SBD/June 9, 2016/Media

C-USA Commissioner Defends New TV Deals, Notes Fox Sports Was Waiting On Big Ten

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A deep NCAA Tournament run could help MTSU deal with athletic department cuts
Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod yesterday appeared on West Virginia-based WRVC-FM's "First Sentry Banks Sportsline" to discuss the conference's new TV deal. MacLeod said, "Getting back with ESPN is big. ... Then the new partner with beIN Sports is intriguing as this is their first college partner. I think that we can get some good exposure there as well, so we are pleased overall." Show co-host Woody Woodrum said, "The bottom line on this package is probably the hardest part for many schools to accept because .... it looks like about $900,000 less per school." MacLeod, "You’re trying to get me fired up right off the bat, aren’t you?" Woodrum, "The bottom line is the bottom line, and it has been hard enough for schools like Marshall to make the bottom line as it was. Now they’ve got to find a million more somewhere to make this up." MacLeod said, "It’s been a frustrating couple of days. ... Everything you read out there is not exactly true. Did the money go down? There’s no question. Are we frustrated? There’s no question. That’s why we signed two-year deals, so we could get back out into the market and hopefully things improve and do some other work. ... We’ve hired a chief revenue officer to sell sponsorships. Our conference has never had that."

WHAT DID THE FOX SAY? MacLeod said of not being able to reach a deal with Fox Sports, "Fox was waiting for the Big Ten and were not sure what all they could commit to anyone else before they did that deal, but they certainly requested some nontraditional dates and our presidents and ADs have been firmly against Tuesday/Wednesday-type games. But Thursday/Friday are kind of becoming traditional these days." She added of the C-USA digital network, "Our contracts are not in place with the two entities we are working with on this, so I can’t really get into specifics, but ... we’re doing a new website specifically for the digital network, and the vision is to have it be one-stop shopping" ("First Sentry Banks Sportsline," WRVC-FM, 6/8).

BAD TIMING: SB NATION's Nicolas Lewis noted each C-USA school will "be getting 18% of the revenue they got in the last couple of years," an "astronomical collapse in revenue." That could be "especially difficult for a school like Old Dominion, one of the CUSA programs that waited a year to implement cost of attendance stipends." C-USA "waited until the end of their existing contracts with Fox Sports and CBS Sports to renegotiate and wound up doing so in a time when the value of cable television to their viewer base has dropped off a cliff." C-USA is now "hovering" in between the MAC and Sun Belt for one more year, after which the MAC "will leave them in the dust" with its new TV deal (SBNATION.com, 6/8). In West Virginia, Chuck Landon writes everyone was "expecting the television revenue to diminish because this was the first contract C-USA was negotiating since the split in FBS programs created the Power Five and Group of Five." The conference's TV revenue was expected to drop, but what was not expected was a "plummet into a financial abyss" with what is "arguably the worst television contract in the history" of D-I athletics (Huntington HERALD-DISPATCH, 6/9).

IT WAS ALL A DREAM ABOUT TENNESSEE: Middle Tennessee State AD Chris Massaro said that the C-USA school will indeed "have to do belt-tightening in its athletics department" following the drop in TV revenue. While Massaro said that he is "confident sponsorships and bowl performance could help mitigate" MTSU's $900,000 drop in TV revenue, he clarified that he "understands the realities of the situation." Massaro: "It is concerning." Massaro said that MTSU's athletics department will "take a look at its budget in the fall but that it's likely the department will see cuts." In Tennessee, Aldo Amato notes accounts reportedly "have been frozen" for all C-USA employees at the conference's office HQ in Irving, Texas (Murfreesboro DAILY NEWS JOURNAL, 6/9). 

GREEN GIANT TASK: In Texas, Brett Vito notes C-USA TV revenue will fall from about $1.1M per school to $200,000 per school next year, which is a "big chunk of change for a school" like North Texas. UNT "receives a lot more money than it used to from student fees, but a big chunk of those funds are tied up paying off Apogee Stadium." Donations are an option, but UNT "tapped into its key donors recently to build Apogee and a host of other facilities." The question UNT's new AD will face is "where to turn in order to make up for what will almost certainly be a pretty significant drop in television revenue at a time when attendance has either fallen dramatically (men's basketball) or has not grown as quickly as hoped (football) in key revenue sports that bolster the bottom line" (DENTON RECORD-CHRONICLE, 6/9).
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