Tag Archives: nike

What Nike Learns from Apple could Impact Under Armour

Just as Nike founder Phil Knight was a college athlete, so was Under Armour founder Kevin Plank. Knight’s story is well-known, but Plank’s may not be as well known.

[Wilson:  Nike and its Influence on the Pac-12 Conference]

Plank was a football player for the University of Maryland and upon graduation didn’t know what he was going to do with his life. He remembered his uniform including dry-fit shorts but that same uniform included the standard cotton t-shirt. His shorts would remain dry while his t-shirt would be soaked. This was a problem that he sought to fix and that was the start of Under Armour.

Just as Knight had done with his running shoes, Plank began selling the first edition of his shirts out of the back of his car. Each former athlete not only had a feverish entrepreneurial spirit but they also had an obsession that Knight considers to be paramount to success.

Nike is at the top of the mountain in regards to athletic apparel sales and everyone else is trying to catch them. Of the companies in pursuit of Nike, Under Armour is in the best position to catch the athletic apparel giant.

Even though Under Armour continues to perform well financially, Plank is still chasing Knight and Nike. Nike’s revenue projections may not match Under Armour’s, but that has less to do with Nike slipping in the market and more to do with Under Armour still being relatively young. And part of being a young company means looking for growth opportunities that may already be built into Nike’s business model. Some of the growth opportunities that Under Armour is beginning to maximize are the recent acquisitions of MyFitnessPal and Endomondo.

As a long term investment, some consider Under Armour to be the better buy when compared to Nike. The reasons for this assessment are similar to the ones which I already presented in addition to Under Armour taking a more diversified approach to their business model.

So can Under Armour not only catch Nike but surpass them?

Under Armour and Nike are each hyper-successful companies and that is due to the obsession that Plank runs his business with and the obsession that Knight ran his business with. Plank operating Under Armour in a way that appeals to a wide market base is something that is expected to remain as a constant. Nike on the other hand may be vulnerable now that Knight is retiring.

Nike finds itself in a similar position as Apple found itself in when Tim Cook replaced Steve Jobs. Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple created quality, innovative products that everyone wanted. The Apple business model was operated with machine like precision under Jobs. It is still a machine-like company but many consider the trajectory of the company and its ability to be innovative to have slowed down under Cook’s guidance.

The reason for Apples’ downturn, as slight as it may be, is because of the different leadership styles of Jobs and Cook and this is the crossroads that Nike finds itself at now that Knight is no longer calling the shots.

Plank and Under Armour are competing from a position of power when talking about their place in the market in relation to Nike. That was the case before Knight retired and that remains the case now that he has retired.

Under Armour’s ability to surpass Nike may have more to do with the CEO who replaces Knight rather than what Under Armour does strictly on its own.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.


*Featured image courtesy of youtube.com

Nike and its Influence on the Pac-12 Conference

Nike is the giant of the sports apparel business and to say otherwise would be a gross understatement. The Swoosh is synonymous with college sports in this country and it has a brand name that creates instant recognition. For many people Nike is the only thing they wear when it comes to athletic apparel. The influence is there in our sports culture. In the Pac-12 Conference the influence is just as immense, but in the last few years there have been teams in the Pac-12 that have dropped Nike as the school’s athletic apparel supplier. It begs the question, is Nike losing its grip on the Pac-12 Conference?

By now we all know, or should know, that Nike was homegrown in the state of Oregon on January 25, 1964 by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. The original name was not Nike, but Blue Ribbon Sports. The name changed to Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, in 1971 and Phil Knight has not looked back since.

When one thinks of Nike and college football there is one school that comes to mind and that is the University of Oregon. Why? Pretty simple. Phil Knight is a Duck. Around the state of Oregon he’s known as “Uncle Phil” because of the money he spends on his beloved school in Eugene, Oregon.

The idea of making the Oregon Ducks ground zero for a new type of branding in college athletics began once the Ducks earned the right to play in The Rose Bowl game in 1995. It was the first invite for the Ducks in a millennia and Phil Knight saw an opportunity to shake up college football at Oregon and possibly beyond.

Even though the Ducks lost that Rose Bowl game, Knight was determined to keep the program relevant. It has been reported that Uncle Phil went to the powers that be at Oregon and said it needed to make improvements in its athletic programs, namely football, to keep the Ducks relevant in some capacity in the Pac-12 Conference.

What did Phil Knight do?

