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Sebastian Smith runs the ball towards the endzone before being tackled in the first quarter of the Bobcat’s game against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions September 19, 2015. 

Russell Contract: Russell Athletic fashions Ohio fans, athletes in jerseys

Russell Athletic has been the exclusive provider of athletics apparel at Ohio since 2007, but the deal is set to expire next year. 

Since 1896, the Bobcats have donned green and white on all of their jerseys, and since 2007, Russell Athletic has been the exclusive provider of those jerseys.

Ohio previously had its uniforms supplied by Adidas, but in 2007, former OU Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt signed an all-inclusive deal with Russell Athletic, which is based in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

In 2012, after five years with Russell, current Athletics Director Jim Schaus renewed the deal, signing “the largest, most significant apparel contract” in the school’s history.

“There is no peer in our conference,” he said in a 2012 press conference, "in terms of a merchandise apparel contract. Not even close.”

Since the contract renewal, Russell has provided $397,500 in athletic gear per year, totaling nearly $2 million worth of athletic apparel over the five-year deal, according to a contract obtained through the university’s office of legal affairs.

The deal signed by Schaus also includes quite a few incentives.

Ohio can earn up to $145,000 in cash incentives by becoming national champions in either men’s or women’s basketball, football and baseball in a year. The Bobcats have yet to earn any of those cash incentives.

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They can also earn up to $62,500 worth of gear per year by making bowl appearances, winning the conference or making postseason appearances.

Ohio has earned $52,500 since 2012 from two football bowl appearances, one women's basketball NCAA tournament appearance, a women’s basketball conference championship, one softball championship and three conference championships in volleyball. Ohio earned $15,000 from Russell for its play at the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Dec. 19. 

According to the contract, Ohio makes $2,500 for every conference championship won in sports other than football and men's basketball. The rewards are in Russell gear, not cash. 

Russell also pays coaches Frank Solich and Saul Phillips $15,000 a year to not sign endorsement deals with its competitors. Russell Athletic spends $10,000 annually on marketing at Ohio.

In return, Ohio provides the apparel company with prominent exposure throughout campus, with in-venue signage, print and digital advertisements, and appearances by Solich and Phillips.

The university also must provide Russell with “premium” tickets to football, basketball, baseball and softball games, including NCAA Tournament games.

The Ohio deal with Russell has provided a fair amount of money for the athletics department, but it pales in comparison to the recent apparel deal signed by Ohio State.

The Buckeyes new deal with Nike, signed more than two weeks ago, is worth $252 million over 15 years, making it the most lucrative deal of its kind in history. 

In the Mid-American Conference, however, other schools in the conference must pay their apparel company in order to wear their product, the opposite of the deal that Ohio has.

For instance, Miami must pay Adidas $375,000 per year in order to keep up its contract. That deal expires in 2021.

The partnership between Ohio and Russell, active since 2007, is set to expire June 30, 2017.

Russell has exclusive negotiating rights with Ohio, starting Jan. 1 of next year, but after a 90-day period, any company may submit a proposal.

The last time the partnership was set to expire, Ohio wouldn’t comment on potential proposals, but companies such as Nike, Under Armour, Reebok and Adidas potentially could have submitted offers, according to a previous Post report.

Though Ohio Athletics did not comment on the matter, Russell would have to be the favorite to land another apparel deal with the university.

However, Under Armour certainly could seek a partnership with the school, which would be its third in the state of Ohio and second in the MAC. Cincinnati and Toledo also have deals with the apparel company, which is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Ohio is the home to the only collegiate store dedicated exclusively to Under Armour, with “The House” on Court Street.

Not only will the deal depend on financials, but also the aesthetics the brand brings.

With Russell having the reputation of being “plain”, according to one previous Post report, Under Armour — or companies such as Nike — may have the upper hand if the university wants to go the creative route.

One fan in particular, Dan Bonner, co-president of the "O Zone", the Ohio Bobcats' official cheering section, likes the jerseys Russell has provided the teams. 

"I personally think that our jerseys are perfect," he said. "Not too flashy, but still exciting to fans. Schools that get flashy get away from their colors and tradition. I feel like OU is a school of tradition." 

Another fan, sophomore Clay Johnson, said the current uniforms could use an upgrade — and thinks Under Armour would be a great addition for the athletics department. 

"I think that Under Armour is a growing brand," he said. "(It) could possibly become a Nike or Adidas in the near future. The Under Armour store is already here, and I think the consensus around campus is that everyone’s ready for a switch."

Russell has broadened its horizons the past few years in terms of jerseys, creating "Blackout” jerseys and “Battle of the Bricks” jerseys for both the football and basketball teams.

Of course, some fans would like to see more creativity, but they may have to wait until the 2018 season.

“I like our uniforms, I think they represent our school well," Jessica Miller, a sophomore studying athletic training, said. "I like the variations Ohio has, but I think it would be cool to see them get different designs and patterns.”


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