Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jeff Hathaway rips ESPN

Biggest news from the Tuesday media luncheon came from UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway, who ripped ESPN for its decision to stick the Huskies on ESPNU for the next two weeks.

That makes it four times since Sept. 22 that UConn has been relegated to the relatively obscure station, which is carried on very few cable systems in the state. Hathaway mentioned the financial concerns as well as the lack of exposure for the Big East's first-place team. There is no compensation to UConn for games broadcast on ESPNU. Anything on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC (part of the family) nets $100,000 for the school.

"I fully understand that the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut football program is being used by the network to leverage cable companies in our state -- which are so important for the network -- to add ESPNU to their platform. We understand that, we know that's what is happening. But without question, as I explained to commissioner Tranghese as early as this morning, as the team that's in first place in the Big East, our expectation is to be on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. We understand than an occasional game may be on ESPNU. I've relayed my concerns to the commissioner, that first and foremost, the first-place team in the Big East, is giving up exposure on a national basis that first and foremost drives recruiting and drives fan interest. Secondarily, in our revenue sharing program within the Big East Conference, teams on ESPNU are not compensated on a per-game basis as they are on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2.

"But I want to make it clear that our primary concern is exposure. This football program, our student-athletes and coaches have worked hard to put us in a position to be successful. This institution has invested mightily in this program over the years to put us in this position. We know that the exposure we should be getting today, we are not getting. The exposure we should be getting today relates to recruiting success. And we want everyone to know that our expectation is we should be on that platform."

The Big East Conference signed a long-term deal with ESPN in 2006 for men's and women's basketball and football that runs through 2013. It means the network can do with it whatever it wants in terms of placement and game time. Hathaway said UConn and the Big East plans to stay on this issue in an attempt to get better television exposure from the network.


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