The Atlantic 10 Conference aspires to be the nation’s best basketball-centric league, and commissioner Bernadette McGlade believes a new, eight-year media rights package affirms that status.
A-10 officials and television partners ESPN, CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network announced their long-term collaboration this week. Financial terms were not disclosed, but McGlade said the deal significantly increases the conference’s media revenue and nearly doubles its nationally televised games.
The Newport News-based A-10’s previous media deal, with ESPN and CBS Sports Network, ran seven years and expires after this season. NBC Sports Network is a new component and will nationally broadcast 25 men’s basketball games and six women’s contests annually. CBS Sports Network will air 25 and eight, ESPN 14 and two, plus the conference tournament championship games.
Conversely, the Colonial Athletic Association’s new media deal, announced in February, includes a minimum of nine national regular-season games, all on NBC Sports Network. Such numbers help explain VCU’s move from the CAA to A-10.
The A-10’s package’s national scope contrasts to its more regional contracts of the past. Given the conference’s presence in large-but-scattered markets such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Indianapolis and Richmond, national exposure was paramount.
“For our programs to be in the living rooms of the student-athletes they’re recruiting, in this day and age, that’s critical,” McGlade said as she traveled to New York for the A-10’s preseason basketball media function Thursday at the new Barclay’s Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and site of the A-10 men’s tournament from 2013-17.
The A-10’s commissioner since 2008, McGlade has long considered the conference “undervalued in terms of what we were getting out of our media exposures. But the contract was (set).”
McGlade called the new deals “a byproduct of the historical strength of the league. I think the media companies recognized that.”
Indeed, the A-10’s 41 at-large bids to the NCAA men’s tournament in the last 20 years trail only the six so-called BCS conferences. And once in the bracket, A-10 teams often advance, none more than Xavier. The Musketeers, North Carolina, Michigan State and Kansas are the only programs to reach four Sweet 16s in the last five seasons.
Plus, the A-10 this year adds recent Final Four programs Butler (2010 and ’11) and VCU (2011).
“We want to be the best basketball conference out there,” McGlade said. “We’re not a football league. We don’t have BCS football to lean on.”
The A-10’s most recent federal tax return available, for fiscal 2010-11, reported revenue of $10.2 million. Unlike many conferences, the A-10 did not categorize that income, but a majority of any league’s money comes form media rights.
That $10.2 million averaged to about $730,000 per each of the conference’s then 14 members. Major football conferences distribute $17 million-$20 million annually to each of their schools.
McGlade said A-10 teams now must prove their worthiness.
“It’s up to our student-athletes and coaches to step on the court and win games,” she added. “You have to win games.”
Has McGlade shared that message with her coaches?
“They‘ll hear it from me Thursday (in New York),” she said.
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