Not long ago, and for well over a decade — since 2004, Russell Athletic dominated the black college landscape as the uniform provider for most of the HBCU athletic programs competing at NCAA Division I and Division II levels.
The conference-wide deals initially signed by the MEAC, SWAC, SIAC — and eventually the CIAA were said to be “historic,” and managed to gain some degree of optimism among fans.
But with the advent of trendy alternative uniforms created by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, combined with the negative public responses Russell Athletic received about its designs, it was merely a matter of time before the company would announce in September 2017 that it was leaving the athletic uniform business.
With only three major apparel companies left standing, and with the HBCU conferences on the verge of ending their agreements with Russell, new deals have since been announced or are still pending.
Last December the SIAC announced a six-year leaguewide agreement with Nike that began in January.
Unlike the SIAC, CIAA and GCAC, the MEAC and SWAC conferences have taken a more traditional approach to signing apparel deals. No longer are those Division I institutions signing leaguewide agreements; opting instead to sign their own agreements directly with the big three apparel manufacturers.
MEAC member institutions began the trend in 2016 with the majority signing direct deals with Nike.
MEAC Apparel Deals
|Hampton (leaving to join Big South Conference)||Under Armour|
|North Carolina A&T||Nike|
|North Carolina Central||Nike|
|South Carolina State||Nike|
Side note: While no longer in an apparel agreement with Russell Athletic, the MEAC did extend a leaguewide shoe deal with Nike that runs through 2020. Despite the fact that Hampton and Howard are signed with Under Armour, and Morgan State is signed with Adidas, all MEAC member institutions are wearing Nike shoes (see example below).
On the heels of completing its leaguewide contractual commitments to Russell Athletic (for uniforms) and Nike (for shoes) at the end of June, SWAC institutions will begin wearing uniforms created by one of the big three apparel manufacturers as early as July 1.
Alabama State, Grambling and Prairie View A&M have announced deals with Adidas, while Texas Southern announced a multiyear agreement with Under Armour. Southern, according to reports, will soon announce its deal with Under Armour as well.
SWAC Apparel Deals
|Mississippi Valley State||?|
|Prairie View A&M||Adidas|
|Texas Southern||Under Armour|
Alabama A&M, Alcorn State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State are the remaining SWAC schools so far that have yet to announce apparel deals.