In a very un-Nike like move, they've quietly announced that they will be launching a 7-on-7 football league in five cities. San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Kansas City will all feature a Nike team of 25 athletes spending the football off season practicing and playing in two tournaments that would make up the league's season.
Players will have to pay $1,000 to participate, but will receive all of the newest Nike schwag they desire (probably) and sponsors of the league would help offset and even fully pay for living and travel expenses. According the CBS article, Nike getting into the 7-on-7 world is just a product of what used to be an off-season practice becoming a world wide phenomenon. The game is featured at the AAU Junior Olympics and Nike rival Adidas puts on a world-wide tournament.
So what does this mean for college athletes? An opportunity to better hone and train skills (if they can pay for it) and a whole lot of gray area. The NCAA has banned 7-on-7s from happening on college campuses, but Nike has plans about expanding to high school levels, another area of NCAA enforcement and gray area.
Schools are going to be caught in the tightest of binds. Ohio State and Michigan just signed lucrative deals with Nike. And while Syracuse might not have as large of a deal as those schools, the school's relationship with Nike goes back long enough to be loyal... now the question is how far will that loyalty extend, for SU and the countless other programs that work with Nike?
So why is Nike doing this? Simple: get their best stuff on the best young athletes in the game. It's how they maintain the justification to charge $80 or more for a shirt. Nike has also shifted a ton of focus to American football and basketball after gaining NFL and NBA rights while slowly losing control on the international soccer market (largely to Adidas). Simply put: this is how they control the looks, feels and attitudes of football apparel at every level. It's a growing market, and Nike is the king. That's not changing any time soon.