DETROIT — At midnight Sunday, Michigan’s new apparel contract with Nike began, culminating in a release event that took place in Ann Arbor.
Tuesday, the festivities continued — albeit on a smaller scale — when Nike and Jordan Brand revealed the new Michigan football jerseys with a private presentation at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit.
It was just another step in the beginning of a new era of Michigan apparel.
The event began with Michigan alum Dana Jacobson, a sports anchorwoman at CBS, addressing the crowd before handing the mic off to several other speakers.
“These two brands coming together has created something powerful,” said Larry Miller, the president of Jordan Brand. “What started as a phone call between Michael Jordan and Coach Harbaugh has come to fruition today.”
Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel also attended the event and praised Nike as the “best apparel company (and) a leader in the nation.”
“The Jordan Brand continues the legacy of Michael Jordan,” Manuel said. “But Michael builds his legacy off the same qualities that we have here at the University of Michigan. The legacy transcends sports, and we are excited to be the first football team in the country to wear the Jumpman on the field.”
Following Manuel’s comments, Jacobson led the group into a room containing several display cases of new Michigan Nike outfits — and also former Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, one of the special guests on hand for the jersey unveiling.
“When you think about Michael Jordan (and) Jumpman, you think about excellence,” Woodson said. “You think about the University of Michigan as a university and as a sports team, and you think about excellence. It goes back to a long time ago, way before me and you.
“I feel like right now we have our swagger back. It’s all about looking good and feeling good. That’s what that Jumpman on our jersey means to us.”
Later, head coach Jim Harbaugh — who attended the event dressed in apparel that he had helped design himself — explained the backstory of how Michigan and Nike’s partnership came to be as Michigan’s new jerseys were revealed to those in attendance.
Harbaugh detailed how his son Jay, the tight ends and assistant special teams coach, approached him and suggested that Michigan “should be Jordan.”
Then, Harbaugh got a call from Michael Jordan himself — someone who Harbaugh described as “one of the most evolved human beings in the world.”
During their conversation, Jordan said that he wanted Michigan to be the first and only football program in the world to carry the Jumpman logo — and Harbaugh was all-in.
“I said, ‘You had me at hello,’ ” Harbaugh said of the conversation between him and Jordan. “We’ve been working for this for a very long time. The other thing that (Jordan) said that I thought was profound was that, ‘You know what Nike means to Oregon (and) you know what Oregon means to Nike. Michigan can mean that to Jordan.’ And that I thought was powerful, that I thought was very profound.
“(The conversation) was about the team. (Jordan) respects the University of Michigan. He respects his own school, North Carolina. He’s very fond and talks about that as well. But I could feel that he respected Michigan. He respected the fact that we are pouring our heart and souls into making Michigan football great. That was a compliment on the highest level.”
The jerseys themselves don’t look much different from those worn last year in Harbaugh’s first season as coach. The main difference is the presence of the Jumpman logo above the number and a matte finish on the helmets.
But much of the design is the same, and that’s apparently the way Harbaugh wanted things — though he left open the possibility of future changes.
“We’re not going to change the uniform design at this time, but I stand open to (Nike and Jordan Brand’s) ideas,” Harbaugh said. “Some people just think of things better than other people do. They obviously do a tremendous job at the highest level.”