“But you ain’t bona fide!” That’s the excuse Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney) is given as to why he can’t reunite with his wife in O Brother Where Art Thou? The Big 12 likely said something to that effect when Louisville tried to rejoin its Big East buddy West Virginia in its new conference.
It would turn out to be a grave mistake, because since that moment Louisville has only grown in credibility. Before even entering the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville is every bit the asset West Virginia is and much more. And with Thursday’s announcement making Louisville a prized jewel in Adidas’ crown, the Cardinals are very much “bona fide.”
Louisville’s five –year, $39 million extension with Adidas positions the Cardinals among the top five nationally in apparel contracts. Its $7.8 million per year figure sits it just behind Adidas largest deal Michigan’s $8.2 million per year deal. As well as a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame’s $90 million mega deal with Under Armour unveiled in January.
For years, Louisville forum trolls have written extensively about Louisville moving on from Adidas and seeking a deal with Nike. “The recruits all want Nike!” “Our uniforms will look cooler!” “Adidas doesn’t care about us!” Three rallying cries for fans desperate for the swoosh.
When asked about the critics during Thursday’s press conference UofL Athletic Director Tom Jurich replied: “What critics? This is a great deal. I haven’t heard any critics.”
Jurich had heard no critics because they have all been silenced. This deal is fantastic for Louisville in every single way. A true milestone for the athletic program.
The key that Jurich touched on throughout the presser was how Adidas was to truly become a “partner.” Comparisons have been made to the special service Oregon receives from Nike (which was founded by former Duck Phil Knight) and perhaps Louisville becoming a similar muse.
“Our goal is making sure the other 49 states know the Louisville brand,” said Adidas representative Chris McGuire. He made clear on the international company’s goal of giving Louisville a national identity.
Adidas’ contribution to the program isn’t only around cash and merchandise. The company will provide equipment room expansion, increased digital technology, and a formalized internship program for at least 20 Louisville students. This deal is about cultivating a strong relationship.
The agreement marks yet another sign of Tom Jurich’s immense loyalty. The Cardinals have maintained a 16 year relationship with Adidas, nearly as long as Jurich’s reign atop Louisville athletics. As more and more pressure came for Louisville to move on, Jurich gave Adidas the sole first opportunity to negotiate a new deal. And the loyalty paid off.
After losing two of their brightest programs, Tennessee and Notre Dame, in two months, Adidas couldn’t afford to lose Louisville. Furthermore it was an opportunity to secure a potential ACC powerhouse in the Cardinals, who will be only the second Adidas team in its new league.
While much of Adidas’ plans for Louisville remain under wraps, it was revealed Thursday afternoon that the Cardinal football team would have five different football uniforms for 2015. While we can only imagine what they will look like, try coming up with five colors the Cardinals could wear. Red, black, white, silver, and what else? Pink? Yellow? Blue? The announcement showed that Adidas is already committed to creating excitement around the Louisville brand.
As the Cardinals enter their new ACC home, it will be hard to deny their excellence. They have performed well in a variety of sports, with 11 different teams ranked in their national top 25. State of the art facilities housing nearly every sport. A rabid fan base willing to travel. And now an incredible apparel deal with Adidas that will place Louisville at the forefront.
This deal finds Louisville ahead of countless iconic athletics programs. Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, and Kentucky are among the school Louisville now leads in apparel dollars. Not to mention that the Cardinals have the most lucrative deal in the ACC months before they actually enter it.
If you had described today’s state of Louisville athletics to a fan from ten years ago, they no doubt would have scoffed at you. Why would anyone believe that the Cardinals who were stuck in the mediocre Conference USA could even be in the same sentence as Notre Dame and Michigan. But here we are less 90 days from Louisville joining its new conference, and the Cardinals have all the components of a national powerhouse.
It has happened. The Cardinals are “bona fide.”