Hillsdale College’s athletic department considered signing a contract with an athletic apparel company two or three years ago, but could not justify the switch-over. But this year, Adidas approached the athletic department and a contract is under consideration once again.
“We thought it was not advantageous to commit to a single brand,” Athletic Director Don Brubacher said. “The discount was not large enough to make it worthwhile. We are looking at it again right now to see if anything has changed.”
Claudette Charney, assistant athletic director and head women’s basketball coach, said that it is less common that Division II and III schools will have contracts with large companies.
“It’s very difficult for a Division II school to get a contract,” she said. “Division I schools are the ones that have the contracts. The companies are paying them to wear their uniform. It would be nice if the companies did a little more for Division II and Division III.”
Brubacher said the difference lays in the publicity that Division I athletics get. While companies pay Division I schools to wear their logo, a Division II school might have a contract simply for a reduction in price. Some Division II schools do have contracts, though. Adidas is an official sponsor of Grand Valley State University.
Currently, each individual team at Hillsdale College decides on and purchases a unique brand. This allows each team to look for gear that is most effective and most cost efficient, Brubacher said.
“The primary benefit is that each team can pick the equipment that will serve their team best,” he said.
Across the athletic department there is not one brand that serves a majority of the teams. Three teams use Nike, Inc. or Jordan, a Nike affiliate. Two teams apiece wear Adidas and Russell Athletics. Rawlings, Asics and Speedo are each used by one Hillsdale team.
Head baseball coach Paul Noce said that when he purchases uniforms, he considers both quality and cost.
“I try to find the best deal but try for quality because it lasts longer,” he said.
Assistant volleyball coach Stephanie Gravel said their team has been buying from Asics for years.
“The team likes their shoes as they are easy to break in,” she said. “The more you order from one company, the better the deal. Asics also is really good about replacing shoes or bags if they break down during season.”
A few teams have recently switched brands. The track and cross-country teams returned to buying Nike uniforms after a hiatus of a few years.
They used Boathouse and VS Athletics uniforms for a while because those companies made sublimated uniforms that could be reproduced just a couple at a time, and they guaranteed 10 years with the same uniform. Name brands typically have a two-to-four-year cycle of uniforms.
“That means that you have to buy all new uniforms every couple of years, and you couldn’t just fill in each year,” said head men’s track and cross-country coach Jeff Forino. “Recently Nike started to do sublimated uniforms, so we went back to them.”
Charney said the women’s basketball team also switched from Russell to Adidas because the stock uniforms were becoming too expensive to replace.
“Adidas gave us the biggest discount,” she said. “The person in charge is very organized and easy to deal with.”
And the football team is making the switch from New Balance shoes to Adidas.
“It has become very difficult to get New Balance football shoes,” head football coach Keith Otterbein said. “Adidas was the most reliable next option — plus I think our players are excited because of the ‘cool points’ they will get wearing Adidas.”
The football team is sticking with Russell uniforms, though, a brand that head football coach Keith Otterbein said they have been using since he began coaching at Hillsdale.
“Russell is very high quality and we have received great customer service from them over the years,” Otterbein said. “We never had a reason to switch — let alone the cost of such a change over.”
The athletic department will have to keep in mind the cost of switching over uniforms as they consider a contract with Adidas. A contract would mean getting all new uniforms for the teams that do not already buy from Adidas.
“If we sign an Adidas contract, we buy all new uniforms,” Brubacher said. “So, the contract has to be attractive. The discount has to be substantial.”
Brubacher said this is not the only consideration in signing a contract, such as if the company is not able to provide gear for all of the athletic teams (such as swimming), or if the gear the company provides is not of good quality. For example, Brubacher said the track team would probably not wear Adidas running shoes.
“It’s important that they can accommodate or accept that we will wear different brands,” he said. “If they don’t make them, it’s not an issue. If they’re not quality it becomes an issue.”