July 5, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The NCAA and ESPN, Inc., announced an agreement granting television rights to the sports network for 21 championships, including the College Cup for Men's and Women's Soccer and the Division I Women's Basketball Championship, for an 11-year period beginning September 2002.
The contract includes a number of improvements for exposure of the women's tournament. If approved by the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet, the Women's Final Four semifinals and championship games will be moved from Friday and Sunday to Sunday and Tuesday beginning in 2003 or as soon as possible.
Also new to the package of championship events are two games - game No. 3 and the final (both Saturday games) - of the College World Series, which have been carried by CBS Sports.
Other proposed scheduling changes for the women's tournament include moving the first two rounds from Friday/Saturday to Saturday/Sunday and spreading the regional semifinals and finals over four days rather than two. In addition, ESPN will air a special program from the open practice sessions at the Women's Final Four.
"This new agreement allows the Association to continue its relationship with the network that has helped establish the Division I Women's Basketball Championship as a premier event," NCAA President Cedric Dempsey said. "The enhanced prime-time exposure is a great improvement, and ESPN will expand its coverage to all 63 games in the tournament."
The current contract with ESPN requires coverage of a minimum of 23 games in the women's tourney, although the network has exceeded the minimum coverage.
"This is great for college sports and the women's basketball tournament," said ESPN President George Bodenheimer. "No one delivers more national exposure and cross-promotional value than ESPN. We're proud of our 22-year history with the NCAA and the expansion of our year-long commitment to the NCAA championship events."
Under the new contract, ESPN will provide a significantly enhanced promotional package for the NCAA and college sports, including eight highlight programs (up from two) during the women's championship, as well as an annual promotional campaign to run from November to March on ESPN and ESPN2.
The move of the baseball games in the College World Series is part of a collaborative arrangement among the NCAA, CBS Sports and ESPN that includes telecasting by ESPN of the opening round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship and a special from the Friday practice sessions at the Men's Final Four. ESPN will also have one hour of network time on CBS to promote Division I women's basketball stories.
"This agreement represents a somewhat historic and very exciting relationship between the NCAA and its two television rights holders," Dempsey said. "The result will mean more coverage for our events and new programming for college sports fans."
The collaborative arrangement also gives ESPN the opportunity for studio reports from the Final Four venue at times other than when CBS is telecasting from the site. The two networks will explore cross promotion of the men's and women's basketball championships on their respective telecasts.
Changes for other NCAA championships in the ESPN package include an increase in coverage for the Women's College World Series and a proposed schedule change to Friday (from Saturday) for live coverage of the Division II Women's Basketball Championship to avoid conflict with the Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.
In addition, ESPN will provide coverage of all NCAA championships throughout the year on ESPN Classic and will carry NCAA championship highlights on ESPN.com.
Under the terms of the new agreement with the NCAA, ESPN will continue to televise bracket announcement shows for the Division I Men's Ice Hockey, Women's Basketball and Men's Baseball Championships.
ESPN will also telecast NCAA special programs (Home Run Challenge, Woman of the Year and NCAA Honors Dinner).
Included in the current and new rights package held by ESPN are the following championships: Division I Women's Basketball, Division I Baseball (College World Series), Division II Women's Basketball, Divisions I-AA, II and III Football, National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics, Division I Men's Ice Hockey (Men's Frozen Four), Division I Men's and Women's Indoor Track and Field, Division I Men's Lacrosse, Division I Men's Soccer, Division I Women's Soccer, Division I Women's Softball (Women's College World Series), Division I Men's Swimming and Diving, Division I Women's Swimming and Diving, Division I Men's Tennis, Division I Women's Tennis, National Collegiate Men's Volleyball, Division I Women's Volleyball, and Division I Wrestling.
Similar to the agreement with CBS Sports, the NCAA can decide to renegotiate the contract at the end of eight years.