Fans of Grizzly athletics will soon start noticing changes to the equipment and uniforms used by UM athletes—namely the addition of Nike’s famous “Swoosh” logo. That’s because the athletic department recently signed a school-wide, five-year contract with the sporting goods giant to outfit all UM sports teams with Nike apparel, footwear and equipment though 2010.
According to UM Athletic Director Jim O’Day, Grizzly football and the men’s and women’s basketball teams had team discount contracts with Nike in the past, but the new contract will cover all Griz sporting teams and result in substantial discounts for the school.
“With this deal we’ll be getting equipment and apparel at wholesale price, and footwear at wholesale minus 10 percent,” says O’Day. “Say you bought a pair of tennis shoes and the retail price was $150. The wholesale price might be $100. With our discounts we would probably be charged $90.”
According to Ed Wingard, assistant athletic director for fiscal operations, the deal will allow the school to outfit its teams with superior equipment without spending more.
“Nike is well recognized as being a premiere label,” says Wingard. “We’re not looking purely at cost savings, we’re also looking at quality and durability.”
O’Day says Nike offers three tiers of contracts to select universities. About 20 Division 1-A universities have first-tier contracts with Nike, whereby they receive products and cash payments in exchange for wearing Nike gear. Fewer than 40 schools in the country have second-tier contracts, like the one UM signed with the company, he said.
O’Day says Eric Sprunk, a UM alum and a top Nike executive, sits on the national advisory board for Grizzly athletics. It was Sprunk, along with Craig Zanon, another UM alum at Nike, who made the deal possible.
“Without our alumni connections Nike would not even look at us,” O’Day said.
Bob Duringer, UM’s vice president of administration and finance, says frequent national championship appearances in football and the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament appearance helped seal the deal.
“We have the biggest sports team in Montana,” he said.