Arizona Daily Wildcat October 30, 1997
Reebok partnership with softball intact for nowWhile the Nike-Arizona partnership looks to be a prosperous arrangement, one possible pitfall the deal may face involves the current agreement between UA softball coach Mike Candrea and Reebok.
Candrea, a two-time winner of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Coach of the Year award, is currently in the final year of a four-year contract with Nike's main competitor, Reebok.
"It's something that Mike entered into a while ago and we intend on seeing through," UA assistant athletic director John Perrin said. "I don't see this as a major problem in the deal."
Candrea is also confident that no problems will arise from his Reebok contract.
"There's a good possibility I will switch over to Nike after this season," Candrea said. "But I haven't heard of any problems from Nike on the current arrangement.
"I think the department-wide switch to Nike will be in the program's best interest."
The UA softball team has been extremely successful for several years, winning six NCAA championships in the last seven years.
The program has produced a distinguished list of individual achievements including Leah O'Brien making the 1996 Gold-Medal Olympic team and Laura Espinosa setting the NCAA career home run record with 85 in 1995.
But Nike representatives do not see the Wildcats unparalleled image as a major concern and have no problem waiting out the current Reebok contract.
"If we encounter a situation where another sport is under contract, we're not going to try and throw our weight around and pick a fight," said Eric Lautenbach, Arizona's Nike representative. "We are really interested in the high-profile sports like men's basketball and football. For anything else, we can usually work something out."
The University of Colorado ran into a similar situation with regard to its skiing program and Nike just disregarded the sport in the school's deal.
"The only sport not included was our skiing program," Colorado assistant athletic director Dave Plati said. "We already had our skiing team sponsored, but it was not a problem because Nike didn't have a claim to the skiing market."
While softball will not be covered in the agreement to begin with, Nike does not plan on giving up on the sport entirely.
"Softball is not going to be in the deal for the first year, but it will be included in the future," Perrin said.