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BYU Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards entertains the crowd and the ESPN College GameDay crew before the #16 Cougars played #8 TCU in 2009.

Brigham Young University and ESPN, Inc. announced a new seven-year media rights agreement for BYU home football games that will continue their longstanding relationship through the 2026 college football season.

In addition to the home television rights agreement, BYU and ESPN Events—a division of ESPN—have also reached agreement for the Cougars to participate in ESPN owned and operated bowl games in 2020, 2022 and 2024. Under a separate agreement, the Cougars are also slated to appear in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2021, 2023 and 2025.

Details of the seven-year media rights agreement

Under the new regular-season media rights agreement, ESPN will continue to televise nationally a minimum of four BYU home football games each season. A minimum of three games will be carried on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, while additional games can air on the three same networks or ESPNU. As part of the agreement, at least one game each season will be carried live on BYUtv. All games will be available to stream on the ESPN App.

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Eventual national champion BYU defeated #3 Pittsburgh 20-14 in the 1984 season opener – the first regular season live college football game ever broadcast on ESPN.

Details of the new bowl agreements

The new bowl agreement with ESPN Events provides a bowl tie-in for BYU in 2020, 2022 and 2024 if the Cougars are bowl eligible and not selected to participate in a New Year’s Six bowl. Since 2011, the Cougars have played in four of the 16 bowls owned and operated by ESPN Events, including the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, 2015 Las Vegas Bowl, 2014 Miami Beach Bowl (now Frisco Bowl) and 2011 Armed Forces Bowl.

Under the terms of the new Independence Bowl agreement, the Cougars are slated to appear in Shreveport in 2021 and 2025 versus an opponent from Conference USA and in 2023 versus a team from the Pac-12. The Independence Bowl, televised on an ESPN Network, is the 11th-oldest bowl game in the country and will play its 45th edition in 2020. It was founded in 1976 and is played annually in December at Independence Stadium in Shreveport.

As part of both BYU bowl agreements, the Cougars also have an option to potentially participate in the Cheez-It Bowl in Arizona should its conference tie-ins (Big Ten and Big 12) be unable to provide an opponent. If applicable, that option can be exercised in lieu of one Independence Bowl and one ESPN Events bowl game. The Cheez-It Bowl airs on an ESPN network.

Since its first appearance in the 1974 Fiesta Bowl, BYU has played in 37 bowl games over the past 45 seasons, including 14 of the past 15 years.

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Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer led the Cougars to a 28-21 upset of #1 Miami in 1990.

In their own words

Tom Holmoe (Director of Athletics, BYU): “We have been fortunate to have an amazing relationship with ESPN for decades. There is great collaboration because the relationship is truly a partnership and continues to get stronger every year. We are very grateful for all that ESPN does to support and promote BYU Athletics."

"We are also grateful for the invitation to participate in multiple Independence Bowl games in Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s a historic bowl game with a rich history. It has been a real pleasure working with Independence Bowl Executive Director Missy Setters and ESPN to create this unique opportunity for our football program and our fans throughout the South.”

Pete Derzis (Senior Vice President, ESPN Programming and Events) “BYU is a key component of our extensive college football media rights portfolio and we are pleased to continue the relationship well into the future,” said Pete Derzis, Senior Vice President of Programming and Events. “The new agreement will build upon our last nine seasons, as we collectively work together showcasing the Cougars to a national audience and their extensive fan base.”

Art Carmody IV (Chairman, Independence Bowl): “BYU is steeped in college football tradition. They have provided some of the sport’s most iconic moments and greatest players, and we are excited to feature this great program in our historic game. We look forward to having BYU in future Independence Bowls and look forward to hosting their tremendous fan base in Shreveport.”

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Steve Sarkisian led BYU to a 41-37 defeat of #13 Texas A&M on ABC to begin the 1996 season.

Four decades of BYU and ESPN

The BYU-ESPN relationship dates back to 1984, when the Cougars knocked off then No. 3 ranked Pitt in the first regular-season live college football game ever broadcast on ESPN. The 20-14 victory over the Panthers began BYU’s undefeated run to the 1984 national championship.

Over the years ABC/ESPN has televised many of the great games in Cougar football history, including a 28-21 upset over No. 1 ranked Miami in 1990, a 41-37 thriller or Texas A&M in 1996, a 14-13 come from behind victory over No. 3 ranked Oklahoma in 2009, a 33-28 victory at Nebraska on the road in 2015, a 24-21 upset over No. 6 ranked Wisconsin in 2018 and a 30-27 win over No. 24-ranked USC in 2019.

In September 2010, BYU became the first FBS football program to sign an exclusive media rights partnership with ESPN to televise its home games. The original agreement was an eight-year deal from 2011 to 2018, that included a one-year option that extended the contract through the 2019 football season. Over the past nine seasons the Cougars have played 86 football games—an average of 9.6 games per year—on ABC/ESPN networks—50 of those games were at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

With ESPN as its media rights holder, 74-percent of BYU’s football games since 2011 have been televised nationally, ranking the Cougars 17th in the country and No. 3 in the West just behind USC and Stanford.

In nine seasons of independence, BYU has played 43 games versus schools from a Power 5 conference, including 21 Pac-12, six SEC, six Big Ten, four ACC, four Big 12, and two versus Notre Dame. The Cougars have faced teams from 32 different states, played in nine NFL stadiums and two MLB ballparks.

BYU has already scheduled numerous high-profile home games that are now set to air on an ESPN network over the next several seasons. Among the opponents locked in are Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Boise State, Central Florida, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Stanford, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. Overall, BYU currently has 31 future football games scheduled with current P5 conference teams.

“Our goals in going independent in football included the opportunity to increase our national exposure and provide better access to our football program for our national fanbase,” Holmoe said. “We also wanted to schedule home-and-home games with many of the storied football programs in the country. Thanks to our relationship with ESPN, we have been able to accomplish these goals.”

BYU is proud of its four-decade long partnership with ESPN and looks forward to the future working closely with the worldwide leader in sports.

Notable facts & figures

  • Through the first eight seasons of the original ESPN-BYU contract (2011-18), the average television audience of ABC/ESPN football games featuring P5 vs P5 teams was 1.6 million, while the average audience for BYU games vs P5 opponents was 1.9.
  • During the 2019 regular season, BYU’s average audience on ABC/ESPN was an impressive 2.2 million versus P5 teams, while its overall average in all games was a solid 1.4 million.
  • Since 2011, the Cougars have played or scheduled 53 different FBS teams from 12 conferences and 32 different states, including 19 teams east of the Mississippi River.
  • Only Notre Dame and BYU are considered by the ACC, SEC and Big Ten as a P5 level opponent for football scheduling purposes. BYU has scheduled 11 of the 12 teams in the Pac-12 since going independent.
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BYU’s Coleby Clawson tackles Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford in the Cougars’ win over #3 Oklahoma in the 2009 season opener on ESPN.