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University of Washington agrees to a 10-year, $119 million deal with Adidas

UPDATED: Tue., April 10, 2018, 3:14 p.m.

Washington’s Myles Gaskin, left, celebrates his touchdown run with Jake Browning (3) and Lavon Coleman in the second half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Washington’s Myles Gaskin, left, celebrates his touchdown run with Jake Browning (3) and Lavon Coleman in the second half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

So long, Swoosh.

Hello, Three Stripes.

The University of Washington athletic department has agreed to a 10-year deal with Adidas worth almost $12 million annually, making it one of the richest apparel deals in college athletics, The Seattle Times has learned.

The new deal ends the Huskies’ 20-year partnership with Nike, which has been paying UW about $3.5 million annually in product and cash over the past decade.

Per terms of the contract, Adidas has agreed to pay the Huskies $5.275 million annually in cash, $5.58 million annually in product and $1.1 million annually for marketing, a source with knowledge of the deal told The Times.

The deal is one of the 10 most valuable in college athletics – worth slightly more annually than the 11-year, $128-million deal Adidas gave Nebraska in 2017 – and makes the Huskies the premier program for Adidas on the West Coast.

Washington State, meanwhile, is affiliated with Nike. Details of that deal are not known at this time.

Arizona State is the only other Pac-12 Conference school affiliated with Adidas. They agreed to an eight-year, $33.8 million deal in 2014.

In all, Adidas has partnerships with 12 college athletics programs.

“The University of Washington is thrilled to establish this partnership with adidas,” UW athletic director Jennifer Cohen said in a statement announcing the deal Tuesday. “We believe this partnership will allow us to provide a new competitive edge to our coaches, student-athletes and our incredible fan base. As we researched adidas’ college partnerships, we were extremely impressed with their product innovation, global brand significance, and most of all the depth of service and attention they provide to their partner schools. After meeting with their leadership team, it was clear that adidas understands what makes Washington special and I believe their passion for this partnership will resonate deeply with all who call themselves Huskies.”

The new deal with Adidas, if approved by the UW Board of Regents this week, is set to begin in the summer of 2019.

The total value of the deal could exceed $120 million over the life of the contract. As part of the agreement, Adidas will pay bonuses if the Huskies win Pac-12 or national championships, up to $500,000.

And because of UW’s proximity to the Portland-based company, Adidas has also agreed to future product testing on the Seattle campus.

Last September, the relationship between universities and footwear companies came under heavy scrutiny when an FBI investigation alleged widespread corruption in college basketball. One Adidas executive and two Adidas consultants are facing federal bribery charges.

In light of that, UW’s agreement with Adidas includes a “mutual ethics clause” that allows both parties to revisit terms of the deal at any time.

From a financial perspective, the deal is significant on several fronts for the Huskies and for athletic director Jennifer Cohen, who since taking over the department in 2016 has made a priority of balancing the athletics’ budget. UW athletics ran a deficit of about $7.6 million in 2016. The department essentially broke even in fiscal-year 2017 and is projecting a $1.4 million surplus in 2018.

“Like the University of Washington, adidas is a respected worldwide brand, and this unique partnership will position us for great success moving forward,” UW football coach Chris Petersen said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with adidas, and we believe our student-athletes will benefit greatly from this agreement.”

The Huskies are following in the footsteps of the University of Miami , which in 2015 broke away from Nike and signed a longterm deal with Adidas. Miami was the first college program to sign an all-sports sponsorship deal with Nike, in 1987.

Nike was the only other apparel company involved in the UW negotiations. Under Armor, which in May 2016 made a stunning deal with UCLA worth $280 million over 15 years, did not bid on the Huskies’ apparel rights.

The Adidas deal should please a vocal faction of UW fans that felt strongly that the Huskies should not be associated with Nike, given the company’s strong ties to the University of Oregon. Nike co-founder Phil Knight is an Oregon alumnus who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to his alma mater over the years.

The Huskies’ new apparel deal should add another layer to the UW-Oregon rivalry. The Ducks, of course, are a longtime Nike school, having agreed last fall to an 11-year, $88-million extension on its apparel licensing.

Nike was not willing to offer more than that to the Huskies, according to a source.


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