Clearly, that proverbial street runs along Ambler Avenue and Judge Ely Boulevard, near where many of ACU’s 16 athletics teams practice and play during the third year of their four-year transition to NCAA Division I. The Wildcats have been a quick study in their move to the Southland Conference, becoming the only member of the league for which Nike is the exclusive manufacturer of game uniforms, practice gear, sideline apparel and other equipment.
ACU joins Texas, Baylor, TCU and SMU as the only Lone Star State universities to team with the sports apparel and equipment giant.
De Leon, ACU’s director of athletics, said Abilene Christian’s brand was attractive to Nike as well. The Wildcats represent one of intercollegiate sports’ longest-running success stories: 64 national championships, 216 conference titles and the growing reputation of ACU graduates in the business world, such as Emmy Award-winning CBS Sports golf and football producer Lance Barrow (’78).
Another ACU grad, former Wildcat pole vaulter Tobie Hatfield (’87), leads Nike’s design staff in the company’s Innovation Kitchen at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
The Nike contract begins July 1, 2016, and follows a current three-year agreement with Adidas. Student-athletes, coaches and staff cheered De Leon’s announcement at the conclusion of their Chapel program in Cullen Auditorium this morning, and at a press conference afterward in the Teague Special Events Center.
Only UCLA, Stanford, USC and Division III swimming/diving powerhouse Kenyon have won more NCAA national team titles than ACU.