Mountain West deal with ESPN should get Fresno State more exposure and money

Expect some Fresno State football games back on ESPN. Maybe a few Fresno State men’s basketball games on ESPN as well.

The Mountain West Conference and ESPN are finalizing a seven-year media rights deal for the sports network to televise up to 22 football games, as well as 25 men’s basketball games annually, according to ESPN.com

Fresno State fans can expect some Bulldogs football games to be televised on an ESPN channel again, most likely games against Boise State.

And that means more potential exposure and money for Fresno State.

The deal with ESPN brings the Mountain West’s media rights deal up to $116 million through 2019-2020, roughly $18 million per year. The conference still is negotiating the rights to the Mountain West championship football game, which would generate more revenue.

Fresno State had played some of its football games on ESPN’s stable of channels while the school was in the Western Athletic Conference.

But that type of national exposure went away at the start of this current school year when Fresno State joined the Mountain West. Since the Mountain West didn’t have any agreement with ESPN or ABC, most of its top football games were televised on the NBC Sports Network.

There appears to be some caveats with the pending deal, however, and it favors Boise State more than any other program in the conference. That was to be expected as part of the Boise State’s agreement to stay in the Mountain West rather than join the Big East in football.

Of the 22 football games to be televised on ESPN, all six of Boise State’s home games will be included, and much of the monies with the ESPN deal are tied to games involving the Broncos.

At the least, Fresno State fans can anticipate the football game against Boise State to shown on an ESPN network, based on past history. Each time the Bulldogs and Broncos faced each other while in the WAC, ESPN televised the game.

But the return to ESPN also will likely mean playing games on non-Saturdays again as Fresno State often did at the network’s request while in the WAC.

Fresno State’s schedule last season was the first time in more than 10 years that the Bulldogs played all of their regular-season games on Saturdays.

CBS and CBS Sports Network remains the primary holder for Mountain West games and still gets first pick of the best games.