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Scott D. Pierce: ESPN deal won’t keep BYU out of the Big 12

First Published      Last Updated Dec 20 2016 05:23 pm


Sports on TV » ESPN does not own BYUtv (duh); and TV money for college football is not drying up.

It's not like I'm telling you anything you don't already know, but in the age of the internet there's a lot of information out there that's (a) incomplete, (b) misinterpreted, or (c) flat-out wrong.

This includes a lot of what people are reading about television, BYU, the Big 12 and college football in general. Things like:

(1) BYU can't join the Big 12 because of its ESPN contract • Neither ESPN nor the BYU has ever released all the details of their contract. We know ESPN guarantees the Cougars an annual minimum of three home games on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC and one game on ESPNU; and that the contract runs through 2018 (with an ESPN option to extend it through 2019).




We're still guessing what it pays — reportedly something between $800,000 and $1.2 million per game.

But speculation that BYU can't get out of that contract is wrong. I've asked ESPN executives about that on multiple occasions. They've always declined to answer directly, but have also made it clear BYU can do what is best for BYU — and that ESPN respects that.

Not to mention that it would make absolutely zero sense for the former football coach to actively campaign to join the Big 12 and the current athletic director to speak publicly about BYU's desire to join a P5 conference if the Cougars could not extricate themselves from their current TV deal, if necessary.

So, no, that TV contract would not be an impediment to joining a conference. I'm not saying it's going to happen, just that this won't prevent it from happening.

(2) ESPN owns and operates BYUTV • I can only guess that this misreporting — which is generally sort of tossed-off comments by careless writers — is the result of frequent comparisons between the Longhorn Network and BYUtv, which have very little in common.

LHN is owned and operated by ESPN. It telecasts Texas sports programming. ESPN pays Texas tons for this.

BYUtv is owned and operated by BYU. It telecasts some Cougar sporting events, in addition to a variety of entertainment and religious programming. ESPN is not involved.

ESPN uses BYUtv facilities to telecast from Provo. That's the extent of it.

(3) College football TV money is drying up • This is absolute nonsense — a massive misinterpretation of news that Conference USA is taking a severe hit to its TV income.

Yes, Conference USA's TV revenues are dropping from $15 million per year to $3 million a year. But (a) $12 million isn't much in the overall TV picture, and (b) it's not the same league it was the last time it signed a television deal.

In the last couple of years, C-USA lost Central Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa and replaced them with Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Carolina-Charlotte, North Texas, Old Dominion, Texas-San Antonio and Western Kentucky.

Is anyone surprised Fox is dropping out? That CBS and ESPN slashed their rights fees? Or that C-USA had to sell some of its rights to BeIN Sports?

Conference USA is much closer to being the Sunbelt Conference (which makes even less money) than it is to being the Mountain West or the American Athletic Conference. It's light years from being the Big Ten.

And the Big Ten is in the midst of signing TV deals that will bring the league more money than ever.

Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

 

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