He opened up his wallet and decided he was going to give back to the school he loves by turning the athletic program into his own personal proving grounds on university branding.

Over the course of the next few years the amount of money Knight gave to Oregon was really unprecedented in modern athletics. The only other booster of a school that comes to mind in terms of money given to their school is Boone Pickens at Oklahoma State.

When Oregon needed money for an indoor practice facility, an addition to the football stadium, an athletic building for any athlete to use, a completely new basketball arena, improvements to the track and field stadium, new uniforms and helmets, and the Marcus Mariota Center, Phil Knight was there with an open checkbook.

What was this creating?

Simply put, this was Knight’s plan to put the Oregon athletic program on the map of relevancy in college athletics.

Slowly, but surely, as these buildings and improvements were finished the haters came out of the woodwork. Many people thought that this was an unfair advantage for the university. Unfair? I scoffed at that notion.

There are plenty of loaded boosters in this country throwing all sorts of dollars at their universities to try and give them an advantage over the other schools, so it’s nothing different than what goes on at many universities and colleges. To me, it’s just jealousy on the fans’ part and it is just luck that a school has an alum that is the CEO of a world-wide sports apparel company. If I had a company that was world-wide and worth billions you can guarantee that I would be giving my Oregon State Beavers all the things they would need to be competitive in the business of college sports.

The influence of Nike at the University of Oregon is unparalleled in modern day sports. The swoosh is on almost everything at the school. Even the garbage cans around campus have the Nike emblem on them. Yes, the garbage cans.

What about the influence of Nike in the entire Pac-12 Conference?

When you take a look at the landscape of the Pac-12 it shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody that Nike outfits over half the conference. Inside the conference, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC, Washington, and Washington State are all outfitted by Nike, so the influence is there.

The amount of cash that Nike hands out to these schools and the amount of product it gives the athletic programs varies from school to school. For example, Oregon which has Knight’s hand prints all over it, does not get the most money and product in its deal with Nike. They receive approximately $250k-$600k in cash from the apparel giant and around $1.4 million-$2 million in product. The Washington Huskies, however, receive $400k-$850k in cash and around $2.4 million-$2.8 million in product. The school that receives no cash from Nike is Oregon State. The cynic in me says Uncle Phil can’t give any liquid cash to the in-state rival out of loyalty to Oregon. I know it’s probably not the case, but I did find that number interesting due to the fact that every other Nike school in the conference receives some cash from Nike.

The only numbers that were not available were Stanford and USC because they are private institutions and are not required to release those numbers. For people to think that this is where the influence stops would be short-sighted.

Here’s the question I have about Nike’s influence within the Pac-12: Is it losing that influence?

Like I said earlier, eight of the 12 teams in the Pac-12 are outfitted by Nike, but in the last few years some of the teams that were wearing Nike have left for greener pastures with other sports outfitters. Even the Pac-12 Conference is officially outfitted by Adidas.

Utah is one of two teams in the conference that is suiting up with Under Armour. However, that contract is up after the 2016 season, so it’ll be interesting to see if Nike can bring an offer to Utah that brings the Utes onto the Nike team. What will Nike have to do to get the Utes? Certainly put the cash value and apparel value towards the top of the conference and probably offer internships or jobs for Utah graduates. They will need to make an offer that makes it worth the change for Utah.

When I mention what Nike needs to do with Utah it’s due to the fact that the California Golden Bears just inked a lucrative deal with Under Armour. The growing sports apparel giant made California its thirty-fourth Division I all-school partnership. The deal is for 10 years and approximately $86 million in cash and product. Nike paid California $150,000 in cash per year and with Under Armour, California will receive $3.5 million in cash. That’s a total no-brainer for the school. Under Armour will also give students internships and graduates will have the opportunity to get jobs in the company. The deal also includes setting up nutrition and fitness challenges for students, alumni, and staff. California is being put on the front page with Under Armour and that’s what these teams want.

Case in point: Arizona State.

Two teams from the Pac-12 have gone with Adidas as their apparel outfitter. Arizona State and UCLA have inked deals with Adidas and it has given them greater exposure and money. For Arizona State,when you are one of approximately 12 teams under the Adidas banner, the chance to get a better money deal was too good to pass up. The Sun Devils doubled the amount of annual cash they’ll receive by switching from Nike to Adidas. They went from $2.1 million annually to $4.2 million annually. The totality of the contract is for eight years and worth $33.8 million.

