SBJ/June 19 - 25, 2000/Other News

MAC expands contract with ESPN

Officials of the Mid-American Conference are hoping that an expanded deal with ESPN will help raise the league's profile.

The conference has signed a new three-year agreement with ESPN that guarantees it more than 30 national regular- and postseason television appearances in men's football and basketball. The games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

"This is a significant step forward for us," said Bob Gennarelli, the MAC's associate commissioner for external operations. "There's an unbelievable amount of prestige and credibility that comes with being associated with ESPN on a national level."

The conference began its relationship with ESPN last year in a deal made primarily to syndicate its football and basketball games. The deal included ESPN2's broadcast of the league's championship football game between Marshall and Western Michigan, which received a 2.0 rating, the second-most-watched college football game in the history of the network.

ESPN officials said the conference's desire to expand its television presence and the network's overall satisfaction with the property prompted the new deal.

"It's a little cliché, but we think the MAC may be the best-kept secret in conference competition," said Dan Shoemaker, general manager/creative productions division at ESPN Regional Television, the college syndication and marketing arm of ESPN.

Gennarelli estimated that ESPN will pay the conference $250,000 to $350,000 a year in rights fees.

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