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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

UH-Boise State tops ESPN's Fridays

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

It wasn't just the University of Hawai'i that had reason to celebrate the Warriors' Western Athletic Conference championship game victory over Boise State.

ESPN was also rejoicing after the game produced the largest audience, 2,647,000 households, of its 14 Friday night college football games on ESPN or ESPN2 this season. And the WAC is hopeful it will be ammunition for an improved network television contract.

"That (2.8 share) was also ESPN2's best rating (overall) of 2007, a great rating," said Mike Humes, an ESPN spokesman.

"Those are pretty darn good numbers," said WAC commissioner Karl Benson, who has been looking for solid ratings to take to the negotiating table when contract renewal talks resume with ESPN. The WAC Board of Directors, which is composed of the presidents or chancellors of the nine member schools, has twice turned down ESPN extension offers.

The six-year contract runs through the 2009-10 academic year.

The existing agreement pays the WAC approximately $6 million over six years and guarantees a minimum number of appearances for football (8) and men's basketball (3) each season spread over the ESPN network of ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. Both subsequent extension offers from ESPN have carried improved financial terms, but Benson said, "I can't disclose how much."

The WAC also has sought a rights fee more in line with the seven-year, $48 million deal the Mountain West Conference has with College Sports Television. The MWC, however, has been burdened by a deal where many of its televised games are not available in areas represented by conference members.

UH has appeared in three Friday games this season San Jose State, Nevada and Boise State. Saturday's UH-Washington game will be the Warriors' sixth appearance on an ESPN property this season, a school record and matching a WAC best.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.