When news broke about the FBI charging several basketball coaches in a pay-for-play scandal now poised to rock college athletics, Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson wasn’t concerned about his school.
In mid-August, the university announced it had agreed to a six-year partnership with Adidas. However, the agreement doesn’t take effect until July 1, 2018. So, the Yellow Jackets are finishing off an agreement with Russell Athletic, which isn’t exactly thought of highly in comparison to the other sports apparel giants.
But that also means Johnson knew Georgia Tech should be safe from the investigation.
“When the FBI/CBB stuff broke,” he told the David Glenn Show, “for once in my life, I said I’m glad we’re with Russell Athletic.”
Before college basketball diehards get carried away and point a finger at him, Johnson conceded that college football has some “crooked” programs that still exist but said the sport is better than it used to be.
Plus, the whole point of this was a funny — and entirely unexpected — dig at Russell Athletic. And like it or not, apparel deals are a noteworthy factor in basketball and football recruiting.
In May 2016, Mike Nowoswiat of Pick Six Previews polled 100 Football Bowl Subdivision recruits and asked about uniforms. Russell Athletic scored a 2.9 out of 10 on the “Cool” meter, getting absolutely dwarfed by Nike (9.5), Adidas (8.1) and Under Armour (7.9). Georgia Tech also had the fourth-most votes for worst uniforms. This has been a small yet real issue for Johnson in recruiting.
Free stuff is awesome, but cooler free stuff is even better. Russell Athletic has certainly lagged in that department for the Yellow Jackets, and fans were rarely pleased with the available gear.
In this potentially landscape-changing moment for college athletics, Georgia Tech was thrilled to still be on board. But it’s clear Johnson won’t be heartbroken when his team is wearing Adidas next year.