Monday, August 1 was a big day in the history of the University of Michigan. After a ten year hiatus and a partnership with Adidas, the University of Michigan began their apparel contract with Nike. The Wolverines inked the mega-deal with Nike back in July of 2015, a deal worth reportedly $169 million over the next 15 years. Everything just felt right, Nike and Michigan back together again, just the way things should be.
After Nike hosted their midnight pep rally on steroids at the M Den on the university campus they shifted their focus to the unveiling of the football uniforms. At a gala-like event Jordan Brand showcased the Wolverines football uniforms on manikins earlier this month. Not only did the media love the jerseys, but so did the recruits. Shortly after the event Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh used the event as a way to get recruits attention and send out letter of intent. If the football team is getting the attention of recruits, the same must go for the basketball team.
There is no question that recruits pay attention to the brands universities wear. The correlation it has on recruiting is still uncertain however. I’ve always thought brands were much more important in basketball than they were in football. Hoops recruits will factor what they will be wearing for the next one to four years into their recruiting decisions more than football recruits will, in theory. With the increased importance on shoes and performance in the sport of basketball, wearing Nike, a brand often perceived as the premiere brand in sports, is important for Michigan.
Four schools currently wear Jordan Brand uniforms: North Carolina, Marquette, Georgetown and California, with Cal leaving the brand for Under Armor next season. Of the four schools, none shows a significant increase in recruiting totals.
The Tar Heels were destined to dawn the image of their most prestigious alumni the day Michael Jordan dipped his toe into the apparel waters. While the schools merit speaks for itself, North Carolina began their Jordan Brand contract with three top five classes in four years followed by four years with only one top ten class according to 247Sports. The University of California has found their way into 247Sports top 50 recruiting classes only three times in the last ten years and all three came when the school was signed with Nike and Jordan Brand.
The Wolverines have been ranked in 247Sports top 50 eight times over the past ten years, reaching the top 15 twice. Having never been an assistant coach, John Beilein has had no shortage of recruiting experience, but has failed to recruit top prospects and graduate them into productive NBA players. A great developer of talent, Beilein’s most productive players have been low star recruits who flourished in his system but have not yet found their role in the NBA.
As many of us know, having appealing apparel helps recruiting but it is not the lone factor. Beilein is widely considered as a top coach in the NCAA and has taken the Wolverines deep into the tournament before. The possibility of having Michael Jordan around campus and having his team decked out in the latest fashion should be a plus for Beilein.
So where are these fancy dreads? While the football team was having a fashion show at a night club, basketball fans may have been hoping to lay their eyes on the uniforms the Wolverines will dawn on the hardwood. Unfortunately those fans will have to wait as the basketball jerseys will be unveiled at a separate event which some have suggested could be sometime in September.
What these uniforms look like could be the deciding factor in whether the Jumpman and Jordan Brand will help Michigan basketball in recruiting or not. As mentioned before, Michigan was a Nike school before but it will be wearing the Jumpman logo for the first time. The jersey could return to their traditional look from the iconic Fab 5 days, which could be enticing to some potential recruits. Perhaps Nike takes a page from Adidas’s book and re-brands the uniforms, hopefully with something more stylish. Regardless, the basketball jersey reveal should be highly anticipated and could be an important tool in recruiting in the near future.