The four letter is signing up for more #FunBelt.
The Sun Belt conference announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a new eight-year contract with ESPN that will run through the 2027 football season and the 2027-28 academic year.
“The continuation of our agreement with ESPN marks one of the most historic announcements since the Sun Belt’s founding in 1976,” Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement. “This is truly an ‘all in’ collaboration with ESPN, the Sun Belt, and our member institutions and the volume and accessibility of our games will have a profound impact on the future of the Sun Belt. We have enjoyed a long relationship with ESPN since its founding in 1979 and we look forward to being featured on its newest platform, ESPN+, which promises to revolutionize how audiences view content.”
Most notably, it was confirmed that the inaugural Sun Belt Football Championship Game will be played on Saturday, December 1st and will be televised on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. Future championship games will also be on one of the three networks after the conference moved to a divisional format starting in 2018. The new deal also includes a guarantee that all Sun Belt home football games will be available on an ESPN platform and that at least 10 games will be televised on either ABC or one of the ESPN cable networks.
Naturally, many of the league’s other sports such as men’s basketball were also covered under the umbrella of the new contract. The bulk of those games from women’s basketball to soccer and beyond will wind up on the new ESPN+ streaming platform that the Disney-owned company is launching in the coming weeks.
No monetary terms were announced as part of the deal but it’s safe to assume that the TV revenues won’t be in the same ballpark as their Power Five peers such as the SEC or ACC. Still, given the challenges we’ve seen in the Mountain West and Conference USA (among others) in this new media environment, it seems the Sun Belt has locked up a quality partnership with ESPN for the long-term and granted some stability for the league in the coming years.
When Dominic Livingston announced in mid-February that he would be transferring from LSU, the defensive tackle indicated that the move was being made so as to be closer to his home in Texas because of unspecified family issues. Monday, Livingston followed through on that plan of attack.
Speaking to 247Sports.com, Livingston confirmed that his collegiate playing career will continue at Kilgore College. A community college in Kilgore, Texas, Livingston’s new college football home is roughly 200 miles from his hometown of Houston; his old home of Baton Rouge is roughly 270 miles from that same hometown.
Not surprisingly, Kilgore told the same website that he “will play a semester at Kilgore and go from there,” an obvious indication that he expects to be back at the FBS level in 2020.
If that is indeed the case, Kilgore would have three years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.
A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class, Livingston was rated as the No. 38 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 74 player at any position in the state of Texas. As a true freshman, Livingston appeared in exactly one more game than I did.
There is some positive news when it comes to a distressing situation that developed over the weekend.
Illinois true junior defensive end Bobby Roundtree sustained what was described as a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming accident Saturday and underwent surgery a day later. According to the Associated Press, Roundtree is progressing well following the surgery and, while he remains hospitalized, is speaking, eating and sitting up.
Several members of the Illini football program, including Lovie Smith, traveled to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Fla., to be with the injured player.
“Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student-athlete,” a statement from the head coach began. “He is a hard worker, dependable, a dedicated student and a leader.
“This is devastating to his teammates, the entire Fighting Illini family and his family and friends. We will give Bobby all the support possible as he battles through his recovery. Please keep Bobby and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Roundtree, who played his high school football in Largo, Fla., has started 20 games the past two seasons since coming to the Illini as a three-star member of their 2017 recruiting class. This past season, the 6-5, 245-pound end led the Illini in tackles for loss with 12.5 and pass breakups, and was second in sacks with 7.5 and quarterback hits with four.
For that, the media named Roundtree honorable mention All-Big Ten for the 2018 season.
Matt Campbell has officially added an experienced and productive piece to his Iowa State passing attack.
La'Michael Pettway revealed via Twitter in mid-January that he would be transferring from Arkansas; nearly four months later, he used the same social media vehicle to deliver the message that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Iowa State. Monday, it was confirmed by the football program that the wide receiver has officially enrolled in classes at the university.
As a graduate transfer, Pettway will be eligible to play immediately for the Cyclones in 2019.
“I think the biggest thing he brings is he gives a veteran presence to this receiver group,” the head coach said according to the Des Moines Register. “[T]he opportunity to get a guy that’s done it at a very high level against really high-end competition can just add some veteran-ness to a group where there’s a lot of youth.”
This past season, Pettway led the Razorbacks in receiving yards with 499 and receptions with 30. His four receiving touchdowns were good for second on the team.
Prior to 2018, Pettway had totaled 102 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.
The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.
“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”
The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.
“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”
Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.