PROVO — BYU and the Worldwide Leader in Sports are inching closer to an agreement to stick together.
The Cougars have agreed, in principle, to an extension of a broadcasting deal with ESPN through the 2026 season, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported Monday evening.
The deal, which McMurphy reports will add seven years to the original contract BYU signed at the outset of independence (plus an option year that the network picked up), would also guarantee the Cougars will play in one of ESPN’s contracted bowl games for every season they’re bowl eligible.
No agreement had been formalized as of Monday afternoon, representatives of the BYU athletic department told KSL.com.
"We've been saying for months that we will announce the new BYU-ESPN deal when everything is finalized," BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle told KSL.com. "Nothing has changed."
BYU & ESPN have agreed on 7-year deal thru 2026 season for the network to televise BYU’s home football games, sources told @Stadium. The deal also will guarantee the Cougars a contracted bowl game each year when bowl-eligible— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 3, 2019
While no surprise, the negotiations continue a process that began long before the start of the 2019 season, when athletic director Tom Holmoe hinted during BYU football media day that the two sides were “close” to a deal in July.
"We’ve been with ESPN for a long time, and we look forward to continuing for the future," Holmoe said.
Since then, the athletic director has gone silent. But sources close to the program have proclaimed little doubt that a new contract with ESPN would be finished.
The final tie-in, Holmoe said at media day, was formalizing a guarantee for BYU to be “taken care of” whenever it is bowl-eligible. With ESPN owning the majority of college football bowl games, that seemed like a formality.
“Tom’s done an amazing job as an athletic director in that relationship with ESPN,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said in the summer. “Putting together the schedules, from what I see, I don’t think he gets enough credit for that.”
When the Cougars departed the Mountain West Conference in favor of football independence and the West Coast Conference in most other sports, it did so with the solid financial backing of ESPN in the form of an exclusive television contract to broadcast home games on the ESPN family of networks. That deal ran through the end of the 2017 season, but was extended via an option by the Worldwide Leader to cover the 2019 season.
Since launching into independence, ESPN has broadcasted 77 home football games from BYU. That's on par with most of the Power Five teams in the country.
It's also come with some late-night kickoffs or mid-week kicks — but even that hasn't been a mandatory staple of ESPN. BYU only played one game of the 2019 schedule away from Saturday, the season opener at home against Utah, and has added several afternoon games to the most recent slate (namely, USC and Washington, when both teams were tanked in the AP Top 25).