BYU's move to football independence and West Coast Conference membership in all other sports could have been bad. The Cougars could have found themselves without a TV partner and deprived of revenue. They didn't, though, and it's thanks to ESPN.
According to TV by the Numbers, which has a press release, BYU and ESPN have agreed to an eight-year deal beginning in 2011 that gives ESPN exclusive rights to all BYU home football games through 2018, with an option for 2019.
That's a win for BYU, which goes from a team hamstrung by its low-profile TV partners, Versus and The Mtn, to a team closely associated with the biggest name in college football broadcasting. It's only slightly mitigated by the fine print, as BYU play-by-play announcer Greg Wrubell tweets.
Fine print: eight-year deal is for every BYU home football game to be televised live on "ESPN family of networks or BYUTV."
Minimum three games on ESPN/ESPN2/ABC. Additional games on ESPNU. At least one game each season live on BYUTV.
No financial terms have been disclosed, but it's a good bet that ESPN got a deal on a growing power with a national following while BYU got a bigger slice of TV revenue that its previous deal provided.
That's only part of BYU's great day, though: The school also announced a six-game series with Notre Dame that will run through 2020.
For a school that has been arguably the second-best football team in its state for the latter half of the last decade, this is a haul. And because football is still the tail that wags the dog, BYU's non-gridiron programs might also see a surge in cash if the partnership with ESPN proves fruitful.
It's probably a path other schools can't follow—just as Notre Dame leveraged its appeal among Catholics before it, BYU's unique position as a representative of the Church of Latter-Day Saints probably helped secure this deal—but it's certainly one that looks to be the right road at this moment.