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January 31, 2014

Vols opt to 'Just Do It'

That swooshing sound is Tennessee just doing it.

After nearly 20 years in an exclusive partnership with adidas, the University of Tennessee athletics programs are transitioning to Nike, the world's foremost athletic apparel company headed by founder and CEO Phil Knight, whose net worth is more than $16 billion according to multiple online reports. UT's athletics programs will become exclusively Nike-outfitted in July 2015.

Tennessee had been in position to explore a new agreement as it neared the end of its second five-year pact with adidas, the German company that had been affiliated with UT's athletics programs since the mid-1990s. In addition to Nike and adidas, Maryland-based Under Armour also made a strong push to outfit Tennessee athletics, multiple sources confirmed to VolQuest.com.

But the Vols' coaches were almost unilaterally in alignment to switch to Nike, which is seen as a company that helps in recruiting efforts in football, basketball and beyond. Some coaches on campus had expressed to prospects late last year that Tennessee anticipated making a switch to the Oregon-based Nike. And Tennessee executives long had done due diligence in exploring a potential switch; members of the Vols' athletics department were in Oregon last summer to meet with Nike executives and apparel talks took place with multiple people in advance of the Vols' road football game at Oregon in mid-September.

"I think the template is the same whenever you're dealing with a contract that's getting ready to expire on paper. The same things go into it. Yeah, there is a dollar value that you consider. What else do you consider? All of the above," UT Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Dave Hart told VolQuest.com last month. "Just like when you have a personnel decision when you have a contractual situation. You consider everything from fit to the ancillary importance -- you can't put a value on it, but you know there is a value there. It's not quantitative. But you know it's there. So all of those components are routinely assessed whenever you are in that situation where you have to make a decision at some point in time.

"But again, adidas is our partner for no less than through the end of this contract and perhaps beyond."

Beyond, however, no longer is valid to the statement and it's another damaging blow to adidas' efforts on the collegiate level in the United States. Earlier this month the company lost its contract with its top collegiate brand, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish entered into a new multi-year pact with Under Armour that begins in the relatively near future.

UT's move had appeared imminent for some time. While publicly praising the adidas partnership, there were private grumblings about various components of the deal ranging from the athletics departments obligations to spend certain amounts to the manner in which coaches could obtain their adidas apparel.

Meanwhile, Tennessee officials in recent months had conducted informal talks with other athletics programs in regards to dumping excess adidas apparel and equipment at the appropriate time, if talks culminated as they did.


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