Conference USA is desperate.

The value of the league's new television contract is so much lower than member schools anticipated, C-USA is desperate to find any way to augment it.

So, how desperate is C-USA?

The league has signed an agreement with ESPN to televise five C-USA football games during the 2016 season, according to informed sources.

Remember ESPN?

It is the television partner that C-USA split with in 2011, after deciding to sign a five-year contract with Fox Sports instead. The result was an ugly lawsuit and court battle that finally was resolved in August 2011.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And since sources say Fox Sports has pulled completely out of C-USA's current television contract negotiations. ... well, the league is desperate.

So, ESPN will get its pick of the first five C-USA games. Marshall University is expected to appear in one of those games. Then, CBS Sports Network will receive the second five choices.

The league's third television partner is the American Sports Network, which is expected to televise 15 to 20 games.

There is also a fourth television partner, according to sources, that hasn't been announced. What also hasn't been announced is some games will be played on Thursday and Friday nights.

The most significant aspect of this situation that hasn't been revealed, however, is the overall worth of C-USA's new television contract.

Granted, everyone expected it to diminish. After all, this is the league's first television contract negotiation since NCAA football was split into the Power Five and Group of Five factions.

But indications are these negotiations went far worse than anyone anticipated. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va., reported Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig had budgeted for $600,000 less in television revenue for 2016-17.

Then, in a recent blog written by the Virginian-Pilot's Harry Minium, the newspaper's Old Dominion football beat writer, he estimated the television revenue per school would drop into the $300,000 to $400,000 range.

Sources say it could, however, be slightly higher.

At the most, C-USA's new television contract could be worth $7 million. That would lead to revenue distribution of $538,400 per school. At the worst, C-USA's new pact could be in the neighborhood of $5.5 million. Divide that 13 ways and it calculates to $423,000 per school.

Either way, it's a far cry from the $1.1 million Marshall and each of the other C-USA schools had been receiving annually.

That creates a real financial crunch for everyone.

Yet, C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod says although television revenue will decrease, the number of televised league games will increase.

I think she meant that as a positive, but I hope MacLeod realizes this means the value of a C-USA football game has plummeted.

Speaking of nose-dives, this entire television revenue scenario is really an eye-opener when it's viewed from a national perspective.

In a recent USA Today story, the Big 12's leadership was upset that its members received $9 million less per school in television revenue than the $31 million each SEC school received. Since the Big Ten's payout might soon reach $40 million, the Big 12 needs to raise its $22 million per school.

Mull those numbers over - $40 million, $31 million and $22 million. Now, compare them to C-USA's figure of $500,000.

That's how irrelevant C-USA football has become nationally.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at


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