ESPNU, MEAC agree to seven year TV deal

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and ESPNU agreed to a seven-year contract earlier this year.

The deal guarantees MEAC sports will be televised through the year 2012.

Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the MEAC, said he is excited about the accord.

“This is a truly groundbreaking moment for the MEAC,” said Thomas. “It is another vehicle to market and promote all the great things that our institutions and our universities are doing.”

Burke Magnus, president of ESPNU, established a relationship with Thomas-and an interest in the MEAC-through ESPN’s coverage of the MEAC championship.

“I want everybody to realize that ESPNU is committed to HBCU sports,” said Magnus. “In my mind this was one of the largest untapped resources in college sports.” Now, Magnus said, ESPNU is a home for black college sports.

Thomas said the contract would allow MEAC players and coaches to show their talent on an international stage. He said this was their “opportunity to be seen by the world.”

With the deal, ESPNU has acquired exclusive rights to MEAC football and men’s basketball. “We look forward to providing tremendous national exposure of these two historic conferences and their member institutions,” Magnus said.

Eight MEAC football games have already been televised under the agreement. The Florida Classic, the match between Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University, will be televised on ESPNU, Nov. 19.

But Thomas wants MEAC sports fans to know ESPNU will televise more than football. Through this contract, men and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball will be included among others. Several women’s volleyball games have already been televised, including an Oct. 14, match between FAMU and Maryland Eastern Shore, said Thomas.

The MEAC men’s basketball games will begin airing Jan. 9, as last season’s second-place Hampton will visit second-to-last place Howard.

According to the Oct. 27 basketball TV schedule press release, ESPN2 will combine with ESPNU to televise the eight regular season games. ESPN Classic will broadcast the championship finals.

FAMU’s men’s basketball, which finished in the bottom half of the conference standings, will not benefit from the MEAC’s newly acquired national exposure.

The Rattlers are the only team in the MEAC that will not play in at least one televised in-conference regular season game.

The Rattlers men’s basketball finished last season with a 10-8 record in the conference and 14-15 overall.

Thomas said all the issues surrounding the FAMU Athletics Program played a role in the Rattlers’ exclusion from the TV schedule. But he also wanted to remind Rattlers’ fans that the championship was still a possibility.

“The Rattlers have won the MEAC championship in the past and they’ve got an opportunity to win it again,” said Thomas.

The MEAC men’s Championship Finals will be aired Mar. 11, on ESPN Classic.

Tilea Coleman, a spokeswoman for ESPNU, said the Rattlers would get a chance to be in the national spotlight. FAMU will face the Ohio State Buckeyes Jan 30.

Still, Michael Gillespie, head coach of the men’s basketball team, was disappointed. He said the MEAC had nothing to do with getting the Rattlers on that game, as it is an inter-conference match.

The Rattlers will start this season with Guard Tony Tate, a senior from Jersey City, N.J., appointed to the pre-season All-MEAC team. Forward Darius Glover made the pre-season All-MEAC second team.

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