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UNLV looks for new apparel deal with Nike contract expiring

Updated May 11, 2019 - 8:05 pm

When Boise State extended its contract with Nike last June, the school received a substantial increase over the previous deal.

The six-year contract provides Boise State with $12.685 million in product and another $750,000 in cash, according to the Idaho state education board. Its previous six-year contract provided $7.9 million in product and $50,000 in cash each of the final three years.

UNLV’s contract with Nike expires May 31, and the Rebels are looking for a similar bump with the next deal. The current six-year deal allowed the athletic department to order up to $1 million in company product each year. There was no cash value other than $15,000 each year to the base contract for the men’s basketball coach and bonuses if certain postseason objectives were met.

Nike had an exclusive negotiating window for a new contract with UNLV that ended April 1.

“We are still negotiating and seeking to maximize the value to UNLV,” athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said in a statement to the Review-Journal.

Two sports business experts offered differing opinions on what kind of value UNLV might get out of a new deal.

Southern California professor David Carter was bullish on the athletic department’s opportunity.

“I think what plays into UNLV’s hands is the rapid emergence of Las Vegas as a sports market,” Carter said. “I think that’s going to help elevate the status and the stature of the university in its notoriety and potentially its athletic program. So the kind of deal UNLV could’ve struck 10 or 15 years ago is very different than what it is today.”

Texas professor Joel Lulla said there were warning signs with Boise State’s contract that could affect UNLV. A new deal could help the Rebels’ athletic department financially, he said, but might not be a game-changer.

“It will be mostly product,” Lulla said. “I think the Boise State deal will be kind of a ceiling for them, somewhere slightly under $2 million if I had to guess.”

To put in perspective the difference between Power Five programs and the rest, according to Forbes, UCLA owns the richest shoe and apparel deal. Under Armour pays the Bruins an average of $12.76 million from 2017 to 2032, including $9 million in cash each year.

The top 19 programs on Forbes’ list were from power conferences. No. 20 was Cincinnati from the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats are under contract with Under Armour from 2015 to 2025, and they receive an average of $2.95 million annually that includes $1.13 million in cash each year.

Carter and Lulla agreed the recent controversy involving shoe companies should have little bearing on UNLV’s negotiations.

Adidas executive Jim Gatto and consultant Merl Code were found guilty for their roles in a college basketball corruption investigation by the FBI.

“Without any personal knowledge, it’s hard to believe Adidas is making all these payments if nobody else is,” Lulla said. “I assume they’re too smart to be negotiating against themselves.”

Celebrity defense attorney Michael Avenatti also has released documents that he said proves Nike was involved in paying players’ “handlers,” including Brandon McCoy guardian Shaun Manning. McCoy signed with the Rebels in 2017 and played one season before leaving to play professionally.

“I think Kansas took some pause with their deal before renewing with Adidas and there was some backlash from others, but it doesn’t seem to be washing up on the shore of the individual schools in going for these renewals,” Carter said. “We might not know all the details of all these scandals, so that situation might change, but it doesn’t seem to be really rocking the business of college sports from the standpoint of renegotiating these footwear and apparel deals.

“I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that I think a lot of people view college athletics as veering much toward professional now. So when you hear coaches are on tapes paying potential athletes 10 grand a month or whatever it is and it’s met with a collective shrug, I think that tells you that a lot of people become tone deaf to any of those controversies.”

More Rebels: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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