Report: Cincinnati Bearcats return to Nike/Jordan Brand apparel

UC’s agreement with Under Armour has been terminated.
Cincinnati Bearcats forward Ody Oguama (33) reacts after scoring a basket during the second...
Cincinnati Bearcats forward Ody Oguama (33) reacts after scoring a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Houston, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)(Jeff Dean | AP)
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 7:44 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - Borrowing a line from one of the biggest hits of Prince, University of Cincinnati Bearcat fans can “party like it’s 1999″ again as the Nike/Jordan Brand Jumpman has returned to campus in the form of a new apparel agreement, according to our media partners with the Enquirer.

A source has confirmed the deal with BSN Sports and men’s and women’s basketball will be outfitted by Jordan Brand with all other sports being Nike as the Bearcats enter the Big 12.

The Under Armour agreement has been terminated with the Nike/Jordan Brand officially taking effect July 1.

[Rhinegeist, Cincy Reigns announces staple tailgate beer to help pay UC athletes]

Under then-basketball coach Bob Huggins, UC was a Nike school and was selected to be one of the inaugural Jordan Brand schools thanks to a relationship between Huggins and Michael Jordan that developed at a basketball fantasy camp in Las Vegas.

The uniforms were unveiled on the “Rosie O’Donnell Show” with Jordan himself saying, “it symbolizes toughness.”

The Jumpman cometh

At the time, the Bearcats held the No. 1 ranking in the land and had a lineup that featured future Naismith Award winner and NBA player Kenyon Martin, future NBA players DerMarr Johnson and Kenny Satterfield, high-scoring Pete Mickeal and Jermaine Tate. Among the reserves were Steve Logan, Leonard Stokes and Ryan Fletcher.

The uniforms became trendy, particularly when the guys sported black tops with black socks. In addition to the team’s style of play and success, players were drawn to the gear. Huggins once quoted they “sold more gear in New York than the Knicks”.

It was the pinnacle of the Huggins years when the Shoemaker Center was packed with 13,176 and singer/reality star/ESPN GameDay picker Nick Lachey called for tickets behind the bench. To this day, it’s rare to go to now-Fifth Third Arena and not see a Jumpman jersey on a fan.

They had come a long way since Huggins came to town and wondered why McAlpin’s sold Ohio State and Kentucky gear but nothing from UC.

Past history: new coach, new shoes

Though Mick Cronin was a top assistant during the Huggins heyday at UC, he paid his dues working with Sonny Vaccaro of Adidas. Vaccaro worked for Nike, then flipped to Adidas. He recruited Cronin to run the Adidas ABCD All-American Summer Camp and the Pittsburgh Roundball Classic.

With that relationship, UC switched from Nike to Adidas in June 2006. Vaccaro is depicted in the current Ben Affleck movie “Air” by his running mate Matt Damon. Recently, Wes Miller was seen sporting Jordan Brand shoes, somewhat tipping off the announcement to come.

Under Armour came in with a future Senator

Before he was elected a U.S. Senator from Alabama, Tommy Tuberville was a successful football coach at Ole Miss and Auburn and to a lesser degree Texas Tech and Cincinnati (29-22). At the time of his hiring at Cincinnati, no coach had experienced greater initial fanfare. By April 2015, UC had flipped from Adidas to Under Armour effective July 1, 2015.

Under Armour has remained UC’s supplier of apparel even though the school agreed to a buyout of their contract in 2020. The product supply agreement was to run through June 2024 but had an opt-out which has been exercised.

The fascination

According to SportingPedia, nine of the 10 most expensive shoes ever sold at auction were manufactured by Nike. Eight of those 10 are basketball shoes. Six of those eight are game-worn Michael Jordan sneakers, three of which had an initial cost of $85.

The Air Jordan 13 model was $150 per pair when introduced. The “Last Dance” shoes worn by Jordan in the 1998 NBA Finals sold for $2,238,000 at auction for the No. 1 spot.

When are Nike/Jordan Brand items available locally?

Book stores had been deep-discounting Under Armour material to clear out space. It’s expected the new designs will be out this summer.

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