Cleveland, Ohio – The Mid-American Conference (MAC) and ESPN announced today a 13-year rights agreement that will be the largest and most extensive agreement in the 68-year history of the Conference.
The extension, which adds provisions to the remaining three years of the original national rights agreement and adds an additional 10 years to the deal with ESPN, brings long-term security for the Conference through the 2026-27 academic year.
The announcement was made jointly by Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, MAC Commissioner, and Burke Magnus, ESPN Senior Vice President, Programming & Acquisitions. This agreement provides ESPN with exclusive television and digital distribution rights for all MAC sporting events, and guarantees coverage of every football game, and select men's and women's basketball and Olympic sporting events through the 2026-27 academic season.
"This is a historic day for the Mid-American Conference," said MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher. "ESPN and the MAC have a long history together and were visionary in embracing mid-week football which continues to be a significant presence on the ESPN college football calendar. The length of this partnership brings long term stability for the Conference well into the next decade."
The Marathon MAC Football Championship Game and the MAC football regular season is the foundation for the national deal with ESPN. The 2014 MAC football regular season will be highlighted by national coverage of 14 mid-week games during the month of November on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 as the Conference race unfolds in both the East and West divisions. The Marathon MAC Football Championship Game on Friday, Dec. 5 at 7 pm ET will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
The agreement also follows the recent trend of several of the most successful athletic seasons in the MAC combined with record televisions audiences on ESPN. The success by MAC athletic programs is a collective effort by MAC membership across multiple sports.
Recent MAC Athletic Success
• 2010 NCAA Men's Soccer National Championship (Akron)
• 2011 Women's Basketball WNIT Championship (Toledo)
• 2012 Men's NCAA Basketball 'Sweet 16' (Ohio)
• 2012 NCAA College World Series (Kent State)
• 2013 Discover Orange Bowl (Northern Illinois)
• Two highest drafted players selected in the NFL Draft (2013 Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher No. 1 overall; 2014 Buffalo LB Khalil Mack No. 5 overall)
• Highest ever player ranked in the Heisman Trophy voting (2013 NIU QB Jordan Lynch, finished 3rd overall in voting)
• Two recent national champions in wrestling (2011 Kent State's Dustin Kilgore at 197 lbs and 2014 Missouri's J'Den Cox at 197 lbs)
• 2014 NCAA Track and Field Champions --three national champions in track and field (Akron's Shawn Barber was the 2014 NCAA indoor track and field pole vault champion clearing 5.75m; Akron's Annika Roloff was the 2014 NCAA outdoor track and field pole vault champion clearing 4.40m; Kent State's Matthias Tayala was the 2014 NCAA outdoor track and field hammer throw champion with a distance of 73.57m.)
Last year's 2013 Marathon MAC Football Championship game featured Bowling Green's 47-27 win over No. 14 ranked Northern Illinois on ESPN2 and garnered a 1.2 national rating with 1.4 million households and nearly two million viewers, the largest for the MAC since 2008.
"This extension, and expansion, of our agreement significantly increases the live event coverage for fans while providing tremendous value to ESPN, the MAC and its member institutions," said Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president, programming & acquisitions.
The pact will also provide expanded coverage of MAC men's and women's basketball within the first four years of the partnership, providing the Conference with its greatest exposure and important growth for the MAC basketball programs.
"The Mid-American Conference has long been recognized for its stability and commitment to academic excellence. The new contract with ESPN is a win-win for both the MAC and ESPN and enhances a long-standing and positive relationship. The winners, of course, will be our fans, who will have the opportunity to see expanded coverage of MAC teams and athletic competition at its best," said Dr. John M. Dunn, President of Western Michigan University.
In addition, the MAC and its member institutions, with assistance from ESPN, will establish on-campus production capabilities that will provide a significant increase in the national coverage of baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, wrestling and Olympic sports on ESPN3. This component will open up nearly 92 million households from ESPN3 for exposure to MAC sports for the first time in Conference history. The ESPN3 player will be embedded on the MAC official website, mac-sports.com, and each MAC institution website as well.
"This agreement reinforces the strong relationship between ESPN, the MAC and its member institutions," said Central Michigan Director of Athletics, David Heeke. "It is clear that the hard work by the conference and its members over the past few years, along with continued exposure on ESPN's networks, has built a national identity that led to this opportunity. Being able to further showcase our programs on a national level is critical to growing our brand in an increasingly competitive marketplace."