How the Texas high school football playoffs could be worth $15,000 or more for elite programs

How the Texas high school football playoffs could be worth $15,000 or more for elite programs

Outside The Box

How the Texas high school football playoffs could be worth $15,000 or more for elite programs

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Cedar Hill, one of Texas' most successful and prominent football programs, has a long-term partnership with Under Armour (Photo: Twitter).

Cedar Hill, one of Texas’ most successful and prominent football programs, has a long-term partnership with Under Armour (Photo: Twitter).

Everyone knows that football is king in Texas. Let it be known that the king is getting paid.

According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, a quartet of schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex have brokered formalized sponsorship deals with either Nike or Under Armour worth a minimum of $15,000. Three of the four are worth $30,000 or more, and at least one has a kicker that will provide a benefit valued at $15,000 if it finishes the 2015 campaign ranked in one of the national rankings, the USA TODAY High School Sports Super 25 chief among them.

Perennial state and national powers Allen, Cedar Hill, Southlake Carroll and DeSoto are the programs in question, and while it’s important to note that none of these deals incorporate direct cash infusions, the goods that are provided to the schools drive a major bottom line difference for the schools themselves.

The benefit is not hard to understand: The budget for football programs is limited, with junior varsity and freshman teams often left to make do with all hand-me-down equipment while varsity teams replace only the essentials. With exclusive deals with Nike and Under Armour providing hundreds of free uniform sets, the schools surveyed by the Morning News freed up substantial funds to disperse across other levels of the football program and other athletic programs altogether.

“Football budgets are not huge budgets,” Southlake Carroll athletic director Darren Allman told the Morning News. “The budgets that are set in our district – and really across the state – they are really there to accommodate maybe a small number of helmets and shoulder pads, and soft goods that you have to replace every year: shorts, t-shirts, socks and other things that don’t last. Things that you hope will last more than a year and will be passed down [to sub-varsity teams], a lot of those costs are passed over to booster clubs, because the budgets can’t carry all the cost.”

Beyond the financial benefits, all of the programs surveyed by the Morning News also spoke of a prestige factor that boosted the profile of their programs due to a partnership with a major brand. More specifically, Cedar Hill’s athletic director gushed about how Under Armour had worked with the school to activate its sponsorship around the team and facility’s needs, while DeSoto officials spoke to Nike engineers working with school sprinters to customize equipment for their needs.

Kyler Murray is the first to earn invitations to both the Under Armour Football and Baseball All-American Games — WFAA

With stars like Kyler Murray, Allen has built the largest partnership with a major sneaker and apparel company (Photo: WFAA)

These relationships aren’t specific to Texas, either. Defending USA TODAY High School Sports Super 25 national champion Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas has a high visibility arrangement with Nike, while perennial California power Long Beach Poly has a similar partnership with Adidas.

Of course, there’s a reason why the brands are all too happy to build these bridges to the schools: Having the logo on a jersey is a powerful connection to the community itself, with dollar signs eventually following the other way at the end of a very long trail.

“They do a lot of studying in their marketing and realized that whatever the high school football team in that community is wearing, so do all the little kids – and that’s what the parents want to wear on their shirt,” Allman told the Morning News. “They’ve studied that market and have figured out in communities across Texas, the high school and that brand of the high school really permeates throughout the community. It’s good marketing for them, all the way through.”

There’s much, much more in this excellent Morning News piece by the always terrific Corbett Smith. It’s well worth a read, and a longer contemplation about precisely what it means for high school sports in America, beyond the obvious reinforcement that even in high school, the rich will always find a way to get richer.

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