ reveals that Nebraska is not an elite Adidas program, the University may terminate the agreement.”
If approved, the agreement would run through June 30, 2028. The Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 11.
Adidas replaced Converse as sponsor of Husker athletics in 1995. As the eight-year agreement was being proposed in 2005, then-Athletic Director Steve Pederson said NU “had discussions with all the major companies” before deciding to stick with Adidas.
According to published reports, some of Adidas’ largest sponsorships are with A&M, Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, Arizona State and Mississippi State. UCLA had a contract with Adidas that was worth $8.9 million annually before the school signed a 15-year, $280 million deal with Under Armour a year ago.
Nebraska and Adidas last week unveiled the alternate uniform that the Huskers will wear for their Oct. 7 home game with Wisconsin. The alternate is a near-replica of the NU uniform from its 1997 national championship season.
New gymnastics facility proposed
The Board of Regents will also decide next week whether to approve a new training facility for men’s and women’s gymnastics.
The proposed addition to the Devaney Center would house both programs, providing team rooms, locker rooms, equipment storage areas, training areas, offices and meeting spaces with direct access to the gym. The 35,400-square foot facility comes with a projected cost of more than $14 million provided by private donations and athletic funds.
If approved, construction would begin in August 2018 and be completed by December 2019. The women’s team currently trains on the third floor of Mabel Lee Hall, while the men practice in a space north of the Devaney Center swimming pool.