Nebraska extends deal with Adidas

Adidas provides apparel for several Nebraska teams, including the alternate uniforms the football team wore against Wisconsin last season. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved a five-year, $15.53 million extension Friday after athletic department officials couldn't find a more lucrative contract with another company.

LINCOLN — Adidas in a landslide — even if it's not a windfall.

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents Friday voted 7-0 to extend the Husker athletic department's relationship with athletic apparel outfitter Adidas. The new deal — five years, $15.53 million, with $8.03 million in cash and $7.5 million in apparel and equipment — isn't worth much more than NU's previous eight-year, $22.7 million deal that was set to expire this summer.

“It's not a significant increase over the deal we had before, so in that sense, I'm disappointed,” UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said. “But I'm also led to believe that these agreements aren't as rich as they have been across the country.”

Like Michigan's eight-year, $66.5 million deal, signed with Adidas in 2007. Or Notre Dame's 10-year, $60 million deal, signed with Adidas in 2005. Those remain the high-water marks.

More recently, Alabama signed an eight-year, $30 million Nike contract in 2010. And Oregon — essentially Nike's flagship guinea pig school — signed its eight-year, $22.7 million agreement. That's the same deal NU got from Adidas in 2005, and it's less per year ($2.84 million) than Nebraska will get from Adidas ($3.106 million) in the new contract.

And the Huskers' Adidas deal, Perlman said, is more than any other apparel outfitter was willing to offer. After the two sides failed to come to terms in a “right of first dealing” window with Adidas, former Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne looked at other deals. In a phone interview, current Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst — who co-sponsored the extension proposal but did not negotiate it — said he believed Osborne talked to Nike.

No other apparel deals, Perlman said, measured up.

“It's a mix of price, how much they're going to give you and quality of the merchandise,” Perlman said. “And if you put everything together, we didn't come close.”

Regent Bob Phares, chairman of the business affairs committee that examined the contract, said the Adidas deal was “the best thing that was available.”

“We wanted to know if they had really researched and vetted the thing before they brought it to us, and it was obvious they had,” Phares said. “We were comfortable.”

Adidas' deal offers perks. The outfitter provides performance bonuses if teams win conference or national titles — $100,000 for a Big Ten football title, for example — and a second bonus if a coach wins a coach of the year award. Adidas gives practice balls to the football, basketball and volleyball teams. It offers $20,000 for apparel that enhances the “student game-day experience,” such as T-shirts for students at basketball games.

And since 2005, Adidas has had an on-site representative — former Husker assistant equipment manager Al Recker — who helps expedite requests from players. Eichorst said Adidas had an on-campus representative while he was a deputy athletic director at Wisconsin.

“Good partner,” Eichorst said. “Great customer service. They get it. They get the big picture.”

Other than saying Nike did not have a on-campus representative while he was athletic director at Miami, Eichorst declined to discuss differences between Adidas and Nike.

“Both are great companies,” he said from Chicago, where he attended Nebraska's second-round basketball game at the Big Ten tournament.

Husker wide receiver Kenny Bell said Adidas' on-campus rep is helpful for special requests or quickly replacing equipment. An example: Bell said he struggles with turf toe, so he requested titanium plates be placed in the toes of his cleats. He got them within days, he said.

“There's a difference between guys who care what it looks like and guys who care if it works,” Bell said. “Does Nike have some cool designs? Absolutely. You can't lie. But I love what Adidas does. And I care more if it works and feels good.”

Like the previous contract, Adidas will have the negotiating rights to renew the agreement starting 90 days before the fifth contract year. If the sides can't reach an agreement in those three months, Adidas still has the right to match or better any competitors.

Nebraska has several existing agreements with other equipment companies in three sports. The three mentioned in the agreement: Bowling (Columbia300 balls and bags, expiring June 30, 2015); baseball (Rawlings bats, gloves, helmets and bags, expiring Aug. 14, 2013); and softball (Mizuno bats, gloves, helmets and bags, expiring Aug. 31, 2015).

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