Last week my friend and fellow Reign Cane writer Zac Jones reached out to me and asked if I’d like to do an interview with Tulsa’s Associate Director of Athletic Equipment. I immediately responded with yes; the proposition piqued my interest because I knew it would be a cool opportunity to learn more about the switch to Adidas, and allow me to nerd out about uniforms with someone who is involved in the business. We planned our interview with Mr. Greg Criser, and two days later Zac and I were walking into the Reynolds Center, prepping for our first interview for Reign Cane Sports.
Mr. Criser greeted us with gusto and a friendly handshake, and ironically, still decked out in Nike gear. During our walk from the main lobby to the equipment office we came across senior basketball player Corey Haith. “Hey, I see a lot of boxes in there..” Corey said, motioning towards the equipment room. Mr. Criser nodded, and when Corey asked “When we getting our stuff?” He sighed, and said it would be awhile. This little interaction revealed two things to me. The first: players are excited to get their new Adidas gear. The second: the process of switching brands is slower and more intricate than I had thought.
When Zac and I arrived in the equipment room, we saw nearly a hundred boxes of gear stacked from the floor to the ceiling, sorted into stacks of their respective sports. Mr. Criser told us later that those boxes weren’t even all of them, they had 750(!) delivered to the physical plant earlier that week, with more yet to come.
After some brief conversation about our site, my love for uniforms, TU, and Mr. Criser’s son Nick, (whom Zac has a class with), we asked Mr. Criser some questions about his job, Adidas, and uniforms. Here are the highlights from our talk.
What are your job title and responsibilities?
Mr. Criser is the Associate Director of Athletic Equipment, he chuckled, saying that it was a new title. Mr. Criser works with Adidas, and helps design uniforms and equipment for Men’s/Women’s basketball, Men’s/Women’s Soccer, Men’s/Women’s Tennis, Track/Cross Country, Softball, and Volleyball. He also designed the recent Steve Harris memorial patch that Tulsa basketball sported last season.
Currently his job is to receive, sort, log, and distribute all the new equipment Tulsa is receiving, which is quite the arduous and time-consuming task.
How is the transition between brands going? Are the players excited?
He said that there have been no major problems so far, but athletes/coaches expected to get their stuff exactly on July 1st and that just isn’t realistic. He said the players, like Corey, are very excited, with someone coming into his office nearly once a day asking if he got any more stuff.
The transition is a slower process than I thought as well. I thought that once July 1st came around, truckloads of Adidas stuff would be torn open by eager athletes. It was shocking to me how tedious the process behind the scenes is, and up until July 1st, Tulsa could still order Nike gear.
Why switch brands?
Greg told us that the deal with Nike was a good one, but the athletes will receive much more gear from Adidas at a better price.
How long until the public will get to see the new uniforms?
He told us that he isn’t sure what the university has planned for the football unveiling, but that the basketball uniforms should be in by late August.
How many uniforms? What will they look like?
Mr. Criser said that he has seen artist renderings of three different basketball uniforms. He didn’t want to go into the specifics, but he told us that it will be more of a “classic” look and not overly “flashy”.
Who makes the decision on what uniform to wear for a game?
I really enjoyed our conversation with Mr. Criser, and I thanked him for letting us chat with him.
A couple of things stood out to me from our conversation. The first being, that The Associate Director of Athletic Equipment is extremely busy in the month of July. Mr. Criser told us that during the year he has student managers to help him, but during the summer he is all alone. Now not only does he have to take care of the laundry and normal summer housekeeping, but he also has the 750+ boxes of Adidas gear to sort, catalog, and distribute. Major props to Mr. Criser for the work he does behind the scenes.
Another thing that stood out to me was when he told us that he has helped design the uniforms ever since 2009, and that hasn’t changed with Adidas. That gives me confidence that these new uniforms won’t be a train wreck, because everything we had with Nike was really good. Also him saying that the uniforms are more of a classic look made me happy, because Adidas is at their best when they don’t try to be too flashy.
The last thing that stood out to me, was how excited the players genuinely are about their new gear. Adidas has had a bad reputation with our generation, but the fact of the matter is that Tulsa athletes now get more gear than they ever did with Nike, and that is a very good and exciting thing. The switch to Adidas should help recruiting, and it will give the fans a larger selection of apparel as well.
Zac also pointed out to me that Adidas is trending upwards. Large schools like Miami, UCLA, and Michigan are all Adidas schools. They also have sponsorships with Aaron Rodgers, Josh Norman, Adrian Peterson, Steven Adams, and Marcus Smart. Call me crazy, but I am starting to talk myself into Adidas.