When you don’t have to share as much of the money with other schools, the intake for you is going to be substantially more significant, and in the long term that is going to help Arizona State. One of the reasons for the change was to become a priority with its apparel partner. Nike has 45 power conference football clients and ASU was not a priority for it. With Adidas ASU got the reassurance of being a top-five priority.

Here’s the issue that Nike is starting to face with some teams from the Pac-12 moving on from them. Nike outfits so many teams in this country that the share of the money is limited. It’s the small fish in a large pond type of situation for many teams when dealing with Nike. The universities and colleges, like Arizona State and California, feel like they are just a number to Nike and that they are not a focus for the powers that be at Nike.

As much as people tend to think that there is an infinite supply of money when it comes to this sports apparel business. There isn’t. Nike has to give an offer that is good for the school and good for itself. Do they need to change what they do? That’s a tough question there.

We all know Nike is the strongest brand in sports apparel and its influence on the Pac-12 is still dominant. Still, teams are leaving “the swoosh” for better monetary deals that give them better exposure and provide more for the university students, staff, and alumni. This will be an aspect that Nike will want to take a look at when re-signing with any of the Pac-12 schools.

I understand the dilemma that universities have when they consider going with some brand other than Nike. The money that they may gain is weighed against leaving the Nike brand. For some, it’s a no-brainer. You take the money and run. For others Nike does more than any of these other companies can.
I don’t see anything changing dramatically inside the Pac-12 with Nike. Universities will do what’s best for them, but in the end, the brand of Nike is hard to walk away from. I, for one, would have a difficult time going with somebody else to outfit my team. I’m a Nike guy through and through and feel the influence of Nike will continue to be felt in the Pac-12 Conference for years to come.

Image: creative commons

Battling the Forces of PEDs

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Professor Severus Snape has this to say:

The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal.  Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before.  You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.

After that opening salvo, Snape would continue:

Your defenses must therefore be as flexible and inventive as the arts you seek to undo.

This seems to be a perfect parallel to MLB’s PED problem.  Like the Dark Arts, PEDs continue to change form as players seek to stay 2-3 steps ahead of MLB’s enforcement of the rules.  However, unlike those that sought to battle against Evil in the Harry Potter series, those in a position to do something about MLB’s PED problem often do not.

Continue reading Battling the Forces of PEDs

Ohio State vs. The Best Team Nike Can Buy

The first ever college football playoff will crown either the Oregon Ducks or Ohio State Buckeyes as its champion today.  However, regardless of who wins, the true national champion is Nike.  All four teams in the playoff, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State are sponsored by Nike.  As a result, some of the most significant games of the season turned into uncontested Nike commercials.  Based on ESPN reports and side pieces on Oregon, it is no secret that Oregon is Phil Knight’s, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Nike, personal playground and laboratory.  Oregon has used Phil Knight (or, perhaps, Phil Knight has used Oregon) brilliantly to turn itself into a national power in recent years.  Everyone likes getting free things and athletes are no exception.  In fact, they might like free things even more considering receiving benefits is banned and it is human nature to want what you cannot have.  The allure of getting amazing free Nike gear, including new uniforms almost every week is strong.  Most colleges have certain pipeline states for recruiting, but Oregon has found a way to reach players in essentially every state through the power of Nike, pipeline or not.  Essentially, unless a recruit is a devout follower of the other three major college football sponsors, Under Armour, Adidas, or Russell Athletic, Oregon can use the power of Nike to worm its way into the mind of essentially any player it wants and then use Nike to tip the scales in its favor.  Paying players to attend certain schools is against NCAA rules, but Oregon has used the power of Nike to get as close to that line as possible without crossing it.

The timing of this article is strange as almost every angle for this game has been discussed extensively in the lead up to the game.  Here are a few of my, hopefully unique, takes on the championship matchup:

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota vs the Ohio State defense

The analysis of every game featuring the Ducks includes a discussion about the speed with which Oregon plays followed closely by the merits of Heisman winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.  When the offense is rolling, seeing a play called every 10 seconds is not uncommon.  The pace of the Oregon offense causes mental mistakes, fatigue, and vanilla defensive looks.  However, Ohio State may be better equipped to deal with this attack than many others.

