Jim Valvano worked as a coach at a little known college named Iona before becoming legendary at NC State. Iona was one of the first programs to wear the Swoosh.
Sonny Vaccarro explained to Nike that if he could get the colleges to wear the brand they could build a network that would reach every kid who aspired to be a professional basketball player. Sonny knew that making the kids your ambassadors would translate to growth. He also knew signing college coaches would be critical. He not only signed Valvano, he signed John Thompson at Georgetown and George Raveling at USC.
Nike was giving Vaccarro duffle bags of cash with very little oversight and Vaccaro become the godfather of grassroots basketball. Nike became the sponsor of coaches first, and then entire sports programs. Everyone else was late to the party. Once college coaches began getting checks and gear and no longer had to pay for their footwear and apparel, the NCAA tournament became the testing ground for Nike and moved Nike from being a running company to being a marketing and sports company.
Nike has dominated the NCAA Tournament ever since and this year is no exception:
Heading into the Sweet 16 the East Region falls like this:
Baylor – Nike
Florida – Nike
Wisconsin – Under Armour
South Carolina – Under Armour
The West Region isn’t broken down at all, it’s all Nike:
Gonzaga, West Virginia, Xavier, and Arizona.
The Midwest Region is a bit more diverse, but not really since Jordan is Nike:
Kansas – Adidas
Purdue – Nike
Michigan – Jordan Brand
The South Region is absolutely loaded and presents an interesting scenario.
North Carolina – Jordan Brand
Kentucky – Nike
UCLA – is an interesting school. They are wearing adidas, but their best player basically has his own label in Big Baller Brand and in June the Bruins will be an Under Armour school.
The breakdown is Nike/Jordan Brand – 12 schools, Under Armour and adidas both have 2 schools if we don’t consider UCLA an Adidas program, UA has 3 teams.
All of this is the legacy of Sonny Vaccarro. Before Sonny no one really wore hoop shoes as casual wear, think about that.