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Does Phyllis Wise's resignation open the door for a new Illinois Athletics apparel sponsor?

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The Fighting Illini have been sponsored by Nike since 1995, but could a change be on the horizon?

Illinois Athletics

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise surprised everyone on Thursday afternoon when she announced plans to resign from her position effective August 12th. Wise was originally appointed by the school in 2011 after serving as the University of Washington's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2005-2010.

A replacement for Wise will soon be named, but it's the loss of one of her non-academic positions that may have a lasting impact on the future of the school, specifically within the athletic department. In 2009, Wise became a member of Nike's Board of Directors; this is obviously important because they're the company that provides Illinois with their uniforms, shoes, and other athletic equipment.

Interestingly enough, Illinois' 10-year, $1.5 million contract with Nike is set to expire after the 2015-16 athletic season. That's next June. The apparel giant guided the school through a complete rebranding in 2014, but there have since been no public statements of the two parties renewing negotiations for a new deal. Combined with the departure of Wise and it begs the question--could Illinois jump ship for another apparel sponsor next Summer?

It's worth keeping in mind that the Illini have maintained a relationship with Nike since 1995--it's one of the longest such relationships in the world of college athletics. But this could all hinge on the money. Illinois has deteriorated into a second-tier Big Ten athletic department over the course of the past decade, but the brand should still demand at least a slight raise should it enter the apparel free agency market. So if the university were to eventually sign with, say, Under Armour, the decision would most likely be predicated on a sizable gap between the two bids.

But should Illinois make a change?

/clears throat

No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No.

Which other company would Illinois sign with? Adidas? They've been poisoning the college landscape with their ugly uniforms and other shenanigans for years and it'd be painful to learn about the university even considering them in the first place. Under Armour would be the most realistic alternative because they've recently gained some momentum and popularity thanks to the successes of athletes like Stephen Curry and Jordan Speith. But they're not Nike and never will be Nike.

Look, I get the frustration with Nike at times. Some fans might say they half-assed the rebranding last year, but that's as much on the school as it is them. Illinois has no identity. That makes it extremely difficult to create uniform themes and concepts.

New university President Timothy Killeen is already in the process of conducting a search for an interim Chancellor and odds are he/she will aid in guiding Illinois to a new long-term deal with Nike.

But the door is cracked for a change. We'll just have to wait and see.

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