ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that the University of Louisville signed a five-year, $40 million apparel deal with Adidas. Louisville will be paid $8 million annually over that span, which is the third-highest in the NCAA behind Notre Dame ($9 million from Under Armour) and Michigan ($8.2 million from Adidas).
Adidas lost Notre Dame to Under Armour and Tennessee to Nike earlier this year, so the shoe and apparel company clearly wanted to make a splash within collegiate athletics. Louisville has gone 23-3 the past two years in football, including a BCS bowl victory, but they are more known for being a basketball powerhouse. The Cardinals have made the NCAA tournament for eight straight seasons, including winning the 2013 national championship.
Besides re-signing with Adidas, Louisville’s brand will be helped by moving to the ACC from the AAC starting this football season. Louisville is quietly becoming one of the more marketable universities in the NCAA, and there aren’t any signs that the Cardinals are slowing down.
Louisville will be making just $10 million less per year than the entire Mountain West Conference for its television rights deal. These apparel and sponsorship deals are just another way the rich are getting richer in the NCAA. The gap is only growing larger between power conference schools and mid-majors as long as schools such as Louisville continue to earn contracts with big-name companies and even larger payouts.
Re-signing Louisville also affirms Adidas’s plan to reassert themselves as a major player in the basketball landscape. The company has opened its checkbook to sign Damian Lillard, Dwight Howard, Derek Rose and Serge Ibaka to help with their NBA shoe sales. Louisville also joins Michigan, UCLA, Wisconsin and Indiana to boost Adidas collegiate apparel sales.