ESPN and the MAC agree to 13-year rights extension

Ray Strickland

The Mid-American Conference and ESPN reached a 13-year rights extension deal through the 2026-27 season, the longest in the conference’s 68-year history.

The announcement was made Aug. 19 during a joint media conference by ESPN and the MAC, which was hosted by MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbreche and Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president of Programming and Acquisitions. 

During the teleconference, Magnus said “This extension, and expansion of our agreement, significantly increases the live event coverage for fans while providing tremendous value to ESPN, the MAC and its member institutions.”

According to the MAC’s press release, the new provisions provide ESPN exclusive television and digital distribution rights for all MAC sporting events, coverage of every football game, select men’s and women’s basketball and Olympic sporting events.


Magnus said that a minimum of 420 MAC sporting events across multiple ESPN media outlets would air per year.

The deal adds ten more years to the original national rights agreement, which had three years remaining. The previous contract was worth 1.4 million per year, while the new contract is valued at roughly $8 million per year, according to a report by the Columbus Dispatch.

In the same report, several sources indicate that the contract is worth more than $100 million and will pay each of the 12 MAC schools about $670,000 per year through 2027.

Ken Mather, assistant commissioner of media and public relations for the MAC, said the announcement of the extension was an “historic” day for the conference and shows how valuable ESPN thought they were.

“ESPN saw value in who we are and what we’ve accomplished,” Mather said. “To me that shows value in what they saw from us as a conference and what we were doing in a number of sports across various campuses. It wasn’t one university or one athletic department; it was the collective efforts of our conference.”

The MAC’s football success in recent memory was one of the key elements of getting this deal done. The 2014 MAC football regular season will now be highlighted by national coverage of 14 mid-week games during the month of November on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.

“This component will open up nearly 92 million households from ESPN3, providing additional exposure and visibility for many of our nationally competitive programs, “said Joel Nielsen, director of athletics at Kent State, in a Cleveland Plain Dealer report. “Plus, we intend to utilize our nationally recognized College of Communication and Information and their students to produce these contests…a great way to integrate our students and faculty into the athletic program.”

The MAC has had a lot of success over the past four years in a variety of sports, which also played a role in ESPN’s pursuit of a new deal.

In 2010, the University of Akron won the NCAA Men’s Soccer National Championship; in 2011, the women’s basketball team in Toledo won the WNIT Championship; in 2012, the Ohio Bobcats men’s basketball team made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; and in 2013, the Northern Illinois Huskies football team punched their ticket to the Discover Orange Bowl.

Kent State has had a number of outstanding individual performers as well.  Former Kent State wrestler Dustin Kilgore was a national champion in 2011, the Kent State baseball team made it to the 2013 NCAA College World Series and most recently, Kent State’s Matthias Tayala was named the 2014 NCAA outdoor track and field hammer throw champion.

Contact Ray Strickland at [email protected].