Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, May 9, 2013 | 1:04 p.m.
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The Battle for the Fremont Cannon and two other UNLV football games will appear on ESPN networks this fall, the Mountain West announced Thursday afternoon. That gives the Rebels at least six games with some national exposure.
All the Rebels know right now is that their games at UNR (Oct. 26), and home contests against Utah State (Nov. 9) and San Diego State (Nov. 30) will appear on either ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3. The exact network will be determined during the season, usually within a 12-day window before the game.
If any of those are picked up for ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, then the Rebels could be in for a nice bonus. As part of the restructured TV revenue agreement developed when SDSU and Boise State decided to remain in the league, the Mountain West decided to award bonuses for conference-controlled games played on any of those three national networks, plus CBS, NBC or Fox.
The payments are $500,000 for a Saturday game and $300,000 for any other day of the week. It’s paid only if a Mountain West team is playing that game at home. In conference games, both teams would receive the bonus.
So far, UNLV hasn’t earned any of those bonuses. Its other televised games all fall short of the league’s requirement. The Rebels open the season at Minnesota (Aug. 29) on the Big Ten Network and travel for a Nov. 21 game at Air Force, where they will appear on ESPNU.
The Sept. 7 game against Arizona, which is expected to be moved from Sam Boyd Stadium to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., is slated to appear on CBS Sports network. That move could net the program a payday in the neighborhood of $1 million, according to outgoing UNLV Athletic Director Jim Livengood.
That all three of the new games have the chance to go on one of those national networks may add extra incentive for the football program to get off to a good start this season. Of course, that incentive was likely already there after three straight two-win seasons and the prospect of a new athletic director making sweeping changes.
Additional games may still find a home on TV. And while the news is at first a positive sign, it could further hurt gate receipts at Sam Boyd Stadium. Unless UNLV is competitive into November, being able to stay home and watch the Utah State and San Diego State games, the latter being the regular-season finale, could actually end up hurting the university — especially if they appear on one of those lesser network options.