SBJ/September 1 - 7, 2003/This Weeks Issue

ISP Sports adds Auburn rights through acquisition of network

ISP Sports, the multimedia marketing rights holder for more than a dozen college athletic departments, acquired Auburn Network Inc., the marketing agency for Auburn Athletics.

The deal gives ISP control of Auburn Network's football, basketball and baseball programming, which goes to more than 60 radio affiliates throughout the Southeast, and rights to basketball and football television shows, pay-per-view and tape-delayed television, sports publications, Web site, and stadium and arena signs.

"We felt like we could bring a lot of strength to the table as far as national sales strength is concerned," said ISP President Ben Sutton, "and we felt we could bring a lot of efficiencies to [Auburn Network's] operations."

Auburn Network's employees, including President Mike Hubbard, will remain in their positions to ensure a seamless transition, Sutton said.

Auburn Network generates close to $5 million a year, said sources familiar with the company. Sutton would not reveal financial details of the deal.

ISP also assumed operation of American Digital Satellite Network LLC, a state-of-the-art audio satellite business, which will be used to support radio networks that ISP produces for its other university clients.

APPEALS HOLD UP HOOPS SCHEDULES: Indecision in a lawsuit over the NCAA's two-in-four rule, which limits the number of exempt tournament appearances a Division I basketball team can make to two such events in four years, has disrupted scheduling for schools and could result in the NCAA having to pay higher damages if the group of exempt tournament organizers, which filed the suit against the NCAA, wins its case.

In late July, a U.S. District Court placed an injunction on the two-in-four rule after deeming the rule illegal because it violated antitrust law. The NCAA responded with an appeal and a request for a stay, which would keep the rule in place until the appeal was heard. The stay was granted late last month but could be overturned if the plaintiffs are successful in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rick Giles of the Gazelle Group, which planned to hold four exempt tournaments with 40 teams this year, last Monday expected his company's tourney schedule to shrink to three events and 20 teams if the two-in-four rule remains in place. Giles said that if the stay is not overturned and the NCAA ends up losing its appeal, the NCAA stands a chance of having to pay an extra season of damages.

The hold-up on the decision has affected schools invited to play in exempt events and schools that planned to play games against schools that were invited to play in exempt events. Without complete schedules, which usually are finished by now, athletic departments have been unable to finish their media guides, posters touting basketball schedules cannot be printed and fans have been unable to make travel plans, said various school officials.

Both sides have requested an expedited appeal process and expect the case to be heard late this year or early next.

ODDS AND ENDS: Washington, D.C., and Baltimore Wendy's restaurants have renewed sponsorship of Maryland athletics under a one-year agreement. The deal includes football- and basketball-related in-store promotions and sponsorship of two kids programs. ... University of Missouri assistant AD Ross Bjork has left Missouri to be associate athletic director for external operations at the University of Miami. Bjork replaces Patrick Nero, who left Miami earlier this year to be athletic director at Maine. ... Conference USA associate commissioner Brian Teter has decided to return to campus athletic administration and accepted a position as associate athletic director of external relations at Cincinnati.

Contact Jennifer Lee at jlee@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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