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UCF Signs Two-Year Contract Extension with Nike

Terry Mohajir and the Knights kick the can on a long-term deal

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 UCF at SMU
Mikey Keene and the rest of the Knights will be wearing Nike for at least two more years.
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Going into the 2021 season, there were questions on who would be the UCF Knights apparel provider in 2022. UCF’s deal with Nike was expiring. Would the Knights stay with the Swoosh, or would they move to Adidas?

We found out that the Knights will remain with Nike as it was announced that a two-year contract extension was agreed upon. This ends the “will they or won’t they” in regard to moving to another apparel company.

There’s more to unpack here than meets the eye.

This story was on the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday. In the article, UCF Athletic Director said a few key things we need to talk about. From the article:

Mohajir cited a number of reasons why UCF decided to re-up its deal with Nike, including supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ll probably extend for two more years,” Mohajir told the Sentinel. “Where we are in the supply chain and with some of the other brands changing CEOs at this particular time, I don’t think this is the best time to be negotiating a new deal, to be very candid with you.”

This is similar to a “bridge deal” in hockey. It functions as the bridge between one deal and the next big deal. Two years is a short contract. Most new apparel contracts are longer, but you don’t really go shorter than two. This short-term extension means that in 2024, a new contract will be needed. I’d like to point out that 2024 is the latest that UCF will be moving to the Big 12 conference. The exact time UCF is moving is still up in the air. The expectation is that the value of UCF will be higher when the Knights switch conferences. Also, with, Covid still being an issue, the global economy and supply chain still working on getting back to normal, kicking the can down the road is not necessarily a bad idea. If Tampa Bay Lightning star Brayden Point can sign a bridge deal, so can UCF.

The timing of this new contract also coincides with the launching of the new knight head logo. UCF has used an angled knight head in some form since the 1996 rebrand, with the knight changing in 2007. This rebrand is very reminiscent of the rebrand the Missouri Tigers did when in 2012 when they moved from the Big 12 to the SEC. Oddly enough, they also have black and gold colors. While they rebranded on multiple sports, let’s focus on football. They updated their uniforms and changed their helmet logo from the block M that they used for a long time to the Tigers logo. The tiger head has become the primary logo of the school. While I don’t expect the knight head to become the primary logo for UCF(it was supposed to be in 2007 with the swinging sword logo, but the football program chose to use the block UCF logo we know and love today), I do expect it to get more use than the previous angled head. New era, new logo usage. I’d like to see UCF get away from using the block logo as much, especially on the helmets. Hopefully, UCF can put the script logo on both sides and use the knight head more often. I’d love to see the Citronaut head on the Space Game helmet.

Missouri in 2011(left) in the Big 12 and 2012(right) in the SEC
Photo by Jamie Squire(left), Scott Halleran(right)/Getty Images

Speaking of the Space Game, they aren’t going anywhere. UCF develops these uniforms in-house. It’s too bad I could only afford to land one in the last uniform auction.

Unfortunately, since this is an extension with Nike, it still counts as a continuation of the original deal. UCF has traditionally been pretty tight-lipped about the financial aspect of their deals, and this allows them to continue to do so.

So, how did we get here in the first place?

After an unfortunate well-documented chain of events with UCF, basketball player Marcus Jordan, and Adidas, UCF was scrambling for a new apparel partner. The Knights reached out to Nike, Under Armour, and Russell. In the end, UCF went with Nike on a pretty bare-bones agreement. In 2015, then-athletic director Todd Stansbury extended the deal. When Scott Frost was hired in 2016, part of his arrangement with Nike also included another two years tacked on to give you the 2021 expiration. (2021-22 school year to be exact)

UCF 2013-15 template(left), 2016-2021 template(right)
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images(left), David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images(right)

In 2016, Nike gave UCF the red-carpet treatment for their football program, designing a custom set of uniforms based on their Mach Speed template, which was introduced in 2014. UCF created a couple more uniforms using the newer Vapor template, but for the most part, have not moved away from the older template. Like Missouri, UCF also changed their helmet. Since 2004 when UCF first signed with Adidas, the current Pegasus series uniforms have had the longest tenure as the primary uniforms with six seasons without any changes. According to Mohajir, change is in the air, and I couldn’t be more excited. One thing I love about uniforms is seeing them change and evolve, not only in design but with the weight and feel of the material. Per the Sentinel:

“We’ve got a new design on uniforms that we’re coming out with and really going to stay with the black and gold palette as opposed to the anthracite,” he said. “I know I’ll put that out there and fans will cringe but we’re black and gold, man.”

As Mohajir mentioned above, the use of anthracite is out.

In this case, Mohajir is correct. Anthracite is a Nike proprietary name for a dark charcoal gray that can be mistaken for black when a person isn’t paying attention. It’s also an alternate for a school that doesn’t use black extensively. In short, it was a redundant color and easily my least favorite of the four UCF introduced in 2016. Some fans might be upset, but they should get over it pretty quickly.

UCF’s current black(left) versus anthracite(right)
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images(left), Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images(right)

To add to that, Associate AD for Content, Eric DeSalvo has flat out said no gold jerseys.

Thank. God.

Hopefully, they don’t bring anything resembling those Knighto jerseys back either, especially the white ones.

UCF has tried using gold jerseys on three occasions in the FBS era. They used them as primary home uniforms from 2005-09 when the Knights were with Adidas. They had one during their first template with Nike from 2010-12 and then another during the second template from 2013-15. Since 2016, UCF has not used a gold jersey and it is very comforting that they will continue to not use one. It doesn’t work well in football. One main reason is the shading is hard to get right. When UCF rebranded in 2007, the color was “Vegas Gold”, which is a darker gold. All three variations of gold uniforms were lighter shades that look even worse the moment any moisture, including sweat, got on them.

I own all three. While the most recent version on the left has the shade closest to the gold that would fit, it’s still not there.

UCF’s gold jersey history
Andrew Gluchov

For those who do not know, I’m an avid jersey collector. While I had a few here and there from buying cheap ones at the store or from playing sports, the real collecting began in 2004 with my first two UCF replica jerseys. Over time, I moved to focus on game-used or team-issued for UCF and other teams and schools. In total, I have well over 130 jerseys (don’t have a recent count). For UCF, I have 27 game-used or team-issued football jerseys (including one unused prototype) and 72 total, not including any replicas. They date back from the I-AA days in the early half of the 90s to today. I view it as preserving history. It’s a little outdated, but I have most of them photo-documented on the Twitter thread below.

Hey UCF, I’m available for a side hustle with the uniforms. I’m kidding...or am I?

To wrap it all up, UCF has re-upped with Nike for two years. As Mohajir has made it very clear, they were seriously looking to go elsewhere, but external forces have made staying with Nike on this short deal to be the smartest move. For Nike lovers, do not get comfortable. For fans of other apparel companies, we’ll be doing this dance again soon enough. UCF has said they have new designs in the works and as someone who has seen full revamp reveals on a number of occasions, they are exciting. Until then, everyone should enjoy the ride.