SBD/Issue 244/College Football Preview

ESPN, BYU Agree To Eight-Year TV Deal For Home Football Games

Holmoe Announces Eight-Year TV Deal With
ESPN, Six-Game Deal With Notre Dame

ESPN and Brigham Young Univ. yesterday announced an eight-year agreement that gives the net exclusive rights to BYU home football games during the '11-18 college football seasons. ESPN has an option to extend the agreement through '19. ESPN receives first selection rights to all BYU home games and any neutral site matchup where BYU is the designated home team. As part of the agreement, an annual minimum of three BYU home games will air on ESPN, ABC or ESPN2, including telecasts on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There will be an annual minimum of one BYU home game on ESPNU (ESPN). ESPN also agreed that any BYU games it does not select may be televised live on BYUtv. BYUtv also can air same-day rebroadcasts of every game ESPN has rights to through conference agreements with the host team (BYU). In Utah, Jeff Call notes while ESPN "works to line up attractive matchups for BYU, the Cougars will face a steady diet of Western Athletic Conference opponents in 2011 and 2012," as the WAC yesterday agreed to play "nine games in those seasons against BYU." BYU AD Tom Holmoe yesterday also announced that the school and Notre Dame have "agreed to a six-game football contract that will run through 2020" (DESERET NEWS, 9/2).

DEAL DELIVERS MONEY, EXPOSURE: In Sale Lake City, Michael Lewis writes under the header, "New TV Deal Gives Cougars National Exposure They Crave." Financial terms were not disclosed, but sources indicated that BYU "could reap between $800,000 and $1.2 million per home game -- considerably more" than the $1.3-1.5M the school "earned annually from the Mountain West's television arrangement." The deal will "vastly expand the potential audience for Cougar games ... but it also will help the Cougs fill their annual 12-game schedule by enlisting ESPN as a partner to help arrange matchups." Lewis notes ESPN "owns a handful of postseason bowl games where the Cougars could end up, and could help influence negotiations to establish criteria for the Cougars to earn an automatic berth" into the BCS (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/2). BYU President Cecil Samuelson and Holmoe said that the reasons for the school declaring its independence in football were "twofold: access and exposure." Samuelson added that the "'driving force' behind BYU's quest for football independence was to secure broad and nationwide television access to BYU athletic contests for the school's fans around the world." Holmoe: "This is something we have been working on for about five years." But Holmoe acknowledged that it was "sparked by Utah's June announcement that it was jumping to the Pac-10 in 2011, a lucrative move that threatened to leave the Cougars far below their instate rival's earning potential in television revenue" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/2). ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Dave Brown said that ESPN "could pull together games for the Cougars in football and basketball," though he "refuted the idea that ESPN could take a [formal] broker role to get BYU a BCS slot" (DESERET NEWS, 9/2).

JUSTIFYING THE MOVE: In Salt Lake City, Kurt Kragthorpe writes the eight-year deal with ESPN and six-year deal with Notre Dame "justify BYU's efforts." Kraghtorpe: "BYU now becomes the Notre Dame of ESPN, for promotional value. That in itself makes BYU's move more of an achievement than a desperate act, more a case of forward thinking than sideways fleeing" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/2). ESPN's Joe Schad: "This now gives them an opportunity to stand alone, make some unilateral decisions, and they'll be able to spread the ideals of the Mormon faith to television viewers throughout the country." ESPN's Trevor Matich, a BYU alum, said the school’s “mindset is that they are a national brand-name program that's kind of stuck in a shoe box because most of their fans around the country can't find them on TV right now. This will give them national exposure that will help recruiting, that will help their national posture" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 9/1).

Thompson (r) Considering MWC-Conference
USA Joint Football Championship Game

IN-GAME ADJUSTMENTS: In Colorado, Frank Schwab notes with the departure of BYU, the MWC's "next move will almost certainly involve Conference USA." MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said that "merging the conferences was less likely than having a joint football championship game," which would "hopefully lead to an automatic qualifier spot" in the BCS. Thompson added that there has "only been a three-hour meeting between him and C-USA officials, but some agreement will be discussed further." Schwab notes the "biggest problem with BYU was the television contract, and Thompson acknowledged the conference will work on distribution issues." Thompson said that he "doesn't think the conference's plan, using its own network The mtn. to broadcast games was flawed, because many conferences don't get the exposure that the Mountain West does." But he did acknowledged that he "wants the network to be in more households." Thompson: "Distribution is huge. Unfortunately people thought this was going to be an ESPN equivalent" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 9/2). Thompson said of BYU's decision to leave the conference, "It's become more and more apparent that college athletic conferences are nothing more than a consortium of institutions for the purposes of scheduling, officiating, marketing and TV rights. Everybody's got their own self-interests, and things have really changed" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/2). Meanwhile, WAC Commissioner Karl Benson yesterday said that the conference, which is losing Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State to the MWC, is "considering any and all options when it comes to expansion." Benson: "We will entertain all options, all membership models. We are also announcing the creation of a membership committee that will evaluate prospective members" (DESERET NEWS, 9/2).

SOME GAIN, MANY SUFFER: ESPN.com's Andy Katz noted BYU will move to the West Coast Conference for all of its non-football sports, and "opening up the Salt Lake City-Provo market to the WCC is a major coup for the league -- which makes it hard to ignore what a significant blow this is to the MWC." The MWC "lost the heart of its league in seeing Utah go off to the soon-to-be named Pac-12 in 2011-12 and BYU next season to the WCC." But "no one would debate that the WAC was the biggest loser among all this nationwide shuffling" (ESPN.com, 9/1). FANHOUSE.com's Brett McMurphy wrote BYU declaring football independence "will basically kill, or at least seriously maim, every conference not named the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, ACC or Big East" (FANHOUSE.com, 9/1).

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