Notre Dame's athletic department is on the verge of signing an equipment deal with Under Armour (NYSE:UAA), putting the kibosh on a longtime relationship with Adidas (NASDAQOTH:ADDYY), according to ESPN's Darren Rovell. While some debate whether such a move will help Notre Dame's performance on the field, there's a more interesting narrative.
College sports' biggest players
The size of college sports is absolutely enormous. Thirteen programs bring in more than $100 million annually, and the entirety of Division-I athletics generates an estimated $7.5 billion in revenue each year. By this estimate, which came from USA Today, D-1 is on the same level as major professional sports leagues, including the NFL and MLB.
Within this pile of money, Notre Dame lies in the top 25. Here's a look at how these elite programs stack up, and who provides their apparel.
|School||Apparel||Annual Revenue (M)|
|South Carolina||Under Armour||$87.6|
|Notre Dame*||Under Armour||$83.3|
It's immediately clear that Nike (NYSE:NKE) dominates this space. The company provides gear to 17 of the top 25 richest college athletic programs. Adidas sponsors five of these schools and Under Armour supplies the remaining three, assuming Notre Dame is on board.
Of Under Armour's three top-25 deals, the earliest began in 2005 with Auburn. That arrangement ends in 2017 and is worth almost $4 million a year. When the company signed with South Carolina in 2010, it agreed to a six-year deal worth a little over $12 million in rights fees and equipment allowances.
Comparing Notre Dame to other UA schools
With this in mind, the next question is obvious. If Under Armour has paid South Carolina and Auburn, two universities with considerably less prestige than Notre Dame, between $2 million and $4 million per year to don its UA logo, how much will they give South Bend?
ESPN ranks Notre Dame as college football's fourth "most prestigious" program, far ahead of Auburn (No. 21) and South Carolina (No. 83) on the basis of long-term historical success. In basketball, Notre Dame was given a No. 29 ranking. Auburn and South Carolina didn't make the top 50.
$100 million isn't out of the question
Simply put, prestige indicates the status or fame a program has in the college sporting world, and by this metric, a Notre Dame apparel deal is worth far more than what Under Armour is paying Auburn and South Carolina. According to a 2011 study by Nate Silver in The New York Times, Notre Dame enjoys a massive fan base of 2.3 million, trailing only Ohio State (3.2 million), Michigan (2. 9 million), and Penn State (2.6 million).
The university's expiring deal with Adidas was worth $60 million over 10 years, so any Under Armour agreement should at least be larger than that figure. Michigan, which has the largest deal in D-1 at $82 million over 10 years (from Adidas), is a good benchmark.
If Notre Dame decides to go 11 or 12 years, then, $100 million isn't out of the question. With its rivals dominating the college landscape, I don't think Under Armour would have any problem paying nine figures to nab the Irish.