Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 | 11:10 a.m.
If UNLV football is going to get some type of Christmas bonus it’s going to have to come from a bowl game, because this week the Rebels learned they wouldn’t get a dime from the league’s national TV payouts. Under the old deal the Rebels (5-5) would have pocketed more than $500,000. Instead, they join Hawaii (0-10) and Colorado State (6-5) on the outside looking in with zero.
UNLV’s regular-season finale against San Diego State was a flex game for ESPN, meaning the network had a choice: it could air either that game or Boise State vs. New Mexico on ESPN2 and the second choice on ESPNU.
“They chose to go with Boise State again,” said UNLV interim Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy.
Because of the Mountain West’s new national TV bonus structure, the decision comes with a $500,000 bonus for the Broncos and Lobos. The Aztecs and Rebels get nothing for the game, and UNLV is one of three Mountain West teams to go the season without getting any TV payouts.
Mountain West TV Bonuses
Boise State: $1.6 million
Fresno State: $1.3 million
Wyoming: $1 million
San Diego State: $800,000
San Jose State: $600,000
New Mexico: $500,000
Air Force: $300,000
Utah State: $300,000
Colorado State: $0
The new TV deal includes a $300,000 bonus for weekday games and a $500,000 bonus for Saturday games that appear on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS or NBC. Only games controlled by the Mountain West — either home games or a game featuring two league teams — count. When two Mountain West teams play, they both receive that bonus.
The deal was part of Boise State’s negotiations to “rejoin” the league, although it never actually left. It was a always a favorable deal for the Broncos, who are guaranteed to appear at least three times per year on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC, so it’s no surprise they came out on top this season with $1.6 million in TV bonus money.
Under the old structure, the league distributed that money equally. This year that would have been about $558,333 per team. Considering the athletics department's financial situation, that's money UNLV could have used.
“Do we need it more than Boise State or Fresno State?” Kunzer-Murphy said. “At this point I would say yes, but I also understand the game.”
Kunzer-Murphy wasn’t in her current position when the new deal was negotiated and admitted she needed to get up to speed on all the particulars. If UNLV’s final home game was selected for ESPN2 instead of ESPNU, Kunzer-Murphy wouldn’t have had nearly as big a problem with the structure. But she felt a 5-win UNLV team deserved the exposure.
“The better you play, the more you get rewarded, and I’m OK with that,” she said. “I understand maybe why they haven’t picked up a Hawaii game.”
Kunzer-Murphy, the former director of the Las Vegas Bowl, said she contacted both ESPN and the league office in the last week to make her case for UNLV on ESPN2. Since that failed, she’ll take that conversation into future meetings, including in two weeks at the Mountain West meetings of ADs and presidents in Phoenix.
“We’re going to talk about it,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “Maybe we can come up with a better concept.”