Whether you’ve been waiting for this moment since Tennessee first announced its new deal with Nike in January of 2014 or are just recently picking up on news of the switch, by now you probably are aware that Tennessee officially switches from an Adidas to a Nike school on Wednesday, and that the Vols will be unveiling some new uniforms at that time.
At RTI, we’ve been covering and discussing this move since we started this company one year ago. So here’s a roundup/FAQ of everything you need to know about what’s happened leading up to Wednesday.
Q: What exactly is Tennessee’s deal with Nike?
A: The deal Tennessee announced is eight years long (through 2023) and gives Tennessee approximately $4 million in merchandise credit and cash per year to be spent outfitting the teams, coaches and staff around the athletic program. Tennessee is also receiving a $2 million signing bonus from Nike.
Q: Why switch?
A: We obviously weren’t privy to every discussion the Vols had with potential suitors, but Nike is known as the leader in college football apparel – outfitting at least 80 major programs according to a recent breakdown. Many of the top teams and brands in college football including Alabama, Oregon, USC, Florida State, Texas and others don the swoosh. At a given time in recent years, generally 60-70% of the AP Top 25 teams are Nike schools.
While Adidas and Under Armour certainly have a share, there’s little doubt what brand is largely preferred across college football. Recruits have overwhelmingly come out in favor of the move, something Tennessee has no doubt pushed on the recruiting trail, and with AD Dave Hart’s background at Alabama and FSU, it seems like a natural move as the Adidas contract is set to lapse.
“Nike is the right partner for the University of Tennessee moving forward,” Hart said when the switch was made.
Q: Have there been leaks?
A: UT is trying to guard the full unveiling with Ft. Knox-like security, but some pictures did begin swirling around social media on Tuesday morning that could be leaks. UT hasn’t confirmed if they’re real or not, though they certainly look legitimate. There have been several others hints and leaks showing what some of the future under Nike could look like. For example, a few JCPenny stores around the state put Nike shirts out before they were allowed to last week, giving fans a chance to see what some of the new Nike gear for them will look like.
Pictures of these Nike polos also leaked.
Some new signs and fonts popping up around campus have also given some clues to what the Nike era will look like. Tennessee also released a video on Tuesday showing student-athletes from several different teams getting their uniforms, showing portions of the jerseys in the process.
Q: How does this relate to dropping the Lady Vols name?
A: The beginning of the Nike era also marks the end of every female sports team at Tennessee being known as the Lady Vols with the exception of the basketball team. That, ultimately, was Tennessee’s decision. But a brand audit done by Nike a few months after agreeing to the deal with Tennessee stated that (via KNS) “Tennessee lacked consistency in word marks, numerals and icons from sport to sport” and that “the continued use of Lady Volunteers further segments an athletic institution that is striving to be united as One Tennessee.” A few months later, Tennessee announced the branding restructure – a move that certainly has been met with some controversy and resistance, but appears set to go through in July despite a petition and some protests.
Q: What exactly will happen on Wednesday?
A: That’s still a bit of an unknown. But what we do know is UTSports.com will host an unveiling show at noon ET on the site with hosts Charles Davis (Fox) and Maria Taylor (ESPN). Based on some preview videos and what we’ve heard, our best guess is that three uniforms – an orange home, a white away and an alternate Smokey gray – will be unveiled. How similar or different will they look to what we’ve seen in the past? We’re expecting noticeable changes, but nothing incredibly drastic. We’ll find out on Wednesday for sure, though. New Nike Vol apparel will be for sale on campus on Wednesday, with the Nike gear becoming available to local retailers such as Alumni Hall on Thursday July 2.
Q: How has UT promoted this?
A: They’ve done a fantastic job of it, there’s no question about that. In addition to those preview videos that have given very small glimpses of the uniform, Tennessee’s also had a national scavenger hunt for “1 of 119” boxes that have had a Nike shirt in addition to other Vol prizes in them. But perhaps their best work was this poster released on Monday.
Q: Are there concept uniforms?
A: RTI friend and Vol-design guru Spencer Barnett did some concept uniform pieces for us last year. These aren’t necessarily what they will look like on Wednesday, but Spencer came up with some awesome concepts that are fun to think about. We don’t expect Nike to take an Oregon-like approach with Tennessee, but there are a lot of concepts Nike and the Vols could play with in the future: