UTEP Football Games on Weeknights? It Could Be a Reality in 2023 with New C-USA TV Deal
A bombshell of news dropped Wednesday by the Sports Business Journal involving Conference USA's new TV deal with CBS Sports and ESPN.
Beginning in the 2023-24 academic season, C-USA will move all of their games played in October to weeknight games, according to the report. That means UTEP and NMSU fans could see games on Tuesday and Wednesday and, for the marquee matchups, Thursday and Friday contests are a possibility. Games on weeknights will be on both ESPN and CBS Sports Network.
The nine conference members - Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State, Sam Houston State, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and UTEP - will each make around $750,000 under the new TV deal, according to the SBJ, putting them behind what universities in the Sun Belt and MAC are currently making. Bret McMurphy of the Action Network reported that each school at least $800,000 annually, which is a significant raise from what they are currently making at $425,000.
At C-USA's peak, they paid universities around $1 million in the early 2010s. The conference began to feel a decline in worth when the league took a less lucrative deal in 2016 that paid each university about $300,000 less than they previously received annually.
C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod had been searching for a TV partnership that gave more exposure to the league, as reported weeks ago by Chris Vannini of The Athletic. The idea for midweek games came from the Mid-American Conference's TV deal approach, which capitalizes on weeknight games in November, or known as "MAC-tion." In the story from The Athletic, MacLeod talked about the difficulty for fans to try and find the games. Beside the MAC, the Sun Belt also plays games on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
MacLeod told SBJ: “Obviously, revenue is important, but what kept coming up with our membership was exposure. How do we maximize our potential and move forward? … This is our chance to prove ourselves and then hopefully we’ll go back to the market (in five years) and increase our value.”
According to the story, CBS will take "tier one selection status" of 18 games in the football season and 18 games in men's basketball. CBS will televise the football title game, men's basketball championship game, women’s basketball semifinals and finals, and championship games in softball and baseball.
While this could be a good way for UTEP and NM State to gain more national exposure through TV coverage, this deal could hurt attendance in October in a significant way. The most accessible way to watch UTEP seems to be ESPN+, which only costs about $6/month for users. Why couldn't C-USA keep it simple and go that route?
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