Ivy League looks to expand TV coverage

Ivy League sporting events may be coming soon to a television set near you.

In an effort to reach out to a wider fan base, Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said the league is in talks with multiple national cable and satellite television networks in order to form a comprehensive multi-year agreement with a network to broadcast Ivy League sports nationwide.

Although Harris declined to give any details on which networks the league has been negotiating with, she said the deal would allow viewers across the country to tune into games without having to purchase a package deal ahead of time.

There is currently no time frame as to when the league will sign with a network, but Harris said that the earliest the deal would be implemented would be the 2011–’12 season.

Currently, Ivy League schools must negotiate their own deals with various local and national networks. Harris said that with a single Ivy League agreement with one national network, the league will be able to have more sports televised on a more consistent basis. She said that with a national and an international following, there is already a demand for televised Ivy League sports games. Harris also said that broadcasting Ivy League sports is a good way to show that competitive athletics and strong academics can coexist.

“[Televised Ivy League games] provide an excellent venue for us to demonstrate that our model of Division I athletics works, and that we have very good athletics with excellent students competing,” she said.

Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said Yale has been in talks with the Ivy League regarding the negotiations. Beckett said the University has had some football and basketball games televised on the YES network, a network only available in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, but the national deal would allow an Ivy League game of the week to be televised nationally.

Head Yale football coach Tom Williams said a deal would help his program, although he said he had only heard rumors about the possible agreement.

“I think everyone kind of knows about the Ivy League nationally and obviously we have an academic reputation,” Williams said. “But I think [with] a television contract, people would see the quality of football in our league and it’s certainly good from a recruiting standpoint.”

Ivy League Associate Director for Communications Scottie Rodgers said the Ivy League had been interested in consolidating Ivy League television coverage to one network in the past, but it wasn’t until Harris was appointed executive director in 2009 that the initiative gained momentum.

Rodgers said that football, basketball, soccer and lacrosse would be covered under the agreement. He said the league has signed deals with the Versus cable television sports network for individual sports in the past, but the comprehensive deal with multiple sports and all eight Ivy League schools in one package would be more beneficial.

“We feel we can maximize our exposure [by] working with a network and all eight entities in concert rather than eight schools working independently with independent networks,” Rodgers said.

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