Although scout teams can be employed to mimic the attack of an opponent, having an offensive attack that is similar to what an opponent runs is an advantage.  Ohio State’s coaches and players are uniquely prepared for the Oregon offense because they see a version of it everyday.  Like Oregon, Ohio State runs a spread and is known for its hurry up offense that features a read option look and speedy receivers.  Looking into things further, both teams also have a very physical feature running back (Royce Freeman and Ezekiel Elliiott, Oregon and Ohio State, respectively) and their own versions of a mobile quarterback.

Against Alabama, Ohio State’s physical defense, especially its defensive backs, were very disruptive.  Oregon’s wide receivers thrive when they have defensive backs playing off the line of scrimmage and allowing them a free release.  This sets up the Oregon wide receiver screen game and allows its speedy athletes to operate in the open field.  The philosophy of jamming receivers, disrupting the timing of quarterbacks, and generally being physical works at all levels.  Peyton Manning doesn’t lose often, but when he does, it is normally because he is playing a defense that is getting pressure and disrupting quick throws.  The same can be said for Tom Brady.  If two of the greatest modern quarterbacks can be rattled in this way, then Marcus Mariota can be as well.

Cardale Jones vs the Oregon defense

By now, the story about Ohio State’s third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, taking over and leading the Buckeyes to wins against Wisconsin and Alabama in two of the biggest games of the season is well known.  So far, he has shown that he starts games slowly and improves once he gets into the flow of the game.  Although Jones should still be considered an unknown asset, he has shown that he is unafraid of the big game environment.  Oregon’s defense forced Florida State into several turnovers which transformed that game into a blowout.  A turnover free or minimal turnover performance from Jones should allow the Buckeyes to keep pace with Oregon.  Of course, if Jones is unable to make accurate throws consistently, keeping up with the Ducks may prove difficult.

Win or lose, does this game mean the Big Ten is back?

In short, yes.  Compared to other bowl seasons, this bowl season was very successful for the Big Ten.  The conference as a whole seems to have upward momentum thanks to the performances of Ohio State and Michigan State and to a slightly smaller extent, Wisconsin.  Former San Francisco 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh is bringing his track record of consistent success wherever he goes to Michigan and there is little reason to believe that he would not be able to return Michigan to its winning ways.  At the start of the season, it seemed unlikely, if not impossible, that a Big Ten team would be in the playoff, much less in the championship game after Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech and Michigan State lost to Oregon.  To see Ohio State in the championship game at all is surprising, to say the least and shows that at least one Big Ten team has the ability to recruit and develop players who can play against arguably the most talented team in the country, Alabama, and win.

On The Headset: Mark Helfrich

It is tough following a winner. It’s tough living up to high expectations. It’s tough winning in major college football period. Mark Helfrich, Head Coach of the Oregon Ducks, knows all too well about following a winner in Chip Kelly and the expectations that Kelly set with all of the success that he had in Eugene. One could argue that Helfrich has lived up to the high expectations that Duck fans have for the program now.

Helfrich is a guy that you would call “home grown”. He is a native of Oregon and played football at Southern Oregon University. He was a quarterback at Southern Oregon as you could probably tell by his body type. He’s not the most physically intimidating guy and he’s a very unassuming guy that probably could go undetectable in certain places. One of the places is not Eugene, Oregon. People in Eugene know who this guy is and have a great amount of respect for this man who is the man behind the curtain of the Oregon Duck program.

When fans think of Oregon football they think of the flashy uniforms, Nike, Marcus Mariota, and Phil Knight, founder of Nike. What fans and even media tend to lose sight of is that none of those previously mentioned things or people do not have direct control of the football related aspect of the Oregon program. That control is saved for Mark Helfrich. This coach is so undefined that it is easy for people to forget that he is the one with ALL the control. To Helfrich’s credit, he has defined himself and the program as the one that just goes about it’s business in a very quiet manner. That point could be argued because once the offense for the Ducks gets moving, there is nothing quiet about it.

Helfrich grew up on the Oregon Coast and went to high school at Marshfield High. One of the teachers at his high school has a picture of Helfrich in his high school football uniform. He takes the picture off the wall sometimes and will ask his students who that person is. Nobody has guessed who is in the picture accurately the first time they see it. When Helfrich’s former teacher tells them who it is, the kids have that confused look on their face. The kids say, “That, is the coach at Oregon?” He tells them that, in fact, it is the Duck coach. It doesn’t surprise his former teacher at all. Bruce Bryant is the former teacher of the Oregon coach and said that Helfrich wouldn’t have it any other way because he’s not about all the flash. He’s about the process as he calls it.

