Yesterday it was announced that the West Coast Conference has a new contract with ESPN to broadcast many of their basketball games starting next season. Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said “BYU Helped” with it. He was interviewed this morning on 1320 Kfan about it. Here’s a brief recap. (You can find the complete audio at their website http://www.1320kfan.com/) Here is a link to the official press release of the contract.
Q: Was it time to get a new deal because BYU changed the economics of the conference?
It was time anyway. Our existing deal was expiring so certainly the timing of BYU coming in didn’t hurt but it likely helped. It made it a little bit of a different conversation with ESPN.
The negotiations take a long time and we just started talking to ESPN about what the future holds. It’s impossible to tell without BYU in the conference what this would’ve looked like because obviously their national fan base and the football side of BYU and ESPN is relational to this deal too. They improve what we were doing already.
Zaninovich was then asked about the previous ESPN Mountain West Conference contract that had late night games and if this new contract with the WCC would have similar late night match ups.
We intend to stay in our Thursday/Saturday format with our new nine round robin game schedule. There are some elements that will slide but not fundamentally. There will be select Monday games but there are assurances that games wont start later than 9 PM MT. ESPN came to us with that. We didn’t have to mention that to them. The Thursday/Saturday games will be location specific. It depends on how the location shakes out.
Q: With the league at nine teams, are you set for awhile with travel partners or does it make sense to go to ten teams?
If we feel there’s a school out there that can make us better then it will make sense. We’re looking for someone else who fits institutionally like BYU does, but we have no plans to go to ten teams anytime soon. We have great respect for Seattle University and we see them in the annual golf championship but we have no plans to go to ten schools with them or anyone else at this point. We’re comfortable as a nine school conference.
Q: Do you have travel partners set up?
We did but they’ve broken down a little bit over the years. It’s all related to TV and otherwise. Our nine school model will break that down even more but we’ll still be able to limit the amount of flights. It has to do with how you manage your logistics and with our geography we can set up the round robin schedule just fine.
Q: Is everyone in the league on the same page? Some schools seem content but others want to be big time nationally. Gonzaga wants to build a big time program. Are other schools driven like that?
I think so. It’s a good time for us right now. We understand the commitment that’s necessary to compete on a national stage. We’ve seen stability in retaining our coaches. We’ve not lost a coach in four years and we have national programs in our conference.
Gonzaga and St. Marys will tell you that having an ESPN platform behind you when you’re scheduling can’t hurt and a lot of times will add to opportunities that wouldn’t have been there before.
Our conference tournament will start Wednesday and go through Saturday. We will take Sunday off and play the championship Monday night. Three straight days of our Tournament in Las Vegas will be broadcast. We will keep our existing format and taking Sunday off will work well for everyone.
Q: What’s your agreement long term with the Orleans Arena?
We’re under contract through 2012. we’ve been incredibly pleased working with them. we’re talking to them about options for the future. BYU brings a lot of fans as well as Gonzaga, so we may have a good problem on our hands. We may not have enough seats for all the traveling fans but we’ll look at that first before we make a decision for other venues.
Q: Where will the rest of the games be that are not on ESPN?
We have great regional partners. 80% of our games last year were on regional or national television. The BYU home games that aren’t selected on ESPN will be on BYUtv. Gonzaga games that aren’t cleared will be picked up by Root Sports, the former Fox Sports West. Each of our schools have a partner that will take most of their home networks usually Comcast or Cox. Those feeds are shared by region. We plan on getting all games to all BYU fans. I dont see anything but growth.
Q: Will the conference use BYUtv for other events?
We have talked about that. The tournament last year was a great success and we didn’t anticipate that happening before BYU joined but they asked and I thought that was a great way to start that relationship off.
A great relationship starter it was.