Back-to-back BCS appearances and a National Championship in baseball over the past 20 months have culminated in a contract extension with ESPN that will provide unprecedented exposure for the Western Athletic Conference as announced today by WAC Commissioner Karl Benson and ESPN Senior Vice President Burke Magnus.
The WAC and ESPN have had a tremendous partnership over the years and the success of the conference the past two seasons has been recognized by the television sports leader with the contract extension. With two straight undefeated regular seasons in football by Boise State in 2006 and Hawai‘i last year, along with Fresno State’s championship run through last June’s College World Series, ESPN has chronicled the WAC’s national success. Last season’s WAC title game between Boise State and Hawai‘i on Nov. 23 was the most viewed regular season ESPN2 game last year.
As part of the agreement that runs through the spring of 2017, over 300 regular season WAC contests and 45 championship events will be aired on the ESPN networks.
Football: Double the number of games per year from eight to a minimum of 16 with at least 10 on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 and at least six on ESPNU. A minimum of nine games will be conference contests with an average of five on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. Every school will appear at least once on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Men’s Basketball: Quadruple the number of games per year with a minimum of six regular season games each year on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 (three must be conference games). The conference championship game and one semifinal will also be shown on one of the three networks. A minimum of six regular season games each year on ESPNU plus one quarterfinal game from the tournament. Every school will appear at least once on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Women’s Sports: Six regular season events (volleyball, basketball or softball) this year, seven next year and eight in 2010-11. The volleyball and women’s basketball championships will be aired on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
"For the past five years, WAC football has benefited greatly from the exposure it has received from ESPN," said Benson. "The WAC values its relationship with the ‘leader in college sports’ and is confident that this extension will allow WAC football to continue to be a prominent player in the BCS. But just as important, this deal will finally get the WAC’s men’s basketball teams the type of national exposure it deserves. And finally, for the first time ever, women’s basketball regular season games will be aired on the ESPN networks along with the championship contests for volleyball and women’s basketball."
"The WAC is a significant player on the college landscape and we are thrilled they will call ESPN home through 2016-17," said Magnus. "You can not talk championship level teams without including WAC members in that conversation. With this agreement, college sports fans will continue to see – in a bigger and better way – the quality and depth of the conference as well as the passion and enthusiasm of their supporters."
The 2008 football schedule includes over 50 games that will air during the season. ESPN will show 12 of those games nationally on its family of networks while many other games will be picked up by ESPN’s GamePlan package and will be available throughout the country.
The ESPN schedule kicked off last Saturday with an ESPN2 telecast of Louisiana Tech hosting Mississippi State. On September 13, a game between two top-25 teams will be featured with No. 11 Wisconsin traveling to 21st-ranked Fresno State.
The schedule resumes with six conference matchups beginning Wednesday, Oct. 1, when ESPN will televise the Louisiana Tech-Boise State game. Then, in mid-October, the WAC will be featured unopposed on five of the next seven Fridays. The first will be a showdown between the past two WAC champions as Boise State will host Hawai‘i on Oct. 17 at 6:00 p.m. MT on ESPN.
Additional games could be added throughout the season.
Click here for the complete WAC football schedule that includes all television games
What others are saying around the WAC
Bob Kustra-Boise State President
"We are pleased to continue our partnership with ESPN as this new agreement provides more visibility and exposure for our programs. The WAC and ESPN will both benefit under this new contract."
Thomas Boeh-Fresno State AD
"It is both gratifying and appropriate that the WAC-ESPN relationship has been affirmed and will expand. In recent years numerous WAC teams have emerged and developed to a competitive level that has earned the respect and affinity of countless fans throughout the nation. Given that ESPN properties play a key role in shaping the contemporary intercollegiate athletics culture, there simply are no better vehicles to tell the stories of the extraordinary achievements and personalities of the men and women of the WAC today."
Pat Hill-Fresno State Head Football Coach
"We are excited about the ESPN extension. ESPN has provided excellent national exposure of our program this decade and we look forward for that to continue. ESPN has been good for Fresno State and I think Fresno State has been good for ESPN."
Dave Shoji, Hawai‘i Head Women’s Volleyball Coach
"I’m thrilled the WAC and ESPN see an importance of adding more exposure for women’s sports on a national level. As the popularity of women’s sports has increased by large numbers over the years, we are getting closer to a time when our female athletes get to share the national spotlight with their male counterparts. I’m glad that the WAC has taken proactive steps that will not only help the teams in our conference, but also the growth of women’s sports in general."
Rob Spear-Idaho AD
"This is very exciting for the WAC and for our athletic program. When the University of Idaho accepted membership into the WAC we anticipated increased television exposure and revenue. This package accomplishes both."
Cary Groth-Nevada AD
"We’re thrilled that ESPN and its networks will continue to partner with the WAC to showcase the accomplishments of the schools in our conference. The WAC is in the midst of an era of tremendous competitive success, so it’s exciting that fans across the country will be able to see more of our football and men’s basketball games as well as some of our women’s sports."
Mark Fox-Nevada Head Men’s Basketball Coach
"We’re very excited about the extension and enhancement of the WAC’s partnership with ESPN. We play some very competitive basketball in the WAC and have a number of teams of postseason caliber, and it will be great to have more national exposure. The additional television games will benefit the schools and our conference tremendously."
Maria Roth-New Mexico State SWA
"I was very pleased to hear that the relationship between ESPN and the WAC will continue and excited to learn that the number of games has been increased, including six regular season contests for the women’s sports of volleyball, basketball and softball with more to follow in the next couple of years. The ESPN brand is synonymous with first class production of sporting events and reaches such an enormous amount of viewers. The exposure the WAC women’s sports will receive because of this is invaluable. The impact on recruiting will be tremendous and will benefit the entire Conference. This programming will showcase the WAC’s outstanding female athletes and will enhance and legitimize what so many of us already know, WAC teams are worthy of exposure on a national scale. I feel very strongly that all men’s and women’s programs in the WAC produce competitive teams on the court and field that can contend with the nation’s best. This is truly a win-win partnership!"
Darin Spence-New Mexico State Head Women’s Basketball Coach
"Great news! This is a great time for WAC Women’s Basketball, as we look to raise our expectations and national exposure. The added TV exposure is something we have been working for and are very deserving of. This will give the WAC greater visibility to recruits and fans around the country. Let’s face it, all prospects and future student-athletes want to play on TV. This deal gives us that opportunity and shot in the arm in our recruiting efforts. WAC Women’s Basketball is a solid product and now we can show case it to more current and future fans. Great news!"
Dick Tomey-San Jose State Head Football Coach
"I think that this is recognition throughout the nation that the WAC is increasing in its quality of play and its national visibility. It’s a recognition on the part of ESPN that this is a heck of a conference. So, we’re very pleased with that."
Stew Morrill-Utah State Head Men’s Basketball Coach
"Exposure is the name of the game in Division I basketball. To quadruple our basketball television coverage with the ESPN network is a tremendous step forward to insure the future growth and success of WAC basketball. We have traditionally been a mutli-bid league for the NCAA Tournament and this new television agreement can be a huge piece in keeping that tradition alive."