“Modesty and humbleness tends to keep people low-profile.” Says Bryant.

In other words, Helfrich would much rather keep this low-profile that he has managed for so long and have people focus on all the other the aspects of the program like the uniforms and all the Nike money. The question is, can Helfrich keep up this low profile type of personality in one of the highest profile jobs in all of college football? It’s going to be interesting to see if he can, but if anybody can it certainly can be Mark Helfrich.

As young kid growing up in a small Oregon coastal town, Helfrich grew up rooting and idolizing the Duck program. He would even sit around and try and mimic the Duck announcer on the radio and in the P.A. announcer at Autzen Stadium. When he was wanting to be a Duck as a young kid, he didn’t see them as the high octane Ducks that kids see them as now. He saw Rich Brooks as the coach of the team that was just starting to come out of being a low tier Pac-10 team. The part of the game that he did enjoy was the cerebral game. He would often sit around in class or at home and draw up football plays that he could possibly use at some point.

Mark Helfrich thought he would be some sort of surgeon as when he grew up, not the coach of one of the best football teams in college football. However, he is the coach of the Ducks, with a chance to make college football history and University of Oregon history. If he wins the initial college football playoff, he instantly goes to revered status in Eugene. People might say “Chip who?” if he wins the title.

It has been said that through the years of Oregon football that there has always been a family atmosphere and that is why there were coaches that started with Rich Brooks and have stayed on through the Helfrich era. That is what the fans want and they appreciate that the Helfrich era has kept this feeling. The fans didn’t have that with Chip Kelly, he gave them that “next level” success that any fan base would want, but he was an East Coast guy that came from an area that didn’t look at college football the same as they do in Eugene. It was a much more NFL dominated type of view, so when he left, many fans were not exactly sorry about it. Chip was didn’t really care to meet the media or alumni at the school, so when Helfrich came to be the coach, fans reacted with a better view of him because he was a home grown Oregon guy.

Mark Helfrich has won just like Kelly did, but he is certainly not the focus of the program like Chip Kelly was. Like Kelly, he has a shot at a National Championship. Will he do it? Nobody knows. One thing is for certain, Helfrich is going to do it his way and will continue to shape the program in his quiet, cerebral way and for right now, Duck fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

oregon

Step Your Uniform Game Up, Big Ten

As Black Friday approaches, the yearly decision of what to buy parents for Christmas begins. Unless she reads this or someone tells her about it, my sister will probably go with her default gift, Oregon Ducks Nike gear. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and she currently attends the University of Phil Knight Oregon. Her strategy over the years was to go with gifts like Ducks shirts and hoodies while I try to get more creative with my Christmas gifts and go with things such as concert tickets, comedy shows, and, for my dad, autographed memorabilia from his favorite childhood players.

I don’t regret being more creative with gifts and not inundating my parents with Wisconsin gear. In all fairness, the Adidas-created Wisconsin merchandise isn’t that great so giving out subpar gear as Christmas gifts was never a viable option. Since my sister started attending Oregon, her consistent additions of Oregon gear to my parents’ closets for special occasions has taken its toll. They started as 100% Wisconsin fans when only I was in college and moved to the parental default setting of 50% Wisconsin/50% Oregon fans when she went to Oregon. Now the ratio seems to have trended closer to a 45%/55% or even 40%/60% split in the Wisconsin/Oregon battle which rages silently in the house. I now know better than to text my parents after an Oregon win since it will result in at least a few mentions of how great Oregon played against a weak foe like Colorado.

The microcosm of convincing my parents to unknowingly trend toward Oregon using gear points at far larger issues for Wisconsin, and the Big Ten in general. The Big Ten is a conference which prides itself on tradition, something that isn’t necessarily bad, but something that in the current Big Ten environment isn’t always the best. Ohio State and Maryland aside, the Big Ten has pretty standard, boring uniforms and, for the most part, plays what many consider to be standard, boring football with an emphasis on the running game and traditional power formations.

While the Oregon football team has a seemingly endless supply of uniform combinations, including a breast cancer awareness uniform that doesn’t even feature the traditional Oregon colors, the Big Ten uniforms that were seen 20 years ago continue to be the template for what is seen each Saturday. One of the most notable looks in the Big Ten belongs to Penn State, which runs around on Saturdays with a logoless helmet. While mentioning the Big Ten to a person who does not live in that part of the country almost always brings up terms like snow, cold, farmland, country, and the ever-present question of “what do you do there?”, an argument can be made that the Oregon uniform game is so strong that it has transcended things that Oregon is typically known for, constant rain and an abnormally high suicide rate, and has created a culture of football superiority.

