football Edit

STULTZ: Cohen hits home run with Nike deal

John Cohen arrived at Auburn in November 2022 with many decisions on his plate. First, he had to find the right football coach to fix the mess Bryan Harsin created with such aplomb that books should be written about it.

Second, the renovations at Jordan-Hare Stadium and across the street at Plainsman Park were high on the list of many fans' and alums' concerns.

And, oh yeah, he had an apparel deal slowing ticking away with a company that is seemingly on the downhill of brand recognition.

It's not like Under Armour was bad for Auburn. Kevin Plank and his company went out of their way when the deal was announced, taking it to another level during the 2010 national championship season when planes flew over the University of Phoenix Stadium with the logos of both UA (the brand) and AU. It was nice that the Tigers went a different route with a company that was then on the rise. Personally, I love most of the products that UA puts out, regularly wearing their golf shorts and pants.

But not everyone was happy. You had the built-in excuse for Tony Barbee, a man composed of built-in excuses, about being an Under Armour school and not Nike hurting his recruiting efforts. (If you can call what he did "efforts.") Bruce Pearl showed that was a misnomer, racking up highly-ranked recruits and putting together a program that represent the brand well.

Yet there was also the problem with certain products, especially the shoes, that were brought up on a consistent basis. Frankly, the shoes weren't getting the job done, with a few coaches complaining about them.

To their credit, Under Armour tried to remedy the situation, but the fact of the matter was that it was time to move in another direction.

Enter Nike—the brand of brands in the athletic world. Everyone recognizes that swoosh logo and almost everyone can rip off lines from past and present commercials that the company has utilized to become a corporate juggernaut. While Under Armour has made strides, it was the other 67 2024 NCAA Tournament teams, and Nike was UConn.

If you polled every Auburn student-athlete about which brand they would want to wear if they could have their druthers, the majority would say, "Just Do It!" They grew up on the products, wishing to wear the Air Jordans and, shout out to the rapper Nelly, Air Force Ones. They attended Nike-sponsored events, and schools used their connection to the Oregon-based company as a positive while pointing out that Auburn couldn't offer the same.

Cohen had a choice: stay status quo with Under Armour or shoot for the stars with one of the world's best-known brands. Cohen didn't come to Auburn to maintain that status quo, even rebranding what J.A.B.A (Just Auburn being Auburn) should mean in his introductory press conference.

Coaches, student-athletes and fans all asked him to just do it. On Tuesday, Cohen just did it.