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ESPN to televise MWC football, men's basketball

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Network to join CBS in national coverage deal

The Mountain West Conference confirmed Wednesday it has reached agreement on a package that will bring MWC football and men’s basketball games back to ESPN on a regular basis after a seven-year absence, starting this fall.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but a March 7 report on espn.com speculated that the ESPN deal, combined with the Mountain West’s existing agreement with CBS, could produce a combined $18 million per year for the league. The agreement with ESPN is for seven years and is believed to include up to 22 football games and 25 men’s basketball games annually.

All Mountain West schools — numbering 12, beginning in the fall when San Jose State and Utah State join the league — will share equally in the proceeds.

According to a Mountain West news release, the ESPN and CBS packages combined will put up to 44 football and 56 men’s basketball games on national TV each year through the 2019-20 season.

Six of the football games to be televised on ESPN will be Boise State home games, as per the agreement struck between Boise State and the Mountain West when BSU agreed to remain in the MWC rather than leave for the Big East.

Wednesday, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said conversations with ESPN already had begun in December, after CBS agreed to allow the league to negotiate with a second national network but before Boise State agreed to stay in the MWC.

“That was the key, that CBS allowed us to bring a second national network into the picture,” Thompson said. “… People are calling it the Boise State deal. Well, it is and it isn’t.”

Last fall, New Mexico was the only Mountain West football team that did not appear on national TV as part of the league’s package. The Lobos were coming off three consecutive 1-11 seasons. They improved to 4-9 last fall in Bob Davie’s first season as head coach.

The additional slots afforded by the ESPN deal, UNM athletic director Paul Krebs said, should help in that regard.

“But the challenge is on us (to continue to improve),” Krebs said, “and nobody knows that better than coach Davie and myself.”

In 2006, after being unable to agree on terms for a renewal of its contract with ESPN, the Mountain West embarked on a seven-year, $82 million deal with CSTV — later to become CBS Sports Network. From the fall of 2006 through May 2012, the Mountain West also had its own network, The Mtn.
— This article appeared on page D4 of the Albuquerque Journal

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