It won't be Urban Meyer stealing Bret Bielema's recruits, or kids growing tired of playing Bo Ryan's plodding style or the continuous loss of underclass stars to the NHL that will end the University of Wisconsin's recent run of athletic success in so many sports. Instead, it will be the Labor Licensing Policy Committee.
Never heard of the Labor Licensing Policy Committee? They aren't an arm of the NCAA or even a part of the UW Athletic Department. Instead, they are a self-appointed watchdog committee of professors and administrators that decide which companies can produce officially licensed apparel and equipment bearing the Wisconsin logo and name. The LLPC is upset with the current supplier--Addidas--and wants their contract ternimated.
Addidas' great sin was failing to make sure that the owner of an Indonesian plant where Wisconsin apparel was made received severance payments for the closure of a plant last year. Addidas points out it gave the plant owner the money for the payments--but the cash was never passed along. Nevertheless, the Labor Licensing Policy Committee believes this is somehow Addidas' fault and therefore they aren't "worthy" of making Bucky Badger stuff anymore. It would be akin to a used car salesman who was fired after selling you your car showing up on your doorstep and saying the commission on that sale wasn't on his final check--so you owe him some cash. Would you say "Hey, let me get my wallet"? Or would you tell the guy "Dude, sounds like a problem between you and owner--you've already got my cash."
You may recall, Wisconsin used to be a Nike school. But the LLPC cancelled their contract a few years ago because Nike shut down their plants in Honduras to move work to Vietnam--where, of course--workers were willing to take less in pay. That is not "Fair Trade", so Bucky no longer "Just Do(es) It." Ironically, "enlightened" universities like Stanford and Harvard still have their sports equipment made by Nike. Apparently, their standards aren't just as "fair" as Madison's.
Now that Nike and Addidas are too "evil" to equip Wisconsin sports teams--the Athletic Department will have to go out and find a new licensed supplier. Under Armor is a possibility--but did you see the Maryland football uniforms and helmets this year? No thanks. Besides, if I was a major sporting goods and apparel maker I would tell the LLPC to stuff its "standards" in the same place in the sock drawer where they hide their bag of marijuana and water bongs--the headaches aren't worth your business. So AD Barry Alvarez will be forced to go out to smaller, lower-quality suppliers to find fair-trade, free-range, Labor Licensing Policy Committee-pleasing sources for his equipment. And thus, the fall of Bucky begins.
The football team's offense will struggle to hang on to the slippery new ball made of an inflated Nepalese yak bladder--laced together with hemp strings. The basketball team will struggle to just keep enough guys healthy to put five on the floor following the rash of foot and ankle injuries caused by wearing Birkenstock sandals with Andean Alpaca wool socks. The hockey team should be ok, however. They can get all their equipment from Canadian companies like Bauer and CCM. Canadians are all rich because they they belong to unions and government pays for their health care.
So some Saturday in the future when Ohio State is pounding the ill-equipped Badgers by 50, Wisconsin fans can at least take solace in knowing that lead was built on the backs of exploited workers around the world.