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BIG WEST SIGNS CABLE AGREEMENT

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The Big West Conference, which recently was released from its contract with Prime Ticket because of scheduling conflicts, has reached an agreement with SportsChannel.

Sources said SportsChannel will pay $3.4 million over six years for the rights to 52 events a year, highlighted by 10 football games and 20 men's basketball games.But there is some controversy over how that money will be divided.

Creative Sports Marketing, a North Carolina-based company owned by Bray Cary, has been negotiating the TV rights for the Big West.

Cary's competitors claim that by the time the contract expires, Cary's company will have received an unusually high 50 percent of the rights fees, or $1.7 million, shortchanging the member schools.

Robert L. Schibel, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing unnamed parties identified only as concerned taxpayers, recently sent letters to presidents of the Big West schools threatening legal action.

Schibel said the Big West Conference did not seek competitive bids for its television rights.

Opponents of the SportsChannel deal also point out that the Big West's exposure has been reduced from 4.1 million homes, Prime Ticket's subscriber base, to about 100,000, which reportedly is SportsChannel's base.

However, in a prepared statement, Big West Commissioner James Haney said: "The Big West Conference is extremely pleased to have its teams showcased on SportsChannel, and we look forward to a long and rewarding relationship."

The deal also includes the California Raisin Bowl, plus baseball, women's basketball and volleyball.