Although there is a slim chance that chaos will strike and the Big Ten will get a team into the college football playoff and maybe even win it, the conference continues to slide in national prominence. Perhaps it is time to eschew tradition and begin thinking out of the box. Take the leash off the uniform designers for Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour and let them revamp the entire look of the conference. The worst that can happen is that the conference continues to have the same amount of success with a new look. Or maybe the look of the uniform will give a Big Ten school the edge it needs to win a key recruiting battle against a non-conference foe and help the Big Ten regain its spot as one of the true dominant conferences. In the professional world, the philosophy of “don’t dress where you are, but where you want to be” is prevalent. The same applies to the world of college football.

Georgia Tech Accepting Mediocrity

I’ll admit from the start that I wanted Georgia Southern to upset Georgia Tech last saturday, but not because I dislike Tech. No, I wanted Tech to lose because I have been waiting sometime to write this article and a loss to a team in their first year as an FBS team would have been the perfect excuse. Georgia Tech may have squeaked out the win, but I think it was close enough that I feel comfortable making this statement: Georgia Tech has accepted mediocrity for too long and it’s time to move on from Paul Johnson.
I could bore you with a 2 paragraph story about growing up just outside Atlanta and always having a soft spot for the Yellow Jackets, but instead I will just get into the meat of the subject. There is simply no excuse for a Power 5 Conference team centered in the heart of Atlanta to not be considered among the nations elite teams, especially when that Power 5 conference is the weak ACC. With the amount of high school talent produced in the state of Georgia, the Jackets should be winning 10 games every year and at least occasionally be a dark horse National Title contender.
I’m aware Georgia is constantly raided for high school talent by the likes of the Alabamas, Auburns, and Florida States of the world, but there is plenty of talent to go around, and Tech has produced decent NFL talent over the years, the problem is they are not utilized on the field while they are in school. Georgia Tech has produced one first round wide receiver and another early second rounder during Paul Johnson’s run as head coach, but no one had heard of either of them until the draft process began. Imagine Guys like Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill playing in a fast paced offense like Texas A&M or Oregon. Instead their talents were wasted in the outdated triple option of Paul Johnson, a system that maybe throws the football 10 times a game. The triple option may have worked well for Johnson at Navy. They were a team with less than stellar talent that could occasionally beat more talented teams by running a gimmicky offense that is hard to prepare for. But his style of play was never made to last in a power conference every week, and creates virtually no excitement for the elite recruits in the nation and the state of Georgia.
Georgia Tech is a historically great team. They haven’t been in the SEC for 50 years and only have 7 fewer SEC titles than their instate rival Georgia. They have 4 national championships, and are famous for scoring more points in one game than any team in history. They fired Chan Gailey because 44-32 was not good enough, but Paul Johnson has only managed a 50-32 record and yet his seat barely seems warm. I have no answer for why Tech fans seem so ok with mediocrity now.
Perhaps the greatest proof that Georgia Tech has stopped trying to be good is the symbol on the chest of their jerseys. I think we would all agree that the college football jersey hierarchy goes something like this Nike>Under Armour >>>> Adidas>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Russell. I don’t know if Umbro still exists, but I would let them make my college teams jerseys before Russell. Hell I would give FILA a shot before Russell.  No self respecting Power 5 team should allow their teams to wear Russell jerseys. This may seem like a trivial complaint, but in today’s college football style is extremely important to recruits. 18 year olds don’t want to shop at TJ Max; they want Saks Fifth Avenue. Oregon has created a powerhouse in Eugene, Oregon with style, elite facilities, and a flashy offense. Imagine if Georgia Tech went with a similar concept in Atlanta, Georgia. They would be the favorite to win the ACC every year.

Seriously though? Russell?
Seriously though? Russell?

I’m sure no one in Georgia Tech’s athletic department will read this article, but if they do, they should know the opportunity they are wasting. Fire Paul Johnson, bring in a Kliff Kingsbury like coach with a fast paced offense, let Nike make you some new jerseys, and the recruits and wins will start rolling in.
I should be running an athletic department somewhere.

The Nike Effect

oregon-ducks-wallpaper-hd1
JUST DO IT.

