How Georgia Tech’s equipment staff is handling the switch to Adidas

Mock-ups of Adidas gear and uniforms in the lobby of the Georgia Tech football offices. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Mock-ups of Adidas gear and uniforms in the lobby of the Georgia Tech football offices. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

For Georgia Tech equipment manager Tom Conner and his staff of three assistants, three-stripe life has a different meaning than to others in the athletic department.

The switch in apparel provider from Russell Athletic to Adidas has caused a swell in excitement among coaches and athletes, as they anticipate being swaddled in fashionable duds. This summer, though, the equipment staff’s job has been to make sure all of that gear – essentially a replacement of nearly all Yellow Jackets uniforms, practice gear, warmups, coaching attire, bags, balls, shoes and more – gets to the right place.

“When you think about it, I guess $3 million worth of goods and how many boxes that amounts to, it’s hard to get a number on that, but it’s a lot, I can tell you that,” Conner said.

The process began in November, when Conner and the teams’ coaches placed orders for the coming academic year. Shipments began arriving in May, Conner said. In June, the equipment room began receiving as many as 200 boxes of gear a week.

The volume is, not surprisingly, overwhelming. The equipment staff has a storage room in the Edge Center that has been used for football gear, but now has been holding new Adidas products for all of the sports.

Space is at a premium, as is often the case on campus. (Tech’s indoor practice facility, for instance, is about 90 yards long.) That issue is exacerbated by the fact that storage space for the new football locker room has not been completed yet.

To accommodate, the department was also able to obtain more storage space on campus near the track. Conner also rented a couple of storage pods being used to store football cleats.

The process of inventorying and distributing was complicated further last week, when, a sprinkler head broke in a second-floor room, causing water to gush into the storage room on the ground floor. Boxes had to be moved out into the hallway.

With a limited amount of space, gear coming in, getting inventoried and stored or distributed, along with old gear being moved around to make room for it, “it’s kind of like musical chairs with almost 1,000 cases of goods,” Conner said.

While new shipments arrive daily, the staff is also trying to unload remaining Russell and Nike gear that has to be replaced by Adidas.

Over the last couple of years, as a change from Russell was anticipated, Conner dialed back on new orders to thin out inventory. Game jerseys were given to team members at the end of last season and after spring practice. The team held onto the throwback uniforms for recruiting purposes, as prospects visiting campus often like to try on uniforms.

There isn’t much left, Conner said, “but every sport’s got something.” Some decisions are easy. The men’s basketball team, for instance, will hold onto its Nike balls for when they play road games against Nike-sponsored schools so they can get a handle for the balls’ slightly different feel.

More on Georgia Tech’s switch to Adidas

With football, Conner has new Nike cleats that he’ll likely sell to a consigner who turns around and sells them to camps and high-school teams at a discount. There are also about five dozen Nike footballs that can no longer be used. At least ordering new Adidas balls wasn’t a problem. There’s a company in Texas that makes balls for Nike and Adidas that are virtually identical except for the logo imprinted on them.

Conner has also planned to hold onto the coaches’ rain gear. Like the footballs, there’s a company that makes Gore-Tex outfits that both Russell and Adidas license, Conner said. His plan was to just remove the Russell “R” and replace with an Adidas logo for support staff to use.

A reason for such economy is another wrinkle in the switch to Adidas, as the department tries to get a handle on exactly how much a $3.05 million Adidas gift card can buy.

On top of the $200,000 that Adidas will give Tech annually over its six-year contract, the athletic department was given an annual allowance of $2.91 million to purchase gear. The figure for 2018-19 is $3.05 million. In its final year with Russell, Tech received $950,000 in cash and $1.35 million in product.

Merchandise purchased in the allowance is rung up at retail value. The athletic department can also purchase additional gear from Adidas at wholesale cost.

“There’s things about the contract, and about what we’re going to use that we don’t know yet,” Conner said. “We don’t know how far it’ll go.”