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Report: BYU reaches 7-year deal with ESPN to broadcast Cougar home football games

When asked to comment on McMurphy’s report, BYU athletic department spokesman Duff Tittle told the Deseret News via text message: “We’ve been saying for months that we’ll announce the new BYU-ESPN deal when everything is finalized. Nothing has changed.”

BYU fans storm the field after BYU beat USC in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. BYU won 30-27 in overtime.
BYU fans storm the field after BYU beat USC in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. BYU won 30-27 in overtime.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

A long-awaited contract between BYU and ESPN is reportedly near completion.

Stadium national college football expert Brett McMurphy reported Monday that BYU and ESPN have agreed to a seven-year deal that would allow the network to televise BYU home football games through the 2026 season.

According to McMurphy, this deal would also guarantee BYU a contracted bowl game when the team is bowl eligible, a deal the Cougars have had since going independent in 2011.

When asked to comment on McMurphy’s report, BYU athletic department spokesman Duff Tittle, an associate athletic director, told the Deseret News via text message: “We’ve been saying for months that we’ll announce the new BYU-ESPN deal when everything is finalized. Nothing has changed.”

BYU has been in negotiations with ESPN about a contract extension for more than a year.

“We are in a good spot,” athletic director Tom Holmoe said during football media day festivities last June. “We are at the tail end of good negotiations. There is the home games but then there is also the bowl series. The bowl games are the main reason it has taken more time to get to the end.”

Last summer, Holmoe expressed confidence that the deal would be completed before the end of the year, when the deal is set to expire.

“We’ve been with ESPN for a long time,” Holmoe said.

According to Holmoe, the original contract with ESPN included specific bowls that the Cougars could potentially play in. But the new agreement could have new provisions, and opportunities, when it comes to bowl games.

“This time there may be some primary games but there might be opportunities to get out of those to get into other bowls,” Holmoe said in June. “Some of the bowls pit maybe the No. 7 team from the Big 10 versus the No. 6 team from the SEC. If one of those conferences can’t fill those slots, contractually we might be able to get into those bowls. ESPN is working with the conferences and the bowls to take care of everyone.”

Both ESPN and Holmoe have been saying for years that the broadcasting contract between them has been mutually beneficial and extremely valuable to both parties. ESPN assists BYU in its scheduling as an independent program and offers favorable bowl destinations for the Cougars. For ESPN, BYU gives the Worldwide Leader flexibility and chance to stage attractive matchups that fit in its various broadcasting windows.

In 2010, on the day the Cougars announced they would go independent, ESPN and BYU announced an eight-year deal that allowed the network to televise Cougar home games. That deal was renewed in 2017, through the 2019 season.

BYU wrapped up the 2019 regular season last Saturday with a 13-3 loss to San Diego State. The Cougars’ home finale was on Nov. 16, a 42-10 win over Idaho State.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake expressed his appreciation in June for the work Holmoe has done behind the scenes working with ESPN.

“Tom’s done an amazing job as an athletic director in that relationship with ESPN. Putting together the schedules, from what I see, I don’t think he gets enough credit for that,” Sitake said.