Nike is the king of basketball sneakers and sports apparel but when it comes to college baseball bats, the swoosh has apparently struck out.
Every college under contract with Nike has been let out of its commitment to use Nike baseball bats during the upcoming season.
Of the top 20 teams in home runs last season, not a single one used Nike bats.
Major schools such as Southern Cal, Miami, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky all used Nike bats and experienced major drops in offensive production. Home runs were 20 percent lower and slugging percentages 44 percent lower for those teams than for the rest of the NCAA.
The Tuscaloosa News, which led the reporting on this story, notes the Hurricanes hit an average of more than 93 homers a season between 2008 and 2010, but last season with Nike bats they slammed just 33 dingers. That's a staggering 64.5 percent drop in power.
Alabama's power dropped 86.6 percent over the previous three seasons.
Earlier this year, the NCAA ruled that college bats must perform more like wood. The goal was to reduce the high scoring that affected the game (and arguably threatened pitcher safety) in the 1990s. But clearly programs using Nike bats didn't expect performance to drop off this much.
Part of the issue is a problem that's plagued even expert bat-makers: how to reliably measure "wood-like" performance. Some test the speed of the bat at impact with the ball, while others measure the ball's "exit speed." The debate has led to not only confusion, but varying performance of bats.
The Tuscaloosa News report says Nike is no longer selling bats certified for college use on its Nike Store online.
Nike ranked 135th on the Fortune 500 list of American companies for 2011. The company had revenues of $1.9 billion, making it the top apparel industry.
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