WSU benefits more from Pac-12 TV deal

THE PAC-12's new 12-year, $3 billion television deal with ESPN and Fox figures to benefit Washington State to a greater degree than any other school. And the timing couldn't be better.

When you get in and break it down, the deal is expected to net each member of the Pac-12 on average about $15-18 million a year. Throw in the Pac-12 television network that is in the process of being created and it gets even bigger -- Oregon senior associate athletic director Joe Giasante said on a Portland radio station Wednesday that could net each school another $7 million to $8 million a year.

That adds up to as much as $26 million per school from Pac-12 television rights. For perspective, consider that WSU earned $4 million in TV revenue in the fiscal year that ends next month. For greater perspective, consider that Washington State's annual athletics budget is around $30 million.

In short, the news this week carries historic significance for Cougar athletics. It's right up there with clinching two Rose Bowl berths in six seasons under Mike Price, and convincing Dick Bennett to come out of retirement to rebuild the basketball program.

Every Pac-12 school stands to gain from the new television deal, but it can be strongly argued the greatest beneficiary is Washington State.

When the new contract kicks in, WSU will no longer be hamstrung by its challenged revenue streams. For most of the Pac-12, the new TV deal will cover no more than half the bills. USC and Stanford have athletic budgets approaching $80 million. That's great.

But only Washington State and Utah, which also has a budget of around $30 million, can cover the bulk of its annual expenses with the Pac-12's new television largesse. Moreover, WSU is one of the few athletic departments in the conference without notable debt to service. That means WSU can put all newfound financial flexibility directly to work.

To start playing ball with Phil Nike U and the California schools, Washington State must bust out the checkbook and get the construction cranes in place. It's been talked about for years, and increasingly so since Moos took over at WSU a year ago. But now, there's serious financial muscle behind the talk for sweeping facilities improvements.

Any doubts that the proposed Martin Stadium upgrade and football-only training center will take wing are now erased. The new TV revenue will make bonding for the work a slam dunk, putting the Martin improvements on a glide path for completion in time for the 2012 season, and the football-only center on track for a 2013 unveiling. Plans for the refurbishment of Beasley Coliseum and upgrades to the soccer and baseball facilities now go from wish list to to-do list.

I'm the last person on earth who thinks colleges ought to turn their athletic facilities into palaces, but that's the world we live in. If Washington State wants to compete in the Pac-12, new facilities are a must.

"We have some catching up to do," Moos told Seattle radio KJR on Wednesday.

But the new flood of TV cash is just a springboard to the future. As Moos cautioned Wednesday, if Cougar fans smile at the new television contract and think all is well, they are mistaken.

"One thing our fans have to realize is this does not provide an opportunity for them not to be involved," Moos said.

To elevate Washington State to the point where its teams consistently contend for post-season, the number of donors – currently about 6,000 – and the average annual donation – about $1,600 – need to climb significantly, WSU officials say. If those two numbers increase to 10,000 and $2,000, the result would be a doubling -- to $20 million -- in annual donations to athletics.

It's easier for Moos to ask WSU fans to write checks for season tickets and donations now. There's light at the end of this tunnel with the new TV outlook.

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