Blue Raiders Featured Prominently in New SBC TV Package

July 23, 2002 · MT Media Relations
NEW ORLEANS - The Sun Belt Conference and ESPN announced today that Middle Tennessee will play three televised conference games in 2002. All three games will be televised from Floyd Stadium where the Blue Raiders have won 11 games in a row. The TV deal is part of a new six-year agreement the SBC has inked with ESPN to televise regular season college football and basketball games.

The home games that will be aired include the Oct. 19 contest against Louisiana-Lafayette, the Nov. 16 game versus Louisiana-Monroe, and the Nov. 23 conference finale against North Texas. All three games can be seen locally on CSS TV or Channel 27 on Comcast cable in the Nashville and Murfreesboro markets. CSS will reach between 4 and 5 million homes throughout the southeast.

All three game times will change, but the exact times will not be available for another two weeks.

"This is a prime example of what a conference affiliation can do for a football program," MT Head Coach Andy McCollum said. "We are elated to have this many televised games and we look forward to the exposure."

In all, the Blue Raiders are scheduled to have seven of their 12 games televised in 2002. Along with the three home conference games, Middle Tennessee will also appear on Fox Sports Net Northwest on Oct. 26 against Idaho. That game time was originally scheduled for 4 PM CST, but due to television the time has changed to 2:07 PM CST.

The Blue Raiders will also open the season against Alabama on Jefferson-Pilot Sports, while facing Tennessee and Kentucky on a tape-delayed basis. The UT-MT game will be available on pay-per-view.

"Television is one of the best recruiting tools a program can have," McCollum added. "To be able to showcase our great fans, university, and facilities will be a big boost to our growing program."

The deal, which begins during the 2002-03 academic year and continues through 2007-08, features a combination of regional telecasts of football and basketball produced through ESPN Regional Television, as well as national football exposures on ESPN and ESPN2 beginning with the 2003 season.

"We are thrilled to continue our longstanding relationship with ESPN," Sun Belt Conference commissioner Wright Waters said. "This is a significant step forward in the growth of our football league, and the Conference as a whole stands to benefit tremendously from this agreement."

Working with ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the Sun Belt will continue a 23-year relationship with the World Wide Leader in Sports. In 1979, ESPN signed the Sun Belt to the network's first long-term contract with a collegiate conference.

"We are excited to both extend and expand our relationship with the Sun Belt Conference," said Chuck Gerber, ESPN Regional Television executive vice president and general manager. "The extension recognizes the growth and development Sun Belt athletics has experienced, thanks to outstanding leadership from Commissioner Wright Waters and the presidents, athletics directors and coaches."

The upcoming Sun Belt football season begins the first year of the agreement with ESPN Regional Television producing a minimum of five games on a network of regional cable networks, local over-the-air stations and local cable systems under the ESPN Plus banner. Clearances are currently being negotiated, and it is expected that the Sun Belt games will be shown in each league market. In addition, select games will be available on ESPN GamePlan, ESPN's out-of-market college football pay-per-view package.

In 2003, in addition to the regional telecasts of Sun Belt football games, the national component of the agreement kicks in with the league guaranteed to receive a minimum of five nationwide football telecasts on ESPN or ESPN2 during the life of the contract (through 2007). The deal could include games played on weeknights.

In basketball, the deal calls for a minimum of eight men's and eight women's regular season games to be produced by ESPN Regional Television beginning in 2002-03. The Sun Belt's current national telecast agreement with ESPN, including coverage of the men's tournament championship game, is also extended through the 2007-08 season.

"We are equally excited about the additional exposures for men's and women's basketball," Waters added. "We are expecting another great season in men's basketball, and our women will get the television exposure that a top 10 league deserves."

2002 ESPN Regional Television/Sun Belt Conference Football Schedule

8/25 Arkansas State at Virginia Tech
9/21 UAB at UL Lafayette
10/19 *UL Lafayette at Middle Tennessee
10/26 *New Mexico State at Arkansas State
11/9 *Idaho at North Texas
11/16 *UL Monroe at Middle Tennessee
11/23 *North Texas at Middle Tennessee
*Sun Belt Conference game

2002 Sun Belt Conference Composite Football Television Schedule

Aug. 25 Arkansas State at Virginia Tech (ESPN Regional)
Aug. 31 Middle Tennessee at Alabama (Jefferson Pilot) (SEC)
Sept. 21 UAB at UL Lafayette (ESPN Regional)
Oct. 5 Montana at Idaho (Fox Sports Net Northwest)
Oct. 19 *UL Lafayette at Middle Tennessee (ESPN Regional)
Oct. 26 *New Mexico State at Arkansas State (ESPN Regional)
Oct. 26 *Middle Tennessee at Idaho (Fox Sports Net Northwest)
Nov. 9 *Idaho at North Texas (ESPN Regional)
Nov. 16 *UL Monroe at Middle Tennessee (ESPN Regional)
Nov. 23 *North Texas at Middle Tennessee (ESPN Regional)
Dec. 17 New Orleans Bowl: Sun Belt vs. C-USA (ESPN 2)

*Sun Belt Conference game

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