It is the end of an era at Arizona State University. No coach as been fired, no new stadium project has been announced and no new varsity sports have been added. The Nike era at Arizona State is over.
When Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson gathered media and guests into the third floor of the Carson Athletic Center Tuesday morning, it was to formally announce news that had been speculated for weeks. The Sun Devils will officially become an adidas school in July 2015.
"We are really proud to announce today that adidas is now the partner of Sun Devil Athletics with regard to apparel, shoes and accessories," said Anderson.
Arizona State and adidas have agreed to an eight-year deal worth $33.8 million, an average of $4.225 million annually. This doubles the reported annual amount that Nike paid the ASU athletic department for the 2014-2015 academic year.
"Adidas really accepted our vision at ASU and Sun Devil Athletics, who we were and more importantly where we wanted to go as an organization," said Anderson. "They graciously and creatively met our requests and so we are now dedicated true partners and together we have elevated ASU to truly elite status with these deals."
Arizona Stats's agreement with Adidas is the first NCAA licensing partnership for the company since Mississippi State joined the adidas family in 2009. UCLA is the only other Pac-12 school to wear adidas apparel. Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana and Louisville are some of the other schools who are outfitted by the apparel giant.
"We are in the background, and as Arizona State wins championships and as these athletes perform at the highest level, we have the association, which is really our role here," said Mark King, who is the adidas Group North America president. "It is to provide great products and services and take a lot of the anxiety out of outfitting thousands of athletes. We take on that responsibility. We win by our association with an outstanding institution."
The change means that ASU athletic teams will have new uniforms beginning next academic year. However, Anderson was quick to point out that the school owns both Sparky and their pitchfork logo, meaning neither of those are going anywhere anytime soon.
"I don't think anything drastic will occur," said Anderson about ASU's new on-field look. "We will do it deliberately, very appropriately, hopefully very artistically.
"It will be a combination of their (adidas) input and ours. At the end of the day, we are the customer, they are our uniforms, and this is our tradition. That will be something that is done very carefully, very strategically, but there will not be anything drastic."
The announcement comes about four years after ASU's last apparel redesign, which was drastic. The Sun Devils added black as a primary color, and took Sparky off their helmets and caps. With Nike, Arizona State was able to expand on their traditional looks, including flame helmets in 2013 and a 'Desert Fuel' look in 2014.
However, those uniforms were not included in the school's deal with Nike, meaning Arizona State actually had to pay to design and implement those uniforms, costing the school six figures.
Part of the deal with adidas is that the company and the school will work together for special uniforms across various sports, such as a military appreciation look or uniforms for breast cancer awareness.
"Some fans are apprehensive when you change," said Anderson. "Part of what we are trying to get fans to understand is that this is a business and it takes real, dedicated partners with financial wherewithal and the willingness to help you financially run that business and more importantly, advance that business."
Leading the deal for the Sun Devils was not Anderson, it was Greg McElroy, ASU's Chief Business Officer. McElroy was brought in last May for deals just like these, having served as the Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys prior to his arrival in Tempe.
Using numbers from the 2014-2015 academic year, Arizona State now has one of the 10 most lucrative apparel deals in collegiate athletics.
"When Ray (Anderson) and I sat down and tried to figure out a strategy for moving forward and what we would want with the new partner, we set our goals very high," said McElroy. "We are going be very aggressive and that is the kind of approach that we are going to take with all of our deals that will be coming up in the future. Adidas did step up. Ray and I set the bar pretty high."
Other parts of the deal include 12 internships within adidas to be used by Arizona State students, ranging from fields of business and law to journalism. The partnership with adidas also has dollars specifically included to help with facilities improvement. One sticking point to Mark King of adidas, was Anderson's commitment to not only football and basketball, but also the non-revenue sports.
"What we are very proud of at Adidas is not just that we're in the core sports or the big sports of football, basketball, baseball, but we're trying to be in all sports and be really authentic to athletes no matter what their passion is or what they're good at," said King. "Walking through the front lobby and seeing all the different sports that you've (ASU) won National Championships at - archery, badminton, all these sports that maybe don't get the national exposure, but those are athletes."
For Ray Anderson, this partnership is just another achievement to add to his already impressive resume. Since arriving in Tempe in February, he has secured a new baseball coach, added three Division I sports in a time when most are cutting them and now, he helped pave the way for Arizona State's most lucrative apparel deal to date.
"The bottom line is this is a uniquely comprehensive deal, a real value to Sun Devil Athletics and to ASU as a brand and we are very appreciative of the partnership," said Anderson. "We think this a new time for Sun Devil Athletics and ASU and we could not be more proud of today."