As Russell contract ends, Ohio set to take new apparel bids

Ohio wide receiver LaVon Brazill stiff arms an Akron defender during last October’s game against Akron while wearing Ohio’s Russell brand football gear. With Russell’s contract expiring, the Bobcats are currently taking bids for a new apparel contract. (File Photo)


Ohio Athletics is tight-lipped about discussing its expiring contract with Russell Athletic and is open to offers from other athletic apparel providers, meaning the Bobcats might be clad in slightly different attire come next fall.

Russell, a branch of Fruit of the Loom, has outfitted the Bobcats since July 2007 and will have to sign on the dotted line once again this summer if it chooses to continue its relationship with Ohio.

Through the current partnership, Russell, which did not return an immediate request for comment, supplies the Bobcats with game jerseys, sideline apparel, accessories and balls. The outfitter also provides discounts to the university on the purchase of other goods for its athletic teams.

According to the parties’ contract, which went into effect under former Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt, Ohio has been allowed to accept proposals from other equipment providers since Aug. 31.

Ohio Athletics personnel have not disclosed which companies have shown interest in outfitting the Bobcats, but companies such as Nike, Under Armour, Reebok and Adidas could potentially submit offers. Russell also can continue to negotiate with athletics personnel to extend their partnership.

Adidas declined comment on its involvement on the Ohio apparel contract. Each of those companies did not immediately respond to The Post’s requests for comment.

“The Russell contract expires on June 30th and the university is currently executing a request for proposal (RFP) for the apparel contract,” Ohio assistant athletic director for Media Relations Tom Symonds said in a statement. “At this time, we are unable to comment due to the ongoing RFP.”

Under Ohio’s deal with Russell, the men’s basketball and baseball teams are granted three complete sets of uniforms, while the football, women’s basketball and volleyball teams are given two sets. The Bobcats’ softball team is supplied with only one uniform, while the field hockey, cross country, track and swimming and diving teams’ uniforms are not discussed in the contract.

Each team is granted free replacements for tarnished jerseys. Russell’s contribution to the football team is valued at a program-high $335,840 during the five years of the contract, while the men’s basketball team’s allotment is worth about half that total.

Adetunji Adedipe, a former Ohio basketball and football player and a former member of Student Senate, said that he was always appreciative of Russell’s contributions to his wardrobe but wouldn’t complain about seeing today’s student-athletes outfitted in more popular digs.

“With today’s society, there’s a premium placed on brands, and there’s more of a selection of products with companies such as Nike,” Adedipe said.
“The Russell equipment isn’t bad, but it’s kind of ‘Plain Jane.’ ”

Russell has done its best to stray from boring preconceptions. It introduced a slew of alternate jerseys for the Bobcats this season, making a mark on the gridiron, hardwood and diamond, as well as on the Internet.

A YouTube video of the football team’s surprise reaction to their new black jerseys last fall has more than 301,000 YouTube views, and the Bobcats also beat South Florida in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament while wearing their black uniforms.

“The football team is on the rise and the basketball team is, as well,” Adedipe said. “I feel like we will still be with Russell (next season). There’s too much appeal that we have with Russell for them to not overcompensate us for that.”

The men’s basketball team already cashed in on its success this season, pocketing an additional $10,000 by winning a Mid-American Conference title.

The football Bobcats came within a last-second field goal in the MAC championship game of collecting the same sum.

Georgia Tech and Colorado State are two of Russell’s more prominent customers. No other MAC teams are partnered with Russell.

“Not too many people rock the Russell brand,” Adedipe said. “If we switch to Nike, we’ll be a small fish in the big pond, but now we’re the big fish in the small pond.”

jr992810@ohiou.edu

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