By ANDREW A. ADAMS
In anticipation of the soon-to-be announced SportsWest contract, and after the February signing of a deal with ESPN, athletics officials from some Mountain West Conference schools say they are excited about the prospects the two agreements bring.
While his school did not negotiate a deal with SportsWest because of contractual obligations to KJZZ, University of Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill said the Mountain West’s agreement with ESPN and ESPN Regional Television is beneficial to the conference.
“The new ESPN contract is in general good for the league,” Hill said.
San Diego State’s current local contract provides for 15 covered sports events per year. Aztec Athletic Director Rick Bay said the SportsWest, ESPN and still somewhat-intact local deals should increase that number.
“Certainly we’ll have a greater opportunity to get some better exposure regionally — especially with ESPN Regional Television,” Bay said. “We’ve always been on ESPN once or twice a year — often on a Thursday night game with BYU — but we’ve not been in a situation where our conference has been on every week.”
Bay said the new contracts should significantly help SDSU’s budget, especially after the first year or two. He said ESPN’s rights fees escalate substantially through the fourth year of the deal.
“I think the ESPN deal is a benchmark in the early success of our conference,” Bay said. “It’s a big improvement over the WAC deal.”
Steve Schnall, San Diego State’s marketing director, said the SportsWest and ESPN contracts have both positives and negatives.
“This is a better deal monetarily now, and we’ll have more games on TV,” Schnall said. “But it’ll probably hurt our attendance numbers.”
Schnall said the upside of the ESPN deal is conditional.
“I think in years where we’re good and on ESPN, it will be helpful. In that regard it’s a benefit,” Schnall said. “But we’ve got to be good. And a large TV market helps.”
Schnall said he doesn’t think the contract will improve San Diego State’s visibility across California.
Tim Weiser, Colorado State Athletic Director, said the new deals should widen the Rams exposure in-state, even though they basically disavow the school’s local TV deal with Denver’s FOX affiliate. Currently, the school contends with Colorado and Air Force for local viewership.
“It would give us some great exposure in Colorado,” Weiser said.
While Weiser would not comment on the specifics of Colorado State’s slice of the contract cake, he said the amount is indicative of the networks’ respect for CSU’s high quality sports programs.
“We certainly think it’s a very fair amount,” Weiser said.