The University of Michigan's partnership with Adidas can end next year and the school is now welcoming a bidding war between the current apparel supplier, Nike, and Under Armour. The 8-year deal signed back in 2008 has paid Michigan $8.2 million per year and is the richest apparel contract among public universities.
Last year, Notre Dame signed a 10-year deal with Under Armour that was rumored to be worth somewhere between $90 and $100 million, with additional stock options, and vaulted the Irish to the tops of the apparel contract wars.
Michigan's initial contract with Adidas caused a lot of consternation among the Notre Dame faithful when the Wolverines' deal superseded the Irish and they were granted a "most favored nation" clause which guaranteed they'd always be Adidas' top paid school.
So here we are almost a decade later and Michigan is shopping around again which has some Notre Dame fans wondering if history will repeat itself.
Reading the tea leaves it appears it will be very difficult for Adidas to hang on and re-sign with Michigan. The deal with Adidas was never popular from the outset and the introduction of several non-traditional football and basketball uniforms have not done them many favors.
Still, North American sales were up for Adidas over the past several months even as they announced they're not extending their apparel deal with NBA after the current contract runs out after the 2016-17 season. While you'd think this would make Michigan a higher priority, the German company recently secured the apparel rights of the Premier League's Manchester United for a ludicrous $1.15 billion over the next 10 seasons beginning this summer so the proper funds to get into a bidding war may not be available.
At any rate, you can take a look around any Michigan site and Adidas is intensely unpopular and most believe the school is moving on no matter what.
Nike is the heavy favorite to bring Michigan back into the fold so it still looks unlikely that Notre Dame and the maize and blue would be sharing the same apparel company again. Under Armour could throw a major deal on the table but while several reports have mentioned that Under Armour is showing interest there has been nothing saying UA has placed a bid just yet.
Would a Michigan and Under Armour deal be good for Notre Dame?
I'd expect the popular refrain to such a question would be, "Hell to the no."
Yet, it's going to be interesting to see how Notre Dame fans respond to the growth of Under Armour in the coming years which is presumably going to be include the Maryland-based company adding some high profile universities in the football and basketball industry. As of today, Under Armour retains accounts with Auburn, Boston College, Maryland, Northwestern, South Carolina, and Texas Tech among the Power 5 football conferences.
While Under Armour still trails Nike by over $22 billion in revenue following the fiscal year 2014--roughly 7 times greater than UA's total revenue--it cannot be denied how well Kevin Plank & Co. are chipping away quarter after quarter. Just 5 years ago that Under Armour revenue was at $1 billion and for quarter 1 of 2015 the company earned its 20th consecutive quarter of at least a 20% growth in its top line.
The relationship between Notre Dame and Under Armour has been fruitful thus far. Notre Dame was thrown a ton of money and Under Armour continues to grow as the Irish feel as though they are the crown jewel of the whole collegiate enterprise. However, you have to wonder just how 'special' Notre Dame is going to feel when Under Armour begins securing some traditional powers, and even giving one of those schools a better deal in the process.
Anyone but Michigan, right? May I suggest an apparel deal for Michigan with New Balance? Some 574's would go awfully nice with Harbaugh's pleated khakis.