By Barry Witt of the San Jose Mercury News
ESPN has signed a contract to televise the Silicon Valley Football Classic on its ESPN2 cable network, a spokesman said Friday. The move is expected to help attract a title sponsor for the Dec. 31 bowl game at Spartan Stadium.
Fox Sports Net televised the first two Silicon Valley games, but that was the cable network's lone bowl and it scored poor ratings both years.
``We think the reach of ESPN is going to mean a significant increase in value'' to potential bowl sponsors, said Dan Fenton, president of the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is managing the game's affairs. Fenton said he didn't know the length of the ESPN contract.
The game lost its two major corporate sponsors this year. Fenton said absent any new corporate support, at least 20,000 tickets need to be sold to achieve what he called ``a viable business model.''
A significant hitch remains, however, before the game can be guaranteed to go on. The bowl needs to secure a $1.5 million bank letter of credit, which was supposed to have been submitted to the NCAA by Nov. 1.
Fenton said the game's organizers ``are not alarmed'' by the absence of a letter of credit. But if one isn't secured by early next week, said Keith Martin, the NCAA's director of finance and business operations, he will take the issue to the NCAA's bowl certification committee to discuss whether organizers ``have the pieces to pull the game off.''
Martin said the NCAA on Friday received a note from Cupertino National Bank saying it is ``still gathering the information in order to complete their analysis'' before issuing the letter of credit.
The Silicon Valley game is one of three out of 28 bowls that have not yet provided the required letter of credit to the NCAA, Martin said.