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Sports

Notre Dame officially partners with Under Armour

| Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank grew up supporting Notre Dame. Now, his company does too.

Plank and Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick officially announced Under Armour as the future outfitter of Irish athletics Tuesday morning, confirming what was reported earlier this winter.

An Under Armour mock-up of a Notre Dame basketball uniform is displayed during Tuesday morning's announcement.Matthew DeFranks | The Observer

An Under Armour mock-up of a Notre Dame basketball uniform is displayed during Tuesday morning’s announcement.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity, and by any measure, it’s the largest deal of its kind in the history of collegiate athletics,” Swarbrick said.

The 10-year deal was the largest in collegiate athletics in terms of both cash and merchandise, Swarbrick said. He denied, however, disclosing any specific details of the deal. Notre Dame also has the option to acquire Under Armour stock as part of the agreement.

According to ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell, sources told the website the deal is worth $90 million.

The deal will become effective July 1, Swarbrick said, with Under Armour replacing adidas as Notre Dame’s apparel supplier for all 26 varsity sports.

Notre Dame’s agreement with adidas expires at the end of this school year. The Irish had been with adidas since 1997-98 and signed a 10-year agreement with the German company in 2005. Swarbrick said adidas was a great partner to the Irish.

“Our movement to a new time, a new generation for Notre Dame athletics, is just that: focused on the future,” Swarbrick said. “It is not focused on the past or any shortcomings of it.  As I said, on the contrary, it has been fantastic.”

Swarbrick said Notre Dame has looked at four factors when determining the future of Irish athletics, including its transition to the ACC and its adjustment to the new College Football Playoff: identity, resources, committed partners and a competitive edge.

“We want Notre Dame, our coaches and our student athletes, to be an Under Armour laboratory, a proving ground for new technologies,” Swarbrick said. “We’re committed to helping them do that, and they’re committed to using us for that purpose.

“Those four things were our focus throughout this process, and Under Armour hit every one of them on the nose.”

Plank said this moment was a huge one for Under Armour, who also outfits Auburn, Maryland, Northwestern, Boston College and South Carolina. The company also recently added Navy for the future.

“This is a ‘pinch‑me’ moment for me without question,” Plank said. “… Partnering with one of the world’s most respected and admired universities, it’s really a game‑changing event for our company. It puts us on a completely different level, and frankly we are ready for that level.”

Plank said Notre Dame had a lot of tradition but Under Armour was also looking forward to a new era for the University.

“You know, this community, this school, this university has a championship pedigree second to none that goes back to the 19th century, and our job is to ensure that we uphold that legacy and move it forward,” Plank said. “We’re also incredibly excited about the collaboration that’s going to lead to a new era in the look and feel of the Fighting Irish brand.”

Under Armour would be employing “clean, bold and consistent looks,” Plank said, including the iconic Notre Dame football uniform.

“We’re not anticipating doing anything unusual, crazy,” Plank said. “We need to honor and respect the history of the University. We believe that less is more, particularly in the early days.

“Now, the look and the aesthetic of them is something that will be pretty consistent, and I don’t think anyone will be tweeting photos.  We’re going to stay pretty consistent in year one to get things going.”

Swarbrick said the University would dictate the appearance of the uniforms, referencing Auburn’s seemingly unchanged football uniforms since they partnered with Under Armour in 2006.

“We will control the look and feel of the uniforms,” Swarbrick said. “We’re going to focus on how those uniforms enhance performance as much as we’re going to focus on what they look like.”

Under Armour outfitted a mannequin in a possible Irish basketball uniform at Tuesday’s announcement but Plank said that design was simply a mock-up and not the final product. Plank said the same thing about a ceremonial football jersey he presented Swarbrick.

Swarbrick said the Notre Dame athletes and coaches were very comfortable with Under Armour but the Irish would have to work through some sport-by-sport specifics.

Plank, who played football at Maryland, said he grew up with a poster of former Irish linebacker Michael Stonebreaker above his bed.

“Looking at that every night, going to college and waiting for the phone to ring and the Irish never called, I’m thrilled to be here today and to have that opportunity to be a part and to wear the Notre Dame brand,” Plank said.

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About Matthew DeFranks

Matthew DeFranks is an Assistant Managing Editor and a senior Finance major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor from Miami. He loves a solid 2-3 zone, Sperry's, fantasy football drafts, How I Met Your Mother, Cuban food, free parking, beaches, good hip-hop and airports. He hates wearing white socks, the Florida Gators, pickles, Shakespeare, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the Patriots, death metal, Ed Hardy shirts and airports.

Contact Matthew