SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Under Armour Inc. CEO Kevin Plank recalls sleeping in the visiting locker room at Notre Dame Stadium back in 1997, invited to the game by Georgia Tech staff and forced to bunker down because he didn't have a hotel room.
Back then, his company was about a year old and he was excited to see the Yellow Jackets take the field in Under Armour apparel.
On Tuesday, Plank was back in South Bend to announce a 10-year apparel deal with the Fighting Irish that Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick described as the largest deal of its kind in the history of college athletics.
Michigan's eight-year contract worth with $8.2 million annually is generally believed to have been the largest until Notre Dame's deal. Swarbrick wouldn't disclose terms.
"There's been a lot of speculation about whether this deal would top $100 million," said Nancy Lough, a professor of higher education at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and president of the Sport Marketing Association.
Adidas, which began providing shoes to Notre Dame in 1997, issued a statement saying it would no longer partner with Notre Dame after the 2013-14 season.
"As with every business decision, we weigh our investment against the value to our brand," spokesman Michael Ehrlich said.
Swarbrick said it was important for Notre Dame to have such a deal to get through what he called a period of change in college athletics "unlike any of us have ever lived through." He mentioned the change from the BCS to a playoff system in football and conference realignment in all sports that saw Notre Dame move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference last year.
Sports marketing experts say the deal was important for Baltimore-based Under Armour.
"This spreads their footprint further," said Rick Burton, a sports marketing professor at Syracuse. "With Notre Dame being such an emblematic university with such a national fan base, I think this fully signals that Under Armour is in the game. That they're a big-time player in terms of going after attractive university contracts."