If you’re one of the people gifted enough to play college sports, we’re sure there’s a lot of reasons why you may choose to play at one school as opposed to another. Perhaps you have family ties to the program and you’ve always dreamed of suiting up for you parents’ alma mater. Or maybe you have a good rapport with the coaching staff and believe they’re the ones who give you the best chance to play at the next level.
All of these — among others — are more than adequate reasons to sign your name on the dotted line. Yet, if none of these factors manage to distinguish themselves from the others, there’s always one other way to separate the contenders from the pretenders: The gear.
Athletes play in college with the goal of one day taking home a national championship. But if there’s anything that can take that experience to the next level, it’s winning the hardware on the biggest stage, and looking good doing it. It may sound vain, but the apparel provided by the programs matter. Players want to be stylish. They want sleek uniforms and fresh kicks. They want to feel like the program is heading in the right direction; a modern direction, with progressive views and an understanding that cool gear matters to a a player. And while universities are looking to work out agreements with top-tier apparel companies, you better believe these same companies want to be in bed with the winners.
In the end, it’s all about mass appeal and brand awareness. For that kind of exposure apparel giants are more than happy to pay boatloads of money to major universities for the right to outfit their athletic programs. Just how much is a “boatload?” According to the numbers provided by Forbes, it’s quite a lot, with some schools raking in way more than others. With that in mind, here’s a look at the five colleges making the most from apparel deals.
5. Texas Longhorns
- Worth: $6.4 million
In 2007, the Texas Longhorns and Nike agreed to an apparel deal that would pay the university $6.4 million a year to rock the swoosh. Considering the Texas’ place among the college athletics elite, this seems like a bargain for the world’s leading apparel company (especially by today’s standards). The Longhorns have a massive following, boosters who feel a sense of obligation to the program, and one of the richest athletic departments in the country. An agreement between these two powerhouses was obviously a no-brain. Of course, with the market’s recent change and this current deal set to end in 2016, word on the street is Under Armour is poised to make a play for Texas’ love. If Nike isn’t willing to pay big bucks, the Longhorns may just do it — and leave the swoosh.
4. UCLA Bruins
- Worth: $7.5 million
Adidas knows all about the storied history of athletic success at UCLA. In fact, the university leads the nation with 112 NCAA team championships and 133 total national championship. With this small piece of information in mind, you have to think the apparel company was super excited when the Pac-12 powerhouse opted to stick with the brand in 2010. Based off the numbers provided by Forbes, the agreement between the two parties goes from 2011 until 2017, during which the university will receive $7.5 million a year from the brand. At least for a few more years, you can expect Bruins athletics to be sporting the three stripes.
3. Louisville Cardinals
- Worth: $7.8 million
In 2014, Louisville signed a new five-year apparel deal to remain with Adidas. This agreement runs through 2018 and will pay the university $7.8 million a year. While you may initially believe this price is a bit steep to remain in bed with the Cardinals, you have to take into account the school’s athletic success over recent years. Since the 2012-13 season, Louisville football has won a BCS bowl game and the men’s basketball team has won a national championship. As long as the Cardinals continue to win titles, you can expect apparel companies — like Adidas — will be more than OK with paying them to wear their gear
2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Worth: $9.0 million
For a brief moment back in 2014, Notre Dame and Under Armour came to terms on an agreement that would be the most valuable apparel deal in the history of college sports. The partnership would come into effect starting in 2015 and run through 2024. The 10-year deal was worth approximately $90, and thus would pay the Fighting Irish $9 million annually to represent the Under Armour brand. Of course, while Notre Dame was paid handsomely to protect its house, all this agreement did was set the market for another school to come along and strip the university of its “Biggest Apparel Deal” crown.
1. Michigan Wolverines
- Worth: $11.1 million
In the above picture, the excited Michigan Wolverines players may be sporting Adidas, but come 2016, it’s going to be all Nike all the time, as the two sides reached an agreement on the most valuable apparel deal in college sports.
Starting August 2016 and running through the 2027 season, Nike will be responsible for outfitting all of the university’s varsity sports. Although this deal is guaranteed for 11 years, there is an option to extend the agreement for an extra four years. If that happens, this partnership could be worth up to $169 million for the University of Michigan.
However, if we just go by the initial agreement — excluding the option — the Wolverines are set to make $122.32 million (including $12 million up front), for a total of $11.1 million per year. If you happen to live in the Ann Arbor area, we suggest bringing an umbrella with you when you go outside. It’s raining money at the University of Michigan.