Notre Dame deal a touchdown for Under Armour

Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame Vice President and Director of Athletics, left, and Kevin Plank, CEO and founder of Under Armour, announcing an agreement between Notre Dame and Under Armour that will outfit the university's athletic teams.

Joe Raymond, AP

The world of college sports is filled with haves and have nots. Notre Dame's sports program is one of the fortunate few 'haves' that turn a profit, making it attractive to companies like Under Armour, which announced Tuesday it had inked a deal with the school.

According to data the South Bend university filed with the U.S. Department of Education,  for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013,  it earned more than $108.5 million in revenue from athletics on expenses of about $88.8 million.

Most of the revenue to college sports programs comes from football and men’s basketball, which schools used to fund less-popular sports.

Vanderbilt University economist John Vrooman estimates that only 53 of the 2,000 or so collegiate athletic programs are profitable and notes that Notre Dame's earnings of $19.7 million places it in fourth place between the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma.  Many programs also receive additional subsidies from their schools. 

Notre Dame, which was founded in 1842, is in a unique position compared with other colleges, making it prime pickings for a company like Under Armour. Under the new deal, the sportswear company will provide Notre Dame with uniforms, shoes and equipment for its varsity teams.

“They are one of the few universities that you can say is a national university,” said Dr. Karen Weaver, associate clinical professor of sports management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, adding that Notre Dame’s broadcast deal with NBC, “gives them guaranteed exposure on a weekly basis.”

Smaller, less well-known schools aren’t so lucky, which has prompted some commentators to bemoan the “arms race” in college sports that rewards athletic success over academic achievement. Indeed, Notre Dame’s budget is dwarfed by other schools including rival Ohio State University and the University of Texas, both of which have budgets that top $100 million.  

"They have a number of schools who are well ahead of them in terms of the budget race,” Weaver said. 

Notre Dame has prided itself for decades on the high number of student athletes it graduates, which certainly adds to its brand cache with sponsors.   

Its 10-year deal with Under Armour is worth about $90 million, making it the most valuable shoe and apparel contract in the history of college sports.

“.. this represents the largest financial commitment ever made by a brand to a university, it will provide the critical resources we need to enable our student-athletes to compete at the highest levels,” said Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick in a press release.

Under terms of the agreement, Baltimore-based Under Armour will design and supply the footwear, apparel and game-day uniforms for each of Notre Dame’s 26 men’s and women’s varisity teams.


  • Jonathan Berr On Twitter»

    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.