ABC believed bowl expansion devalued deal

Updated: November 19, 2004, 10:42 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The Bowl Championship Series won't be on ABC after next season.

The network that has been the home of college football's four major bowl games since the current system for crowning a national champion was implemented in 1998 has pulled out of contract negotiations with the BCS.

Earlier this month, the BCS opened up the bidding for the broadcast rights to the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls after being unable to come to an agreement with ABC during the exclusive negotiating period.

"We have taken our bid off the table," Loren Matthews, senior vice president for programming for ABC Sports told The Associated Press on Friday.

The national title game rotates between the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose bowls every four years under the BCS. The Rose Bowl negotiates its own TV deal and recently re-signed with ABC through 2014.

ABC has been paying about $25 million per year for the rights to the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange bowls. The current deal runs through the 2005 season (including the New Year's holiday bowls of January 2006).

Earlier this year, BCS officials voted to expand the BCS to five games in the 2006 season to give two more teams access. The championship game will be played at the site of one of the current BCS games.

"Certainly, it's not any dislike of the sport or the BCS. It just didn't make financial sense and didn't appear to us that it would, going forward under their new format, make financial sense," Matthews said.

Officials with the network had previously acknowledged that they were unhappy with the proposal to expand the series to five bowls, which they believe devalues the system, a source familiar with the talks told ESPN.com's Darren Rovell.

"With the addition of this fifth game, frankly it's adding another game that just doesn't matter in the national championship race."

BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Fox Sports is believed to be the frontrunner among the networks that currently televise college football.

"Representatives from Fox have met with officials from the BCS, and those meetings included a free exchange of ideas," said Lou D'Ermilio, senior vice president of media relations for Fox Sports. "We think the BCS is a great event and would fit well into our programming approach to sports."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, contributed to this report and can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.