Sun Belt Inks T.V. Package with ESPN

Idaho will have 3 games regionally televised LIVE this season. <b>FOX Sports Northwest</b> will be televising Idaho's home dates with Montana and Middle Tennessee State University. In November, <b>ESPN</b> will be regionally televising our game at North Texas.

Sun Belt Conference enters into six-year agreement with ESPN

Package to include regular season football, and men's and womens' basketball games

NEW ORLEANS – The Sun Belt Conference has entered into a six-year agreement with ESPN to televise regular season college football and basketball games, the league announced Tuesday afternoon.

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."

ESPN Regional Television - Event Ownership

ERT is the nation's largest producer and distributor of collegiate sports programming, producing more than 550 sporting events a year. In addition to event ownership, ERT produces 400 events for national, regional and local networks, serves as the rightsholder for college conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, BIG EAST, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC) and exclusive marketing rightsholder for select schools (Kansas, Oregon, UNLV, TCU, UAB, South Florida and Iowa State).

In addition to the ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl, ESPN Regional Television markets and/or owns several other collegiate sporting events. Examples have included the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl, the AXA East - West Showdown, ESPN The Magazine's College Basketball Awards, The Home Depot College Football Awards, the C-USA Men's Basketball Tournament, the Mountain West Men's Basketball Tournament, the Charlotte Holiday Classic and the Las Vegas Showdown.

In recent years, ESPN, Inc. has created or acquired events it owns, markets and televises to increase its value to advertisers and affiliates. Examples include the ESPY Awards, X Games and Winter X Games, Skins Game, Great Outdoor Games, Jimmy V Men's and Women's Basketball Classic, Action Sports and Music Awards and much more.

The Sun Belt Conference

The Sun Belt Conference embarks on its 27th season of competition in 2002-03, and does so as one of only 11 Division I-A conferences, as the league began sponsorship of football for the first time in 2001 in the highest classification.

Sun Belt members institutions include, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas State University, the University of Denver, Florida International University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Middle Tennessee State University, New Mexico State University, the University of New Orleans, the University of North Texas, the University of South Alabama and Western Kentucky University. The University of Idaho and the University of Louisiana at Monroe hold football memberships with the Sun Belt, forming a seven-team gridiron league along with Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State and North Texas.

The Sun Belt Conference football champion plays annually in the New Orleans Bowl against an opponent from Conference USA. The New Orleans Bowl, the first contest of the 2002-03 bowl season, will be played December 17 at the Louisiana Superdome and be televised live nationally on ESPN 2.

The Sun Belt Conference sponsors 18 sports, eight for men and 10 for women. The men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, tennis, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field. The women's sports are basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

2002 ESPN Regional Television/Sun Belt Conference Football Schedule
(as of 7/23/02)

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
(as of 7/23/02)

Aug. 25 Arkansas State at Virginia Tech ESPN Regional

Aug. 31 Middle Tennessee at Alabama Jefferson Pilot (SEC)

Sept. 14 Arkansas State at Illinois ESPN Regional

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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