CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 8) - Mid-American Conference Commissioner Rick Chryst announced a new, comprehensive, multi-year programming and production agreement with ESPN, Inc. at the conclusion of the conference's annual Spring Meetings at the Wyndham Toledo Hotel.
The new agreement, which becomes effective with the upcoming 2000 college football season, guarantees the MAC more than 30 national regular and post-season appearances in football and men's basketball over the term of the agreement (2000-2003). Highlighting the programming agreement are exclusive national rights to both the MAC Football Championship Game and the MAC Men's Basketball Championship Game, as well as a minimum of five regular-season football games and nine regular-season basketball appearances over the next three years.
As part of the agreement, the MAC also announced that the 2000 MAC Football Championship Game will be televised live nationally on ABC Sports -- believed to be the first full national, over-the-air network broadcast of a MAC football game in the conference's 56-year history. The game will be scheduled for Saturday, December 2 at 1:00 p.m. (EST) at Marshall Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. The MAC Championship Game will be the first contest of ABC's college football tripleheader on December 2, followed by the Big 12 Conference and Southeastern Conference championship games.
The 1999 MAC Football Championship Game earned a 2.0 rating on ESPN2, making it the second most-watched college football game in the network's five-year history. No. 11 Marshall defeated Western Michigan 34-30 when quarterback Chad Pennington tossed the winning touchdown pass with seven seconds remaining in the game.
"We couldn't be more excited about this new arrangement," Chryst said. "It affords us guaranteed national exposure in football and men's basketball over the next three years, which is critical as this conference continues to grow. More importantly, it represents a broad and extensive relationship with the leading name in college sports television."
Chryst also unveiled a new format for the men's basketball tournament that has the championship game on NCAA Selection Weekend. Eight teams will advance to Cleveland and Gund Arena after first-round tournament games on campus sites on Monday, March 5. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday, March 8, semifinal games will be played on Friday, March 9 and the championship game is scheduled for Saturday evening, March 10. The championship will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
"We feel the move of the men's basketball tournament to selection weekend is very significant," Chryst offered. "Getting to a weekend format, with the championship game on a Saturday, will give us an opportunity to create a tournament fan in the market while also giving school fans a chance to plan a weekend in Cleveland."
Included within the agreement is a continuation of the league's syndication relationship with ESPN Regional Television, a subsidiary of ESPN, Inc. ESPN Regional Television will continue to produce the conference's regular-season football and men's and women's basketball regional packages.
In other MAC business, Chryst announced that conference administrators approved a nine-inning baseball format for both regular-season and tournament play. Further, that the MAC's divisional scheduling framework would continue to be emphasized in its six core sports, including volleyball, baseball and softball in addition to football and men's and women's basketball.