Will the Hilltoppers get a new look when their deal with Russell expires in 2015?


This fall, WKU enters the final year of its $1.73 million contract with home town apparel company Russell Athletics. Russell has been the official apparel sponsor of Hilltoppers athletics since their contract was renewed in 2011. The deal allowed Russell to carry the term “official athletic apparel provider of Hilltopper athletics,” in addition to game promotions, signage, and bookstore rights.

With a year and half still left on the deal clock, some of you might wonder why Wave the Red Towel is bothering to talk about it. Even if the deal were up tomorrow, you might wonder why I’m writing about it. My answer to that question is simple: your boy loves a good apparel contract. As evidenced by the almost $2 million deal Western currently has, universities pay a lot of money to link themselves to certain brands.

In early January, the University of Miami,  “The U,” as Michael Irvin still mumbles in his sleep, announced that, effective September of 2015, they would officially become an Adidas school. This announcement, in conjunction with my apparel appreciation, sealed the deal on this article.

The Hilltoppers are one of a handful of D1 schools contracted with Russell Athletics for their apparel. Russell, a subsidiary of Fruit of the Loom, is not a world renowned sport apparel provider. If a Nike school like Miami can ditch their longtime, big name brand, who can WKU turn to when our contract officially expires?

First, we should look at the two major Kentucky schools. The University of Kentucky is a Nike school. Kentucky’s deal with Nike runs through 2017 at a price of $1.6 million in merchandise and $1.8 million in cash. The UK deal marks Nike’s largest collegiate partnership. UK unveiled 18 different football uniform combinations, and the contact doesn’t stop with football. Nike outfits the school’s basketball team with warm up gear, shooting sleeves, headbands, tank tops, toe socks, thumb rings–the list goes on and on. For its efforts, Nike receives exclusive in game and on court advertising, season ticket allotments, and access to season ticket holding areas. Nike is allowed two permanent end zone advertising signs in Commonwealth Stadium during football season, and they have full cover advertisement pages in all UK  game promotional material. The company will also receive tickets to post season game appearances and game victories.

At the University of Lousiville, the Cardinals have been an Adidas institution since 2005. The ten-year contract is structured differently than the Wildcats’ deal. UofL gets an annual merchandise allotment of $2.2 million and is given $350,000 in cash annually. Like the Nike, deal Adidas provides apparel for all weather and all situations, however, in addition to those provisions, Adidas is required to provide the university with sports equipment it makes, such as clipboards, sun glasses, and watches. While Louisville takes home the mother load, Adidas receives season tickets to Cardinals’ football games and receives an allotment of post season tickets to each of the Cards post season games.

In light of the deals UK and Louisville struck, let’s take a look at what WKU could realistically see from a new apparel company; In 2014 , MTSU announced a new deal with Nike. While the terms of this agreement have not been disclosed, the Blue Raiders did state that all of their athletics will be supported by the apparel company. They also stated that their gear would be at a 40% discount to what they currently pay, and they will now have access to Nike world wide instead of using a wholesale dealer.

Louisiana Tech has a contract with Adidas that is worth over $35,000 in cash per year. The terms to that agreement were not disclosed either but show that the university receives all of its apparel and side line equipment from a lesser know football apparel company.

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Finally, in 2008, Under Armour signed a deal with the University of South Florida to supply the school’s apparel. They

renewed the deal

in the past year and disclosed terms; The school will receive $625,000 a year in cash through 2018. Along with that, they will be given a $1.045 million dollar product allowance. The school will also receive incentives based on what the other two major schools in Kentucky receive.

Considering the terms that other mid-major school have negotiated for, its seems that WKU could be inline for an upgrade in terms of an apparel provider. While I’m sure that it would break the hearts of many Bowling Green natives to see the Tops leave Russell and don a new company, the jerseys and uniforms the company provides do seem rather antiquated. It’s a consensus among the young and opened-minded that a switch to Under Armour would be the better deal for WKU and the company itself, given that Under Armour would be able to compete with Nike (UK) and Adidas (UofL).

That being said, I am sure Todd Stewart and his staff are beginning to look at the expansion of the WKU brand and what company can provide WKU with the best chance at national recognition. Whether it ends in the extension of the current deal or the parting of ways, until then WKU will stay Russell.

If the Hilltoppers do opt to go with another provider, which one would you like to see? Nike? Adidas? Under Armour? Other? Let us know with either a comment below or by reaching out on twitter @WaveTheRedTowel.com.