(Commit to Oregon)
 
That’s what “Uncle” Phil and Nike will expect more and more top high-school recruits to do as they dump equal parts money to expectation into the UO athletic program. And, monetary benefits in the guise of apparel, facilities, and exposure (that no one else in the nation can match) should get players to do just that.
DO IT.
When LeGarrette Blount was tabbed as the nation’s top JC running-back in 2009, he was quoted as saying he chose Oregon because “Have you seen all them jerseys?” – And if it wasn’t those exact words, it might as well have been. Also, for those who don’t know, they have 60 different uni combos and counting.
Point being– who wouldn’t want to be a walking billboard for not only the most popular sporting brand on the planet, but one of the largest worldwide brands, PERIOD? Especially now, considering  the relationship between players that get targeted for recruiting and the hip-hop culture Nike inherently represents. The people in Beaverton are certainly clever enough to know that. I mean… come on. It’s widely recognized they have some of the world’s best and brightest marketing minds under their employ. And, with Oregon it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Students want the Nike hoodies, Uncle Phil tees, and the privilege of watching basketball games in a brand new $227 million arena. The university itself (obviously) loves the fact that they have one of the richest donors in the world in Phil Knight at the top of their alumnus club. And the student athletes love not only wearing but BEING Nike. On a simple hand-shake agreement with Blue Ribbon sports founder and Oregon track and field coach Bill Bowerman, Phil Knight agreed to market and manage the business end of what would eventually become Nike, inc.. After the debut of their famed “waffle iron” running shoe, Bowerman handled the innovation aspect of creating a better running shoe for the modern athlete, as Knight never stopped growing the company into what it is today—a pond full of money for the Ducks. Now the resources and limitations for the university are endless.
The ripple effect can even be seen not only on campus but all over the city of Eugene, as the money Nike pours into the campus and its facilities not only trickles down, but overflows into the surrounding city. In the past few years Eugene hasn’t stopped growing even for a second. At the same rate new uni’s are donned and buildings erected the Ducks and Eugene grows. Just in case you missed it, take a look at the football facility Knight unveiled for “his” players last year, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/photos/1307/university-of-oregon-athletic-facility-behind-scenes/11/. Now after looking at those slides please tell me what NFL team wouldn’t kill to have something like THAT?! Did anyone else notice how quickly the Ducks ascended to the top of the CFB ranks? After thinking about that for a minute can anyone argue that all of this wasn’t planned ten, twenty, even thirty years ago? Massive overhauls like this take time. And now Phil and Co. have arrived at the light at the end of the goal tunnel. And the future looks so much brighter than that light ever was. Did you know that for the past four years Nike has released an extremely rare limited edition set of (UO) Air Jordan’s for their football players? If not, go ahead and check ‘em out here, http://cdn.nikeblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Air-Jordan-4-Oregon-Ducks-1.jpg. The shoes are so exclusive that sneakerheads worldwide are willing to shell out thousands for a single pair– should they even hit eBay and/or other online auction sites. Mark Wahlberg, a known Jordan Brand aficionado was even seen at a Laker-Nugget game sporting a pair not long ago. See here– http://images.jordansdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/air-jordan-v-oregon-ducks-mark-wahlberg.jpg.
 
So, now you’re probably asking the question, “Well, how can Oregon and Nike pull this off without stepping on the NCAA’s toes with metal cleats?”
Word is Nike requires that anyone lucky enough to be issued a pair wears them on some form of loan from the company. Same goes even for the rich and famous like Marky Mark and the rest of the Funky Bunch. So, essentially a player is given the shoes but has to check in and check out with them on  prescribed dates set by Nike. This is to insure that athletes selling the shoes is never a liability or worry to the University and its athletic department. I wrote an article on my blog (howrthingsontheleftcoast.blogspot.com) about a month ago on the inevitable resurrection of USC and how the rest of the Pac-12 would respond when top Southern California recruits start flocking back to the Trojans. Well, consider this my follow up article and answer. I can’t speak for the rest of the teams, but Oregon’s answer is Nike.
The Nike effect will never go away. Like the city it resides most heavily in, it will only grow. The plan was set and now its hit full stride in Tracktown. Every year the uniforms get fancier, the players get better and the money stacks higher. Only time will tell, whether or not the NCAA (cartel) will allow Phil to keep running.
Bo knew everything. With Mike it had to be the shoes. And, now with Oregon–they know recruiting.

