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Late Wednesday, while Bryan and I were recording Going For Two, our friends at SBJ broke the news that Conference USA had signed a new TV deal with ESPN and CBS. On Thursday, the conference confirmed those reports.

If you haven't seen it yet, here are the topline details.

The five-year contract is expected to pay in the neighborhood of $750,000-$800,000 a year to each school over the course of the deal. CBS Sports will carry the Tier 1 package, which includes 18 football games and 18 men's basketball games, along with the football championship game, women's basketball championship games, baseball and softball championship games, and men's basketball semifinals and finals.

ESPN will get a handful of men's basketball games, as well rights to put remaining inventory on the ESPN+/ESPN3 family of streaming platforms.

But the truly unique part of the deal is what ESPN is getting on the football side. All of CUSA's conference football games in the month of October will be played during the week, instead of Saturdays, with the games being broadcast on CBS Sports Network and across the ESPN linear network family. that good? In my opinion, it depends on who you're asking.

It's unquestionably a big win for broadcast exposure

Because CUSA's membership has been hammered by defections over the last decade, the conference has struggled to find stable media partners that consumers can easily find. CUSA football has been broadcast on Facebook, NFL Network, Stadium...even something called beINSports, a network that is, as I am typing right now, currently broadcasting bare knuckle boxing.

It will now be much easier for any fan to find a Conference USA sporting event. It's either gonna be on an ESPN, CBS Sports Network, or ESPN+. Most sports fans that care about mid-major college sports already have ESPN+, and now coaches don't need to worry about helping a recruit's meemaw figure out how to get Stadium all fired up on the Roku or whatever. This broadcast package is simple and easy to sell to recruits and fans.

Because of how critically important that broadcast exposure is, I understand why the league felt they should take the calculated risk of moving significant inventory to October weekdays. And make no mistake about it, while doing this is a win for television exposure and brand Q score, it absolutely sucks for anybody who actually goes to these games...and the athletes playing in them.

There may be exciting and unique football played on Wednesday nights in the MAC or Sun Belt, but it's usually against the backdrop of a mostly empty stadium. It's hard to drive 90 minutes on a school/work night to head to a college football game, especially since the weather might be lousy. It's hard to get huge student crowds when many have class and work responsibilities the next day. It sucks to disrupt the schedule and routine for athletes who now have mid-week travel obligations, requiring them to miss more class. It's not an ideal situation.

Here is a stock image of a bunch of guys trying to figure out how to watch Conference USA football under previous TV contracts

Now, a more cynical person might point out that most current CUSA programs struggle to fill a stadium on a September Saturday, so it's not like they're giving up too many ticket sales by moving that October Sam Houston/Middle Tennessee game to a Tuesday. They may very well be right.

But that may be cold comfort to a fan in a place like Ruston or Bowling Green that does regularly go to these games, or a player who may now have to take an exam after getting beaten up by UTEP the day before. And while $800,000 a year is nice, it's not nearly enough money to paper over every possible drawback, especially if it means a decline in ticket and concession revenue. It certainly isn't enough to recruit a previously uninterested program into joining CUSA.

I'm not saying it was the wrong decision. With this membership inventory, exposure needs and current climate, I don't even know how many other options Conference USA had. This could very well be the best play of a lousy hand, and one that provides meaningful benefits, especially to non-football sports. If some of the new FCS recruits quickly become strong brands, perhaps this new exposure can be the springboard towards a much better contract in the future.

But playing games on Wednesday nights has some real costs as well. Here's hoping the athletes and students can mitigate those as well as possible.

Beyond CUSA TV talk, Bryan and I also talked about what makes for a good stadium experience

Last Saturday, I did something I don't do very often. I went to a college football game as a regular ol' fan, taking my father-in-law to the Ohio State/Northwestern game. I bought these tickets before I realized that this game would be played in quasi-hurricane conditions, and kept the tickets, because I am stubborn and stupid.

It was a pretty unpleasant experience, and not just because of the wind, rain, and my reluctance to swear in front of my father-in-law, a man who recently served as an LDS bishop and who I know is at least a teensy bit disappointed every time I cuss on the internet.

It was also unpleasant because, well, Ryan Field kinda sucks. There's no cell phone service, poor concession options inside the stadium, and unable to easily accommodate the swarms of people who ran to the concourses to seek shelter from the wind and rain. There are plenty of good reasons why Northwestern just wants to build a completely new stadium.

Beyond talking about the CUSA deal, we also chatted about what makes for a good stadium experience in 2022, what might be learned from other sports, and what a college program might be able to do to improve things, when razing their 100-year-old facility isn't an option.

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