SBJ/December 17 - 23, 2007/This Weeks News

WAC agrees to eight-year deal with Learfield

Learfield Sports will become the primary rights holder for the Western Athletic Conference as part of an eight-year deal expected to be announced this week.

Hawaii’s trip to a BCS bowl keeps
WAC football on a roll.
The WAC has been without a rights holder since 1999. Commissioner Karl Benson said the conference and Learfield will focus on creating a corporate partnership program, as well as title sponsorships for championship events. The only WAC event with a title sponsor is the men’s golf tournament, which is titled by Wells Fargo. Those rights were previously sold in-house.

Financial details were not available, but the deal pays the WAC an annual guarantee plus a share of revenue if sales surpass certain thresholds. The WAC last had a multimedia deal nearly a decade ago.

“We’re almost starting from scratch,” Benson said of the corporate partner program. “I think with the success we’ve had in football, we’re in a very attractive position to attract new partners.

“Along with the potential of new revenue, there’s also a credibility that’s added to the conference when you establish relationships with name companies.”

Boise State represented the WAC in the Bowl Championship Series last year, and undefeated Hawaii will play Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl next month.

“There is a certain energy behind the league right now,” said Greg Brown, president of Learfield Sports. “The WAC doesn’t have a football championship, but their success does create a natural attraction.”

Brown said the deal, Learfield’s first with a conference to go with 40 university relationships, made sense because Learfield owns multimedia rights to five WAC schools: Fresno State, Idaho, Nevada, San Jose State and Utah State. (The other members are Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State.)

“In these largely corporate relationships … they want access to the institutions at the campus level,” Brown said.

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