Tennessee Vols switching to Nike in 2015

photo Vols T logo

KNOXVILLE - The Power T and the Swoosh are joining forces.

Come the summer of 2015, when its current deal with Adidas expires, Tennessee's athletic department will become a partner with Nike, the most popular apparel provider in college sports.

Tennessee announced the impending switch Friday morning and later released details of its eight-year deal worth a total of $34.9 million in cash, equipment and other services. A switch away from Adidas, the Volunteers' apparel partner since 1997, to either Nike or Under Armour has been in the works for months, but the two entities reached an agreement Thursday.

On July 1, 2015, Tennessee officially will become a Nike school.

"We were very thorough and deliberate in assessing and evaluating our options with our apparel partner decision," athletic director Dave Hart said in Tennessee's release. "Nike is the right partner for the University of Tennessee moving forward.

"We appreciate our current partner and the strong relationship we have had for many years. We will continue to work together through the end of the existing contract."

The reaction to Tennessee's announcement was overwhelmingly positive from former and current football and basketball players, recruits and fans, who won't be able to purchase officially licensed Tennessee gear from Nike until the contract begins.

Many basketball players wear Nike apparel outside of practice when they aren't required to sport the three-striped Adidas gear, and many football players wear shoes and workout gear other than Adidas when they return for their pro days.

"Oh how I love Nike," Vols linebacker commitment Dillon Bates posted on his Twitter account.

During an interview with Knoxville radio station WNML, second-year football coach Butch Jones said he was "very excited" about Tennessee's move to Nike, while another Vols head coach described Adidas as "unprofessional" and praised Tennessee's decision to switch apparel partners as an upgrade.

Tennessee will reap one benefit of its new agreement in 2014 in the form of a "one-time commitment bonus" worth $2 million paid by Nike before July 1 of this year.

During the first four years of the eight-year agreement, Nike will pay Tennessee a base compensation of $1 million. That base pay drops to $900,000 for the second half of the deal.

Tennessee will receive an equipment allotment -- good for "game and practice uniforms, competition balls and footwear," in addition to myriad other types of gear -- worth $3.4 million for the first year (2015-16) of the contract. That allowance drops to $2.6 million for the deal's second year before increasing by $100,000 each year.

The Vols will get an additional $200,000 per year to use the "Nike Elite" line of gear and services.

"Nike is especially proud to resume our association with the University of Tennessee," Nike sports marketing director Kit Morris said. "We admire their rich tradition and are enthusiastic to begin working once again with Volunteer student-athletes, coaches and programs."

Earlier this year, Notre Dame announced a 10-year agreement with Under Armour after a long partnership with Adidas. Most of the SEC, including Alabama, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Kentucky, have apparel partnerships with Nike. Tennessee, Texas A&M and Mississippi State are the only SEC programs currently using Adidas.

Included in Tennessee's deal with Nike are performance bonuses for the football and men's and women's basketball programs. An SEC title in football would earn a bonus of $20,000, and the bonus for a national championship is $100,000. The basketball programs would earn bonuses for SEC tournament titles, Final Four appearances and national titles.

There also are provisions for reductions should Tennessee's football or basketball programs receive a television or postseason ban from the NCAA. Such a penalty from the football program would cost Tennessee half of its base pay from Nike for that year. The rate for a basketball ban is 10 percent.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com