Clothing cohesiveness will no longer be an issue for the Saluki Athletics program after a deal was reached with the program’s new official outfitter.
SIU’s athletic program signed a five-year agreement with Under Armour Inc. Wednesday that gave the company the right to provide athletic wear for all 17 varsity sports, including men’s basketball and football, as well as members of the athletic department, such as coaches and staff members.
A few athletic teams such as softball and basketball have worn Under Armour since 2008, but a representative from the company said the brand will now hold more of a presence at SIU.
According to Saluki Athletics, the representative said the university’s new official outfitter agreement includes marketing entitlements that will complement the brand’s marketing campaigns through print and on-field presence at the university.
Athletic Director Mario Moccia said this is a historic agreement for Saluki Athletics that aligns SIU with a cutting-edge global outfitter in sports. He said the deal will distinguish the university from other schools by associating its brand with that of a well respected company.
“It’s a distinction for the university to get an opportunity that speaks to both the power of the Saluki brand and the strength of the relationship the athletic department has built with the Under Armour company,” Moccia said.
He said the company’s relationship with SIU began with alumna Shannon Ferbrache, a former football player and the 20th employee ever hired by the Under Armour company as the director of sports marketing.
He said Ferbrache approached SIU and asked if it would consider using Under Armour to represent the university for football and men’s basketball. Moccia said he and head basketball coach Chris Lowery went to Baltimore to look at the product, and both agreed to sign with the company.
One year after Under Armour signed the men’s basketball program, it began to also sponsor the softball program. Moccia said it was at this point the university started to consider the idea of having all of the teams represented by Under Armour.
“They had three programs, so we started saying ‘What’s the likelihood of an all-school deal?’” Moccia said. “It took us a long while before we got here, but finally we signed the deal just last week and we’re pretty pleased with that.”
Coaches and athletes say they’re looking forward to high-quality new gear as well.
Prior to the agreement, the women’s basketball players wore Nike products. Junior guard Teri Oliver said she likes Jordan and Nike attire, but with this transition she’s willing to reconcile for some nice Under Armour apparel.
“I’d love to have some Under Armour sweats (pants) and hoodies,” Oliver said.
SIU football coach Dale Lennon said the contract has given the football program an added edge in the recruiting game since 2008 because it’s a performance gear that players want to wear.
“Our players and coaches are proud to be outfitted in an Under Armour uniform,” Lennon said at a press conference Wednesday.
Lowery and SIU swimming and diving coach Rick Walker both said they were looking forward to associating the brand with the university.
“What a great fit,” Walker said at the press conference.
Softball head coach Kerri Blaylock said the agreement with Under Armour is a huge step forward for the athletic department.
“We are so fortunate that such a quality company has partnered with us,” Blaylock said. “We have been with Under Armour for four years. When you walk around with Under Armour apparel on, your recruits notice, your peers notice and the fans notice.”
For SIU track and field, this is the first time the team has had the opportunity to use the apparel.
“Although (Under Armour is) new to the sport of track and field, (it has) done a great job with the uniforms,” track and field coach Connie Price-Smith said at the press conference. “The athletes love Under Armour gear, the way it fits, the style and the feel of the material. It is a big boost for our program and I think it brings a unified look to the whole department.”
Moccia said with all varsity sports adjoining as one unit with Under Armour, the SIU Athletics program is one step further to possibly living out Under Armour’s creed: I will protect this house.