Mountain West, ESPN ink national TV deal

The Mountain West Conference and ESPN on Wednesday officially announced a multi-year deal to televise select conference football and men’s basketball games through 2019-20.

ESPN will  televise up to 16 MW football games, plus every Boise State home game, as well as up to 31 men’s basketball games annually.

The ESPN deal does not supercede the MW’s agreement with CBS Sports Network, which remains the conference’s primary rights-holder. CBS Sports Network and ESPN will alternate game selections after CBS Sports Network gets the first pick. (CBS Sports Network retains the rights to Boise State road football games.)

Financial terms were not disclosed, but ESPN’s Brett McMurphy previously reported the two deals will be worth a total of about $18 million annually.

“The Mountain West looks forward to rejoining the ESPN networks beginning with our 15th season this fall,” MW Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a news release. “Coupled with CBS Sports Network, we anticipate tremendous national exposure over several outlets as the league continues its growth and development.”

Between the two networks, up to 44 football and 56 men’s basketball games will be televised annually on their various platforms.

The MW is also negotiating with CBS Sports Network to televise its first conference championship football game.

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

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.

How Trent Dilfer gets to those ESPN sets: Weekly 3,000-mile journeys

Former Fresno State and NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, right, speaks at Northside Christian Church in Sanger in March 2008. (JOHN WALKER/THE FRESNO BEE)

Trent Dilfer looks fresh, in command and as a natural on those ESPN sets in Bristol, Conn., Sundays and Mondays for six months during the NFL season.

But consider the weekly, cross-country traveling itinerary for the former Fresno State and 13-year NFL quarterback, who has blossomed into one of ESPN’s leading football analysts.

It’s 3,000 miles from his Bay Area home in Los Gatos to Bristol.

He takes a red-eye flight on Saturday night to New York and is then car-serviced to Bristol: “I get in six or seven hours of sleep in the plane and car; it’s enough.”

He’s on the ESPN set until 1 a.m. on Sunday night, and then gets up early Monday to fly to the home site of the Monday Night Football game. And, of course, that could be anywhere in the country.

He then typically flies private, along with ESPN partner Steve Young, back to the West Coast and is “always” home by noon Tuesday.

Remarkably, Dilfer says he missed only one volleyball match last season of his oldest daughter, Maddie, who’s a national-class player for Valley Christian of San Jose. The Warriors won the Central Coast Section Division III title. She’s a 5-11 junior who’s about to announce her choice of attending Notre Dame or Cal on scholarship. She’s been one of Valley Christian’s leading hitters for three seasons, but is being recruited as a setter.

Maddie Dilfer is playing in a national-level tournament this weekend in Las Vegas. Her father will attend, leave Saturday to speak at Jim Sweeney’s public memorial at Bulldog Stadium, and then return that night to Vegas.