Thursday, May 23

Fate of adidas contract with UCLA athletic department undetermined


John Anzelc

In the final minutes of a close basketball game, players and coaches carefully peek up at the scoreboard. They want to remind themselves just how much time is left to go. They’re wondering how it all will unfold.

Today and tomorrow it will be administrators within the UCLA athletic department who check the clock with such anxiousness.

UCLA athletics has submitted a proposal to renew its multimillion dollar shoe and apparel agreement with adidas, senior associate athletic director Glenn Toth said. So far, UCLA hasn’t received a response, and the current 90-day renegotiation period ends Friday at midnight.

“I’m sitting at my desk and hoping that the phone is going to ring soon,” Toth said Wednesday afternoon.

The current UCLA-adidas deal expires in June 2011, and UCLA hopes to secure a new deal by the end of this summer. Since Jan. 4, UCLA and adidas have been in an exclusive negotiation “First Dealing” period.

This period, which is stipulated by the current agreement, prevents UCLA from engaging in formal negotiations with other shoe and apparel companies. The exclusivity period ends Friday .

If UCLA and adidas do not finalize a renewal agreement by then, UCLA could begin talks with separate companies as early as Saturday morning.

UCLA has perceived interest from adidas’ main rivals, Nike and Under Armour, but that interest has only been expressed anecdotally, Toth said. Attempts by the Daily Bruin to reach executives at adidas and Under Armour have been unsuccessful. A Nike spokeswoman declined to comment.

Toth has been through this before. He engineered UCLA’s first deal with adidas in 1999 and the renewal agreement in 2005. But this week feels a little different, he said. It has been more hectic because so many of the major shoe company executives are traveling to Indianapolis this week for the Final Four. And Toth’s boss, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, has also been integrally involved in the NCAA tournament through his role as committee chairman.

Toth would not discuss any dollar figures of UCLA’s new proposal, but he did say that it resembles the structure of the current contract and includes many of the same elements.

Under the current contract adidas pays UCLA $2.5 million in cash and provides about $1.6 million in equipment each year. Adidas gains exclusive rights to sponsor UCLA athletic teams and market apparel in connection with those teams.

The contract is also an intricate, 27-page document that establishes a close relationship between the school and the shoe company.

Adidas agrees to provide one full-time employee on campus each contract year. It pays $2,500 each year for a “non-UCLA charitable” project selected by basketball coach Ben Howland and football coach Rick Neuheisel. Furthermore, the company gives UCLA teams various incentive bonuses, ranging from $10,000 to $200,000, for accolades such as winning a Coach of the Year Award or reaching the Final Four.

UCLA provides free tickets for adidas executives and free radio acknowledgements for the company during football and basketball games. Howland and Neuheisel make appearances at several adidas events throughout the year.

The UCLA-adidas partnership dates back to 1999, when the original agreement was signed. The first deal paid UCLA $1.625 million in cash and $1.3 million in equipment each year. The deal was renewed in 2005.

Throughout the decade, UCLA has been the only adidas-sponsored school on the West Coast. All nine of the other ten Pac-10 teams have deals with Nike.

“Adidas has been a terrific partner, and we would be extremely pleased to maintain the relationship,” Toth said.

UCLA coaches have echoed that sentiment.

“I think adidas has been great (to UCLA basketball),” Howland told the Daily Bruin last month. “They have done an outstanding job for our program. … I have a lot of good friends that are in the adidas family.”

But still, these agreements are not always permanent. In 2007, the University of Michigan ended a 14-year partnership with Nike and signed a lucrative deal with adidas.

Similar switches were made by the University of Maryland, which went from Nike to Under Armour in 2008, and the University of Pittsburgh, which went from adidas to Nike in 2009.

The next two days will indicate whether a similar switch could happen at UCLA.

“The ball is in adidas’ court,” Toth said. “Only time will tell.”

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