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Chuck B.

Ancient Eight To Negotiate National TV Package?

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In the relatively quiet world of the Ivy League and televising of regional football games, the following announcement on Bloomberg [URL="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601079&sid=aVpMQbLOhl9I"]about a possible national Ivy League TV package[/URL] is bound to send some shockwaves:

[QUOTE]Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said she wants to negotiate national television agreements to show football, basketball and possibly lacrosse and soccer games.

Individual schools had been working out their own agreements. Now they are willing to give up the best games from their regional television packages if Harris can use them as leverage to get a multiyear agreement that showcases the league’s best teams as a season comes to a conclusion, athletic directors said. [/QUOTE]

Even so, it's still baby steps:

[QUOTE]Harris says it’s unlikely she’ll have an agreement in place for the 2010 football season. She said she is talking to media consultants and the athletic directors, and will need approval from the eight Ivy League presidents.

She declined to discuss which networks might be interested or how much revenue the league might expect to generate from such as contract.

The league had a TV contract for the 2008 football season with Comcast Corp.’s Versus network that ensured all eight schools would appear once. Last season, Versus negotiated with schools individually to show four games. [/QUOTE]

The Ivy League has long suffered a bit of an image problem in the FCS - partly stemming from the Ancient Eight's unwillingness to participate in the FCS playoffs (which, in their defense, was a founding principle of the league in 1948), and partly due their near-static out-of-conference schedule which mostly consists of Patriot League foes.

But it won't be easy to pull in all eight schools into this package. Aside from the VS. deal, Yale (YES), Harvard (NESN) and Penn (Comcast Network) have lucrative deals with different networks that they may be unwilling to separate from, and individual schools have negotiated nice games with ESPN in the past (Princeton).

Might the plan be to attempt to have ESPN as the sole TV provider for the Ivy League - the only conceivable national partner that could be considered? (CBS College Sports, busy with the SEC, service academies and WAC, doesn't seem likely to have any room at the inn.) In addition, "big money TV contracts" were one of the reasons the Ivy League stated in 1948 that they were doing business differently than the Michigan's and Stanford's - and there's no bigger "big money" in college sports than ESPN. If they do indeed tag ESPN as their "sole provider" for money reasons - to the purists, does that mean one more Ivy League principle bites the dust?

For my part, I'm for anything that brings the Ivy League closer to the 21st century, which - surprise - includes national TV packages and participation in the FCS playoffs. Harvard or Yale's academic integrity cannot possibly be harmed with a national TV package, and participation in the FCS playoffs - if anything - should remind the world that the Ivy League plays pretty damned good football with true student-athletes.

But it will be interesting to see if the Ivy League presidents - and their eminise grises - see it in the same way.

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Updated 01-22-2010 at 04:39 PM by Chuck B.

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