ESPN Files Lawsuit Against Conference USA

By Marcus Vanderberg 

ESPN filed a lawsuit against Conference USA in Manhattan federal court Wednesday. The network claims the conference did not fulfill its contractual obligations, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily.

The lawsuit claims that ESPN and C-USA reached an agreement in principal and the conference never gave the network a final offer. C-USA sold their television rights to Fox Sports in January. Their agreement is scheduled to begin with the 2011 college football season and run through the 2015-16 athletic year.

C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky called ESPN executives on Jan. 4 to inform the network that the conference had elected to explore other opportunities. The following day, C-USA announced a $43 million deal with Fox.

ESPN and Fox worked on a compromise that would allow both networks to share C-USA games but an agreement wasn’t reached.

“Rights agreements are at the core of our industry,” said ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus. “ESPN and Conference USA reached an agreement on a new extension after a prolonged negotiation. The conference then changed their position out of the blue and reneged on that agreement. At best, they violated our right to be given an opportunity to consider a final offer.”