The Southern Conference's partnerships with public television stations to show league sporting events will not have a second year. Instead, the SoCon's only deal is with ESPN3.com, commissioner John Iamarino said.
Last summer, he announced the league had a three-year plan with public television systems in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as an agreement with ESPN3 for games to be shown online. The league could strike deals only with WTCI in Chattanooga and a local channel in Birmingham to service the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Samford markets.
Iamarino told the Times Free Press last month that the SoCon wanted its games televised statewide in all five states within the league footprint. If that didn't happen, he said, the conference would move forward without a TV deal.
And that's what has happened.
"Our TV package will be solely and exclusively with ESPN this year," Iamarino said. "It became apparent that we were not going to be able to put together the kind of coverage that we would need to continue with the public television model."
In May the SoCon announced an enhanced agreement with ESPN3 to provide "a minimum of 40 exclusive events to ESPN3 each of the next three years." Eight SoCon football games will be shown this fall, as well as numerous other events, including all of the men's basketball tournament and the semifinals and the title game of the women's tournament.
The men's basketball tournament championship game will be shown on ESPN or ESPN2.
UTC football coach Russ Huesman said he didn't like losing the chance to play on television. However, he said he's never lost a recruit because of a TV contract.
UTC athletic director Rick Hart said online is the direction most forms of media are heading and that being exclusively on ESPN3 is a good situation for the SoCon.
"I think it's the absolute right direction for the league and for UTC," Hart said. "At some point you have to start positioning yourself for what's ahead. I think we're going to have just as visible a presence, if not more so, under the new arrangement with ESPN3."
Hart said two things he liked about being exclusively on ESPN3 were that everyone knows where to find the games -- which wasn't always the case with public televisions -- and game times can be set according to the home team's needs and not by a network's schedule.
"To know that we can set a time that's best for the fans is very valuable," he said.
The league is expected to announced the football broadcast schedule within the next two weeks. UTC already knows of one game available online: Its Sept. 1 opener at South Florida will be shown on ESPN3.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.