BY: CAITLYN LAWRENCE
Division I basketball is led by a powerhouse of six conferences (the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, and Pac-12), but is it possible that there are conferences on the outside trying to edge their way in? After securing eight-year partnerships with ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and NBC Sports Group for its media television rights, the Atlantic 10 Conference looks as though it is making strides towards becoming a more dominant force in NCAA Division I basketball.
This new media agreement is linked to the conference’s basketball success. Outside of the big-six conferences, the A-10 is the only conference to have 41 at-large NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament selections in the past 20 years, including three last year. In the past decade, the A-10 has had 62 postseason appearances, and for the fifth year in a row, the Atlantic 10 has had 12 at-large selections, the seventh most among all other DI institutions, placing the A-10 right behind the big six conferences.
That success surely played an integral role in the A-10’s new television deal.
The agreement reached will more than double the amount of Atlantic 10 basketball exposure. There will be 146 men’s basketball exposures and 46 exposures for women’s basketball programming. For women’s basketball, that is a considerable increase of 77 percent. These appearances will be distributed among the three networks: ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and NBC Sports Network expanding the exposure of A-10 basketball. This new agreement will allow the Atlantic 10 to reach over 33 million television households, which is about 33 percent of the US television market.
This exposure will contribute to the success of Atlantic 10 basketball popularity, in turn promoting the schools of the conference. Success in sports often leads to increased student applicants. For example, the success of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) basketball team during the 2011 NCAA tournament, translated into approximately $677 million in free advertising. This free advertising created an increase in admission inquiries by 350 percent. Therefore, basketball success can increase the interest of attending that institution, but the success is insignificant if there’s no reach to the public, which is why this media agreement is so important. With the Atlantic 10 being in 7 of the top 25 media markets in the US, this agreement could help popularize A-10 schools.
With the past success of the Atlantic 10 conference in DI basketball and the new exposure it is guaranteed with the new media agreement, it is possible more students, and potentially more student-athletes, will inquire about schools in this conference. This could increase the depth and level of this conference and maybe even give them the growth they need to stay competitive with the big six of Division I basketball.