The Columbus East and Columbus North athletics departments have different philosophies when it comes to outfitting their athletes.
The Bull Dogs have an apparel contract with Adidas. On the other side of the city, Olympians coaches do their own bidding and order uniforms from various brands.
Thanks to North’s deal with Adidas, Bull Dogs athletes are able to save 35 percent on shoes and 40 percent on other apparel with their purchases through the company. For a $120 pair of adidas shoes, that would represent a $42 savings.
East athletics director Pete Huse said he can see advantages of dealing strictly with one apparel and shoe provider. But Huse said he likes having a relationship with a salesperson. If there’s a problem, someone you know is more apt to fix it — and will work hard to make things right if they want to keep your business, he said.
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A healthy savings
The single-company contract approach is working well for North, however, which is in the eighth year of its agreement with Adidas, athletics director Jeff Hester said.
Hester put the deal together in 2010, two years after arriving at North. The current contract runs through 2021, but it is renegotiated every three years. The contract is coming up for renegotiation again next year.
Under the agreement, Adidas provides the school with $10,000 each year in promotional products in exchange for exclusive uniform purchases. Hester uses that money for coaches’ shirts and to provide shoes and other apparel for athletes who have a financial need.
Hester purchases player uniforms from adidas for all 21 sports sponsored by the IHSAA. That includes the varsity, junior varsity and freshman levels.
In exchange, the school agrees in the contract to make adidas the exclusive athletics brand permitted to advertise its products at the school or its events. The adidas logo appears on the uniform top for each sport and also on the uniform pants in the sports in which they are provided, including boys and girls basketball.
Most adidas basketball shirts cost $90, and most adidas basketball shorts run $95. For a team with about 30 players between the varsity, JV and freshman levels, that can yield a savings of $2,200 on a $5,550 price tag. When applying the discount for both boys and girls teams, the projected savings is $4,400 in years when new basketball uniforms are purchased. With uniforms ordered on a rotating basis, that’s once every four years.
Hester estimates that the school saves an average of at least $5,000 a year by going through adidas.
“It was an easy choice, simply because our athletic department saves thousands of dollars each year with the deal,” Hester said.
Some peers have deals
The IHSAA does not interfere with schools having contracts with apparel companies. Four of the eight Conference Indiana schools have them.
Like the Bull Dogs, Bloomington North has a contract with adidas. Bloomington South has one with UnderArmour. Southport has a deal with UnderArmour for boys basketball and an apparel contract with adidas for all other sports.
The Hoosier Hills Conference has three of its eight schools with apparel contracts. East and Jennings County are two that do not.
Madison could become the fourth HHC school to strike a deal. First-year athletics director Joe Bronkella, who spent the past six years in that role at Central Middle School, has been talking with adidas, Nike and UnderArmour, but hasn’t yet committed to a contract.
Huse said he has not been approached by an apparel company in the 2 1/2 years he has been at the school, and he has no plans to pursue a deal.
“I’d rather our kids and our coaches be able to choose whatever shoe they’re more comfortable with,” Huse said. “I don’t like the idea of telling athletes, ‘You have to wear this shoe, or you have to wear this product.’”
Between the 21 IHSAA sports, Huse allots money to his head coaches to buy new uniforms once every three years, with seven coaches splitting a sum each year. Two of the three years, that sum is between $15,000 and $17,000. The year football uniforms figure into the equation, that number jumps to about $25,000.
If Huse allots $1,400 for basketball uniforms, and coaches want to spend $1,800, the remaining $400 comes from fundraisers, sponsorships or teams working concession stands at an East athletics event.
Most of the Olympians’ uniforms, including those for football and boys basketball, are Nike uniforms ordered from BSN Sports Supply.
“I look at what a good, quality uniform is,” Huse said. “If a good, quality uniform for football is $150, and I know we need 100 of them, we’re looking at $15,000. I try to provide as much as I can toward those programs to help cover the cost so it’s the least expensive for them (booster groups) to come up with the rest. We don’t have athletes writing out a check saying, ‘Here’s my part for my uniform.’”
Like at North, Huse said if an athlete cannot afford to pay for apparel that the school did not cover, he has a fund to help them.
While all North athletes are required to wear the provided adidas brand uniforms, they buy their own shoes and socks and are free to wear whatever brand they choose.
“Some kids may not like how an adidas shoe fits,” Hester said. “If you look at our girls basketball team, most of them are wearing Nike. That probably doesn’t make adidas too happy, but I’m not going to force a kid to wear a shoe that they really don’t feel comfortable in.”
That’s the case with senior basketball player Kenzie Patberg. The senior point guard wears Nike shoes.
“It depends on the player and how you form to the different type shoes they have,” Patberg said.
Senior three-sport athlete Liz Tynan wears different brands of shoes for different sports. She sports adidas as a soccer goalkeeper and Nike for basketball and track.
“I like adidas shirts and sweatpants, but I’m more of a Nike girl when it comes to shoes,” Tynan said, noting the comfort factor.
Senior three-sport athlete Jaylen Flemmons wears adidas shoes for football and for basketball practice, but got a new pair of Jordans made by Nike before this season to wear in basketball games. He sports Saucony for track.
Another three-sport athlete, senior Brigham Kleinhenz wears Asics shoes for wrestling and adidas for football and as a pole vaulter in track and field. In addition to shoes, players buy their own socks and accessories such as headbands, armbands and knee and ankle braces.
“Football, we spend so much money on apparel,” Kleinhenz said. “Uniforms cost a lot of money, even just game socks. That (deal with adidas is) definitely a nice thing we have here at Columbus North, and I think all the athletes here are grateful for that.”
Four of the eight Conference Indiana schools and three of the eight Hoosier Hills Conference schools have deals with apparel companies:
Bloomington North: adidas
Bloomington South: UnderArmour
Columbus North: adidas
Franklin Central: none
Perry Meridian: none
Southport: UnderArmour for boys basketball, apparel contract with adidas for all other sports
Terre Haute North: none
Terre Haute South: none
Hoosier Hills Conference
Bedford North Lawrence: adidas
Columbus East: none
Floyd Central: none
Jennings County: none
Madison: none currently, but is talking with adidas, Nike and UnderArmour about a potential deal
New Albany: Nike