Network to air I-AA football games

Keith Farner

With two Western football games scheduled to be on television this season, the Hilltoppers could have a chance at being in the spotlight on a weekly basis starting next year.

The National College Sports Network announced Monday an agreement with 10 conferences to air the top Division I-AA football games each week starting next football season. It’s the first such deal with I-AA.

Western Athletics Director Wood Selig said the idea has been floated around for a while but never came to fruition.

“The concept has been out there for a while,” Selig said. “It’s always been trying to promote I-AA football and trying to mass distribute I-AA football.”

The 10-conference agreement includes 90 colleges and universities. Besides the Gateway Conference, the Atlantic 10, Big Sky Conference, Ohio Valley Conference, Patriot League, Southern Conference, Southland Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference and two other conferences, soon to be named, will be part of the deal.

“All of us believe that this will become a benchmark in I-AA football history and look forward to the increased visibility NCSN offers our programs, and most importantly, our student-athletes,” said Linda Bruno, Atlantic 10 commissioner and chair of the I-AA television committee, in a press release.

And although the network won’t bring in much money to Western, Selig said the increased attention Western will get is more valuable.

“Exposure is the name of the game,” Selig said. “It creates future student-athletes – keeps alumni involved. It’s what validates your program. In many ways, exposure is better than money.”

There are also multi-sport programming agreements with nine conferences for NCSN. But Selig said it is too early to know how many football games or other sports will be televised next season.

Still, Western football coach Jack Harbaugh is excited about the possibilities the network brings to the game.

“We do a tremendous job of promoting our I-A football. I think it’s good that we’re able to focus on I-AA football,” Harbaugh said. “Because the growth of football and the opportunity for as many youngsters to play football as possible centers around I-AA. We’ve got to put energy and resources into making sure I-AA football is successful.”

Brian Bedol, Stephen Greenburg and Chris Bevilacqua founded NCSN, which will be the first network devoted exclusively to college sports, running 24 hours a day. It is set to launch in early 2003.

Reach Keith Farner at [email protected]