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Sources: Florida switching from Nike to Jordan Brand for football, basketball

The Gators are going to don the Jumpman.

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NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators football and men’s and women’s basketball teams will soon announce a switch from Nike-branded apparel to Jordan Brand apparel, according to two sources close to the program.

The switch is expected to be announced soon — with a blurry shot, purportedly of the video board at The Swamp...

...with an image featuring the so-called Gator Head logo and the famous silhouette of Michael Jordan soaring to the basket used for Jordan’s logo...

...and tweets from players and recruits like a since-deleted one from Florida safety Quincy Lenton that said “Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman” with three gator emojis and this one from Florida commit Dameon Pierce stating a desire for Jordan-branded apparel...

Gator Country’s Andrew Spivey also commented on Lenton’s tweet on Sunday, saying “the secret is out.”

This move has obviously been in the works for some time, with one source telling Alligator Army about it in early November. That source also indicated that football’s switch will come for the 2018 season.

But without a second source to corroborate, I sat on the information. (Mostly, anyway.) Hearing from a second source more recently, seeing Sunday’s flurry of tweets, and hearing from the first source this Monday morning that an announcement may be imminent made this reportable.

Alligator Army has reached out to Florida for comment, but had not heard back by press time.

The signs portending a Florida switch from Nike to Jordan have been there, if you knew how to look. Florida wore Jordan Brand tracksuits prior to its 2017 Outback Bowl appearance, and new football coach Dan Mullen was conspicuously recruiting in what appeared to be Jordans just last week.

And a switch from Nike to Jordan would mean Florida is following in the footsteps of a few other titans of college sports. Michigan — a former adidas client — switched its apparel provider to Nike in a 2015 deal that would outfit the Wolverines in Jordan Brand uniforms, and North Carolina — Michael Jordan’s alma mater — began donning uniforms with the Jumpman logo this fall.

Perhaps more relevant to Florida: Oklahoma, another longtime Nike school that could not be seen as a coup of a steal from a rival apparel provider, made the switch to Jordan Brand for football and basketball in November — and its announcment featured graphics very similar to the one purportedly seen at The Swamp.

Furthermore, part of the Nike release on Oklahoma’s switch made clear the company’s strategic rollout of its Jordan takeover.

Jordan Brand now has presence in four major Division I conferences — the Big 10, Big 12, ACC and the Big East.

Florida would give Jordan a presence in a fifth major Division I conference, arguably the best of the bunch. And given that it is unlikely that a Pac-12 school will ever fully make the switch to Jordan, given the degree of difficulty presented by Oregon’s importance to Nike founder Phil Knight and the program’s deep associations with the Nike swoosh, the Gators making the switch would probably complete the first sequence of “first in the conference” changeovers.

A switch would also make sense from Florida’s perspective.

Jordan Brand has plenty of cachet among younger people, as Jordan shoes and apparel still sell well — more than three full decades after the Air Jordan first dropped — even though analysts fretted about the brand’s prospects earlier this year, and the popular 2015 Drake and Future collaboration “Jumpman” cemented the famed logo in pop culture. If players and recruits know that they will be able to wear Jordans — Js — on the field or court, and possibly get access to player-exclusive Jordans like those that Nike has often released for its schools, that could be a significant differentiator for Florida on the recruiting trail.

Put simply, while Nike is cool, Jordan could be cooler. And though Florida would not be the first school to put Js on its players’ feet or its coaches’ shirts, it would be the first program in the SEC to do so — which likely has some significant value.