The Sun Belt is a lower-tier conference with schools mostly in the Southeast. Terms were not disclosed, but while ESPN needs content for its mushrooming portfolio, the conference covets exposure.
ESPN said that under the new deal, it has access to some 60% more Sun Belt games than before. Distribution outlets include the 360 broadband site, the Deportes Spanish-language channel, mobile TV and flagship networks.
The agreement extends through the 2011-12 academic year. ESPN will carry at least two football games a year on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU and at least four basketball games on the first two.
The three networks will be granted a 12-day rolling window during the season to select additional games to televise. Games available for selection are after the third Saturday of the season.
Burke Magnus, ESPN's senior vice president of college sports programming, said "ESPN's long relationship with the conference will continue to grow with additional coverage across our multiple platforms, including ESPNU."
Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters called the negotiations with ESPN "one of the most significant events" in the conference's history. The 33-year-old conference has 13 schools, mostly in the South, but ranging from Miami to Denver.