Sports pet peeve: Why can’t teams just wear traditional uniforms?

On Sunday, I watched a great College Basketball game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Michigan State Spartans.  The game was good enough, that after an initial reaction to the uniforms Michigan State chose to wear, I was able to let it go, and simply enjoy the action. 

After the game was over though, I decided to revisit the topic.  I know this isn’t a new trend.  Luckily, it’s mainly isolated to college sports.  Nike, Under Armour, and to a lesser extent Adidas have outfitted the schools they have contracts with, in some hideous gear over the last few years.  Luckily, the professional sports franchises tend to keep things dialed down, and any changes are very subtle.

As I watched on Sunday, I’ll say that the uniforms the Spartans were wearing were not the worst I’ve ever seen.  They weren’t too outlandish; a pretty simple design with the Spartan logo on the chest, rather than the word “Spartans”.  What I didn’t like was the gold or bronze trim and shoes.  Since when does Michigan State have that color in their color scheme?  As far as I can remember, they’re green and white.

Hell, even my beloved Louisville Cardinals fell into the trap last season.  They went on their Final Four run wearing hideous pinkish-orangeish uni’s.  I could only tolerate them because they went 8-1 wearing them.  Yeah, yeah, I get it.  I’m a curmudgeon.  I have an old way of thinking.  Everyone is doing it.  You know what though, everyone is not doing it.

You know who wasn’t doing it on Sunday? Indiana wasn’t.  The Indiana Hoosiers haven’t changed their uniforms in my lifetime.  They have the same block letters on the front, the same trim around the shoulders and on the shorts.  Their uniforms have a number on front and on back.  The only colors they use are red and white.  There are no crazy designs hidden in the fabric.  They still even wear the crazy warm-up pants with the red and white stripes.  You know what that is?  Tradition. 

It used to mean something for athletes to put on the uniform for a great team.  At every level of sports, players took pride in donning the traditional jersey of their school or professional organization.  I realize that the uniform doesn’t actually make the player perform better.  However, the desire not to let down the school or the franchise raises the sense of urgency.

I always hear the argument in college sports, that the kids and recruits love them.  I realize as a society we feel some ridiculous need to pander to today’s youth.  Instead of falling into that trap, why not change the mindset.  Some schools don’t do it.  I’m sure they’re approached with different uniform designs that the kids will reaalllyy like.  They just choose not to change them. 

Are schools really losing key recruits because they don’t have funky uniforms?  I don’t think so.  When was the last time Alabama changed their football uniforms?  How about never!  Yet they just stomped Notre Dame for the National Championship a few short weeks ago. 

Alabama competes for the National Championship every year.  Apparently, they feel their uniforms mean something.  When Alabama steps on the field, the opposition knows exactly what they are in for.  They see the crimson and white.  They see the boring helmets with the white stripe down the middle, and the numeral on the sides.  Teams facing Alabama know they’re likely leaving with a loss.

Some of the greatest sports franchises in history have never changed their uniforms, or have made very subtle changes.  How about the New York Yankees?  Only the greatest franchise in Major League Baseball history.  What about the Green BayPackers, or the Pittsburgh Steelers?  They’re only two of the most successful NFL franchises ever.  The Detroit Red Wings are one of the most dominant NHL franchises.  When have they ever messed with their unis?  The Los Angeles Lakers?  Arguably the greatest NBA franchise and they’ve only made slight tweaks to their uniforms over the years. 

Each of those franchises has a brand.  They are household names.  When you design a simple, clean uniform, with very little flash, do you know what you have?  You have a timeless uniform.  You have a uniform that doesn’t need to be changed.  A uniform that players for generations can proudly wear, and that generations of consumers will happily purchase in support of their team.

I’m not completely against change.  If you’re team has some late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s cursive lettering, by all means, update it.  If the trim on the jerseys needs to be sharpened to look more modern, go right ahead, fix it.  If you want to adjust the hue of your team colors for the better (please, stay away from neon), ok.  But sports fans should be able to turn on the television on any given day, and immediately recognize who you are. 

I know my rant will fall on deaf ears.  Unfortunately, the generations behind me apparently think it’s cool to dress like garbage.  Many colleges and universities think they can cash in on alternate uniforms.  They apparently don’t care whether or not the uniform means anything.  That’s fine, go right ahead.  Hopefully in a few years you’ll look back in horror.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to applaud those schools and professional sports organizations that choose tradition.  Even those that I root against.