The long-rumored Boston College-New Balance deal was finally announced Tuesday. It is unique in many ways, most of which is good for BC. There are a few big question marks.
1. The Boston connection is going to lend itself to New Balance being more than a shoe and apparel partner. BC will have access to facilities, student internships and be involved in product development.
2. While New Balance might not have the cachet of some other brands with kids, they provide very solid and popular products in non-revenue sports. Given that our athletes' feet are critical in this process, most just got a better shoe than what they were wearing with Under Armour.
3. Pat Kraft found a partner in a shrinking market. With Under Armour getting out of the college game, that really just left Addidas and Nike as the only players in town. And with Under Armour out, Addidas and Nike had one less bidder to drive up prices. Kraft got creative and got more money for our non-football sports than we would have had Nike or Addidas taken over the whole thing. Given budget pressures and how other schools dealt with the Under Armour fall out, this was a win.
1. If you followed the FBI bribery scandal with college basketball, you know that the shoe companies were heavily involved in the money and player payments (Under Armour too). Regardless of how you feel about this and whether UA and BC were dirty (there is no evidence to say they were), buying players was part of the shoe deal at many, many programs. With New Balance being a relatively new entrant into this world, we have no idea how they will operate and what sort of impact it will have on BC recruiting. I will remain optimistic that the changing landscape of college basketball and the still looming threat of the FBI will mean BC and New Balance will take the right approach. I also hope that New Balance will get more involved at the AAU level so that the New Balance brand won't be such an issue for recruits. In the early stages of this deal, I don't see BC as a player for elite recruits, so the odds of the shoe deal making or breaking a recruit is unlikely.
And then there was Football
Football is not part of the New Balance deal. The separate football deal will be announced in the coming weeks. (It has long been rumored to be Addidas.) Football is doing its own thing because that is what makes most sense for New Balance and BC. New Balance is not heavy into football and not making the push there like they are in basketball. Operationally it will be easier to deal with a supplier that already has a football support structure. Plus breaking off Football separately is a chance to make a few extra dollars, since football is that much more lucrative. While shoes do impact basketball recruiting, it less important for football. Revenue from a football deal is also important to the coaching compensation.