EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Midweek football games for UTEP and New Mexico State will feature prominently on the 2023 Conference USA schedule with the league’s new media rights deal, according to a report from Sports Business Journal.
Per SBJ, Conference USA agreed to a new television rights deal with CBS Sports Network and ESPN on Wednesday. Part of the new five-year deal will shift C-USA’s entire conference football schedule in the month of October to midweek evening games, beginning in 2023.
The majority of the league’s October, 2023, schedule will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with a few games also slated for Thursday and Friday. The scheduling idea is akin to what the Mid-American Conference has done with its midweek “MACtion” games during the month of November.
The new tv rights deal will net each Conference USA university around $750,000 per season, according to the Sports Business Journal report, a considerable increase from the current $425,000 each school receives per year. That would put the league just behind its most direct Group of Five competitors – the MAC and the Sun Belt – in terms of TV revenue deals.
Brett McMurphy of the Action Network reported that the deal could earn each school around $800,000 per season.
It was done to increase the exposure of its teams and to make games easier to find on linear television. Four new members will join the league in 2023 (Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State, Sam Houston) and a fifth will enter the fold in 2024 (Kennesaw State).
“Obviously, revenue is important, but what kept coming up with our membership was exposure. How do we maximize our potential and move forward? … This is our chance to prove ourselves and then hopefully we’ll go back to the market (in five years) and increase our value,” Conference USA commissioner Judy MacLeod told Sports Business Journal.
Both UTEP and New Mexico State have not shied away from playing midweek games in recent years. The Miners hosted Boise State on a Friday night and played at Rice on a Thursday this season; the Aggies played at Minnesota on a Thursday night in September.
“If we’re playing them we’ll be excited about them and we’ll urge our fans to get out here and support it and support the novelty of playing in mid-week action, so we’ll definitely embrace it,” UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said. “The selling point is that it just gets you exposure, that’s the idea the conference is bannering around that it’s going to be best for us.”
On Thursday, C-USA officially announced its plans for its new TV rights deal, with details that will help sports other than football have even more visibility.
CBS Sports Network will air the conference championship games for football, women’s basketball, baseball, softball, and the semifinals and finals of the men’s basketball conference tournament. 18 football and 18 men’s basketball games will be eligible for selection annually on CBS Sports Net.
ESPN3 and ESPN+ will have the rights to all football games that don’t air on either ESPN’s linear networks, or CBS Sports Net. All Olympic sports – baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, etc. – will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN3 and ESPN+.
Additionally, ESPN’s linear networks will air a minimum of five men’s basketball games and one women’s basketball game per season. All other men’s and women’s basketball games that are not aired by CBS Sports Network will be picked up by ESPN’s digital platforms (ESPN3/ESPN+).