Editor's note: This is part five of a five-part series on how athletics apparel contracts impact programs in the state of Utah. Start at part one: What collegiate apparel sponsorships mean to BYU, Utah and USU.
Former BYU offensive lineman Jake Kuresa was recruited out of high school by nearly every major college football program in the West and plenty more in the East. His initial offer list included 30 major schools.
As a result, he saw how various schools use different recruiting tactics to bring athletes into their respective programs. A major factor in the process — for both schools and athletes — is the gear you’ll be wearing.
“Schools parade their gear on your trip and promote it like crazy. Oregon takes the cake for sure. They make you believe you are breathing Nike oxygen and walking on Nike grass,” Kuresa said.
“The 17-year-old mind is easily influenced, and the hold that name brands have on kids is stronger than most people realize. Athletes are very particular about what they wear, especially on their feet. Considering the stress you put on your shoes in comparison to the average person you get really picky,” he said.
The brand matters
BYU is a Nike school and has been since Lavell Edwards co-piloted a strong relationship with the apparel goliath in the mid-90s.
And that relationship with the brand influenced Kuresa. In talking of the recruiting process, he said that he and his parents addressed program staff, graduation rate, environment and location. Although he shies from it now, he admits as a teenager, the brand of the school’s apparel mattered.
“People don’t get it, but you practice every day and play sports every day for over a decade. My basketball shoes were Nike, my baseball cleats had always been Nike, and my football cleats, and workout shoes — all Nike. It was Nike socks every day since I was 8 or 9. Jordan shirts, Nike shirts, Nike jackets, everything Nike.
“So I told my pops I'm only tripping to Nike schools,” he said.
Such is the battle schools like BYU face when they enter into these crucial contracts with apparel companies.
A vital brand partner
BYU is happy with its contract with Nike, although fans and media know very little about the deal and what it brings to the school. As a private institution, BYU is under no obligation to share details of its legal agreements and rarely does.
“The Nike relationship is very important to BYU and plays a vital role in the branding of our athletic program. We have been partners for a very long time and are proud to be an elite Nike school with a long-term contract,” BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle said. “BYU takes pride in partnering with some of the most recognized global corporations and considers Nike to be the premier sports marketing company in the world.”
BYU’s consideration of Nike as "King of the Hill" in athletics apparel is congruent with Kuresa’s sentiment. BYU is in the company of more than three-quarters of universities with Football Bowl Subdivision programs. As a Nike elite school, BYU has access to the newest and best the company offers.
Though BYU declined to answer questions regarding the nature of their contract with Nike and the benefits it brings, there are similar public schools whose contracts might offer insight into the kind of deal BYU has.
Oregon State, for example, signed a new deal with Nike in 2011 that delivers the Beavers more than $2 million in product and a little cash in the upcoming year. Additionally, Nike closed an agreement with Boise State last year, which gives the Broncos $1 million in gear this coming season and $50,000 in cash and bonuses for team performance, including $25,000 for playing in a BCS game.
Ole Miss has a deal reportedly worth more than $2 million per year. Illinois gets $1.6 million in cash and product for sporting the swoosh. Arizona State’s agreement covers nearly $1.8 million in product next year.
While it’s unlikely the public will ever learn the details of BYU’s agreement with Nike, most university contracts with the retailer share common parts, and the Cougars probably have similar allotments, payouts and incentives.
Because of this, it is reasonable to assume BYU gets product and currency from Nike and may earn additional dollars through advertising agreements and performance bonuses, such as bowl appearances and NCAA tournament bids.
The end result
These contracts are not going to make or break the balance sheet or vault a team to a championship, but they do bring millions in gear and cash to schools, and help ensure their teams have the gear necessary to succeed.
They’re also an asset in bringing in players.
Kuresa, who went on to be an All-Mountain West Conference lineman, certainly didn’t decide to attend BYU just because it was a Nike school, but he’s not shy to say that he disqualified schools that were not with Nike.
“There are a lot of things that influence the 17-year-old mind that wouldn't carry much weight later in life,” he says now, but his experience shows how a school’s apparel affiliation is an important factor in narrowing down recruits' decisions.
“BYU and Nike definitely came through. I started around 50 games at BYU — there were only two I didn’t wear a brand new pair of cleats. I loved always having a clean, new, stiff pair of Nikes. Still do,” Kuresa said.
Editor’s Note: This is part five in a five part series on how athletics apparel contracts affect Utah’s major universities. Part one and part two explains the nature of these contracts while part three covers Utah State and Nike and part four looks at The University of Utah's agreement with Under Armour.
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