When USC hosted Pac-10-leading Arizona on Feb. 24 in a crucial conference showdown, almost 7,000 fans at the Galen Center saw the Trojans revive their NCAA tournament hopes with their biggest win of the season.
To the rest of Southern California, however, it was as if that game didn't happen. Since the Trojans-Wildcats game wasn't televised anywhere except Arizona, the only way for fans to follow what was happening was via online game tracker, radio, or on a tape-delayed basis on USC's official athletics website.
That scenario has been all too common under the Pac-10's current antiquated media rights deal, but it appears next season will be the last fans will have to futilely search their TV listings to find their favorite team. The lucrative new 12-year, $3 billion deal the Pac-12 signed with ESPN and Fox vaults the league out of the TV dark ages, guaranteeing the league better exposure for televised games and enough platforms to ensure every men's basketball game is broadcast somewhere.
Sixty-eight games will be shown on either the ESPN or Fox family of networks, with ESPN airing 46 of those games on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday nights. Every other game will fall to the newly created Pac-12 network, which is slated to launch in August 2012.
"Today's announcement is a landmark agreement," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning. "The increased revenue comes at a critically important time. Today's announcement will result in savings of sports that otherwise might not have made it."
ESPN's involvement at all is a huge coup for a league that has long lagged behind its BCS-affiliated peers in terms of exposure. Pac-12 fans have long complained the conference suffered from a lack of exposure because ESPN didn't carry its games, a problem exacerbated by the limited, inconsistent national coverage FOX's regional carriers provide.
It's also significant that the Pac-10 did not have to agree to any Monday or Tuesday games, keeping open the potential for travel partners to still exist even though the league's traditional Thursday-Saturday pairings will become less common.
"I'm pleased that we didn't have to move off our scheduling model very much," Scott said. "We have no plans to play on other nights. We've done it in a way where it's not going to create more missed class time for student-athletes while taking advantage of the tremendous exposure offered by ESPN and Fox."