LARAMIE — Count Tom Burman among the fans of the Mountain West’s new media rights agreement.
“It’s clearly more lucrative,” Wyoming’s athletic director said. “It’s a good deal for the conference, and it’s a good deal for Wyoming.”
The league on Thursday announced a six-year, $270-million deal with CBS Sports and FOX that will go into effect July 1 and significantly increase each member school’s payout when that time comes. It’s $45 million annually, which, on the surface, comes out to a cut of a little more than $4 million per school.
But Burman said it’s not quite that lucrative given the arrangements Boise State and Hawaii have with the conference. Boise State will continue to get an additional $1.8 million as part of a deal that allows the school to negotiate its home football games separately — a stipulation the MW allowed back in 2012 when the Broncos threatened to leave for the Big East. Hawaii, a football-only member, also negotiates home games through a local pay-per-view deal that allows the school to keep all the money from that package.
If each school’s annual payout from the league’s contract exceeds what Hawaii’s local deal is worth, Hawaii will get 80 percent of the difference as a sort of mitigation, which would likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Burman said those funds along with Boise State’s additional $1.8 million will be deducted off the top each year before what’s left is divided among the 11 schools (up to four Hawaii games could still be selected by CBS and FOX collectively).
That would leave each school’s cut short of $4 million annually, though it’s still a significant increase from the $1.1 million payout under the current contract.
“I’m guessing we’re going to be slightly north of $3 million in net money, and that will probably include the third tier, which will probably be some sort of streaming,” Burman said. “So that’s the last piece of it.”
CBS will still be the primary rights holder with FOX replacing ESPN as a new player in the league’s deal. CBS or CBS Sports Network will carry 23 football games and 32 men’s basketball games while up to that many games in both sports will be broadcast on FOX, FS1 or FS2 each season. FOX will televise the MW football championship game. CBS will continue to air the league’s men’s basketball tournament title game.
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But late start times — a concern for Wyoming and many schools around the conference given the late-season weather and the lack of exposure they lend themselves to the eastern United States — aren’t going away, which didn’t exactly catch Burman by surprise.
Burman is one of five athletic directors that serves on the MW’s TV subcommittee, joining Boise State’s Curt Apsey, San Diego State’s John David Wicker, Colorado State’s Joe Parker and Nevada’s Doug Knuth. Whether it was over the phone every few months or in person at the league’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the group frequently worked with a consultant during negotiations.
Depending on the network, football games could kick off as late as 8 p.m. local time while basketball games could tip as late as 9. Burman said it was a point of contention during negotiations, but ultimately, the league had to compromise.
“Night games in Laramie and at Air Force and in Fort Collins are different than night games in San Diego and Fresno,” Burman said. “So we come from different spaces, and we all represent our school. So we would disagree on that occasionally.”
The league won’t have any more football games starting closer to 9 p.m. or basketball games tipping even later than that, but taking any more control over start times would’ve meant leaving money on the table, Burman said.
“To do that, we would’ve had to walk away from probably $2 million,” he said. “When you factor out, at our level, what does it require you generating in additional ticket sales to generate $2 million? It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t pencil. So at the end of the day, this is the best opportunity we had and we’re thrilled with it.”
So how will Wyoming use the additional funds it’s set to receive from the new deal in the future?
The inflation that naturally comes with running an athletic department each year will cut into them a bit. Burman said medical expenses are “exploding” given the athletic department was approximately $300,000 over budget this past year. Those costs include more specialized treatment and additional staff members, including a mental health professional.
It’s one idea, though Burman said no decisions have been made as to where the funds will be specifically allotted.
“We’re going to strategically invest in some areas,” Burman said. “We’ve got some things we’d like to do in football. We’ve obviously got to get better in basketball. We’ve got to resolve those issues. And there’s always coaches that come to us with a great plan, and we invest in it.”
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter.