Hackett nears his deadline for new Michigan apparel deal

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett set an unofficial deadline of July 1 to wrap up the athletic department's apparel future and had said he expected to meet with UM's Regents, perhaps even in an informal session, to update them on where he stands.

The University of Michigan Regents have a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday and among the agenda topics is the 2016 athletic department operating budget, which Hackett will address. The apparel contract is not on the public-session agenda and a university spokesman confirmed it had not been added.

Hackett told The Detroit News two weeks ago he planned to get the Regents "up to speed" at the June meeting, and this very well may be his only face-to-face opportunity -- most likely in private -- to share with them proposals from Nike, Under Armour or renewing with adidas.

"We need to make a decision by July 1 in order to be ready a year from now, including continuing with adidas, because if we continue with Adidas there will be alterations and things we're going to do, so we have to get it done by July 1," Hackett said two weeks ago.

Michigan's contract with adidas, signed in 2007 and worth a robust $8.2 million annually -- $4.4 million in apparel and $3.8 million in cash -- expires at the end of July 2016. Typically, negotiations regarding apparel contracts begin a year in advance of the contract completion.

Hackett told The News he has a 10-person team working on what has been dubbed "Project Swag" to evaluate the proposals. The team visited each of the locations to hear pitches.

"We've evaluated all three," said Hackett, who has been Michigan's interim athletic director since Dave Brandon's resignation Oct. 31. "They're all extraordinary in their own ways, and I learned how extraordinary Michigan is to them."

Nike had been Michigan's partner before the deal with Adidas. Nike is a marketing dynamo that leads nationally in apparel and footwear sales with $11.8 billion in sales last year, according to data from Sterne Agee and SportScanInfo. The company, which recently announced an eight-year marketing partnership with the NBA for global merchandising and will become the league's official on-court apparel provider beginning with the 2017-18 season, has always used slick advertising campaigns to extend its brand.

A number of major programs, like Ohio State, Texas and Michigan State, have contracts with Nike, and Tennessee recently moved from adidas and will begin wearing Nike uniforms this fall.

Under Armour has made a surge in the U.S. marketplace and is now No. 2 behind Nike with $2.6 billion in sales nationally. It made a splash securing a contract with Notre Dame and recently signed with Cincinnati. Speculation surrounds Wisconsin, which is facing a similar situation as Michigan with its adidas contract expiring. There have been reports the Badgers may move to Under Armour.

Adidas recently added Arizona State and Miami (Fla), which had been with Nike for nearly three decades, but Michigan has been its centerpiece. Adidas was edged by Under Armour in sales last year according to the data with $1.6 billion in sales.

And adidas has not hidden its desire to keep Michigan in the fold.

"Michigan will continue to be the flagship," Chris McGuire, Adidas director of sports marketing told The News. "We have great partners in college sector, like Miami and UCLA, but we look to Michigan to drive our brand. Michigan is still the crown jewel."

Hackett said he and his team have diligently worked secreted away in a suite at Michigan Stadium, much as he conducted his search for a new football coach. The team has surveyed current Michigan student-athletes about what their preferences are, and Hackett said they have heard from alumni, pro athletes who played at Michigan and other athletic directors.

He said he looked forward to revealing the contract details but would not say how financially competitive the proposals are.

"I would be disappointed if it's not the No. 1 in the country when we're done," Hackett said two weeks ago.

Hackett was not available Wednesday to comment on the status of negotiations, a UM spokesman said.