Here's why Conference USA signed a Grant of Rights agreement
If you're a CUSA fan, I recommend you back away from the ledge
Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.
Do you know what news story has inspired the greatest amount of reader mail this week? Not anything related to ACC expansion. Not anything related to EA Sports College Football. Not anything related to NIL, Washington D.C, or any of the actual D-I college football games that will be played this weekend.
It was this story from Friend of the Newsletter Chris Vannini of The Athletic, that stated that Conference USA institutions signed a Grant of Rights agreement as part of their newest media rights deal. To the best of my knowledge, CUSA’s peer conferences, like the MAC, MWC and Sun Belt, have not signed similar agreements.
My readers wanted to know why. So I called up folks at a variety of CUSA institutions, as well as the league office.
Everybody I spoke to told me that the Grant of Rights provision was part of the media rights negotiation with ESPN and CBS. Everybody I talked to also believed that the new media rights deal, even with several conference games being moved to the middle of the week, is substantially better than what the league had before, both in terms of linear exposure opportunities, and in rights fees, and if signing a GOR was a necessary step to secure that deal, then it was worth it.
One league AD told me that without a GOR, CUSA would not have been able to secure as many linear broadcast opportunities with ESPN and CBS that the league enjoys now.
Like GOR agreements with other, larger conferences, this agreement does establish a level of security and stability in league membership. It would be pretty expensive for a CUSA member to leave this year for another conference opportunity. A different AD told me that the agreement is one of the many reasons why he’s sleeping a little better at night, since he can feel more confident in the league’s stability, for at least the short term.
But unlike say, the ACC’s GOR, a school isn’t going to need to borrow money from a private equity group to leave. The CUSA media rights deal is about $800,000 a year, so leaving with five years left would come out to $4 million dollars, plus any league exit fees That’s probably too much for any member of the league, unless the Big 12 came calling. But $800,000 at two years? $1.6 million plus exit fees is a different negotiation.
From talking to folks affiliated with schools that could potentially leave CUSA over the course of the deal, and from talking to folks that probably won’t have other options, the consensus was that the GOR was a net positive and not something fans should be concerned about.
It’s a tradeoff of short-term league affiliation flexibility for medium-term access to linear broadcast exposure.
And it’s that kind of exposure that will make weekends like this one possible. Week 0 starts this Saturday, and you can watch UTEP play at Jacksonville State at 4:30 on CBSNM, UMass play at New Mexico State on ESPN on 6 PM God’s Time Zone (7 PM ET), or FIU play at Louisiana Tech at 8 PM on CBSSN. Three CUSA games, all on linear broadcast television.
Speaking of TV, here’s a quick word from one of our sponsors
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What else did we publish this week?
I talked to the Summit League to understand why their new media rights deal (which does not involve ESPN) is so unique in the mid-major space, and what success will look like for them.
I brought in Len Simon, a lawyer and professor who worked on California’s landmark NIL bill, to explain why he thinks Missouri’s state NIL legislation might be unconstitutional. And actually, why several states could have NIL laws that might be in trouble with the constitution.
I looked at the various conference realignment options open to Washington State and Oregon State right now, and which ones appear more likely than others.
We finished several updates to Athletic Director Simulator 3000, including even more unique scenarios, and game balance tweaks.
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I’m going to make some more calls so I’ll have fun newsletters for you to read next week. This weekend, I’m looking forward to enjoying a cold beverage or two and watching some UMass and New Mexico State football.
I’ll see you in your inbox next week.
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