It’s pretty much all over but the shouting in NCAA college football. Unless hell freezes over, Notre Dame is slated to play in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 against the winner of the SEC title bout pitting Alabama against Georgia.
But as settled as the championship game is, the landscape of college football is changing, with the latest earthquake coming in College Park, Md. The University of Maryland is set to end its 59-year association with the Atlantic Coast Conference and head to the Big Ten, which will expand by 12 to 14 teams by 2014.
Debating the merits of the move is for another day. Today, I feel it’s worth mentioning that at least one Maryland alum might be a tangential winner from the Big Ten’s realignment — Kevin Plank, founder and owner of athletic apparel upstart Under Armour (NYSE:UA).
Plank’s (and Under Armour’s) association with his alma mater goes far beyond mere inclusion in the Terrapin Club; UA was designated in 2003 as the Exclusive Official Outfitter of Maryland Football, and all other Maryland teams sport the same gear.
UA hasn’t been able to expand its brand throughout the ACC, but it won’t be joining much friendlier territory in the Big Ten, where Nike (NYSE:NKE) and Adidas (PINK:ADDYY) are the virtual duopoly. At this point in time, only one Big Ten team — Northwestern University — wears UA gear, leaving 11 current teams (12 if you want to count Big East defector Rutgers) solidly entrenched with Nike and Adidas.
|* Expected to join in 2014|
The Washington Post reports the Big Ten paid out roughly $23.7 million to each of its 12 member schools in the most recent fiscal year — much of that is thanks to the Big Ten Network, which potentially could renegotiate for more money in 2017. Compared to the ACC — whose games are shown sporadically by the ESPN family and Raycom Sports (under the brand “ACC Network”) — the Big Ten (viewed both on the popular BTN and on ESPN stations) is big potatoes.
While Maryland’s inclusion into the conference might not necessarily bring more Maryland fans aboard, it will at least get more eyes on the program — and by proxy, UA’s gear. And similar to Nike’s relationship with Oregon, where its un-uniform uniforms have become a culture in and of itself, Under Armour uses Maryland to unveil some of its most … let’s say “forward-thinking” design.
You can bet UA is already scheming up something big should Rutgers ever find Northwestern on its schedule.
I suspect Maryland’s move to the Big Ten will have as much a chance at pushing the UA needle as the Terrapins have of ever beating Ohio State in the ‘Shoe … but for Plank & Co., it’s still good for a net gain.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.