MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If you missed or simply shrugged off the media news out of Kansas earlier this week, well, you might want to backtrack and pay it a bit more mind.
If you do, what you might see are two things:
The future of college sports on television, for one.
And, for another, the reason West Virginia is finally, although torturously, attempting to step into the modern age with its third-tier rights.
It's rather groundbreaking news, actually, and not just for the folks in Kansas.
Again, if you missed it, the University of Kansas on Tuesday agreed to a seven-year deal with ESPN and Time Warner Cable to distribute what amounts to the school's leftover athletics. Those are the ones not already spoken for through the mainstream national deals brokered by the Big 12 with ESPN and Fox.
It's the same kind of third-tier stuff that you should be oh-so-familiar with by now since the term is now part of the WVU lexicon. In Kansas' case, third-tier rights mean, as far as TV is concerned, 70 events annually. Most are niche events - soccer, volleyball, softball, even track - along with slightly more high-profile baseball and 16 women's basketball games. But the deal also includes one non-conference football game, six non-league basketball games (two of them exhibitions), the school's annual spring football game and its version of basketball's midnight madness, Late Night at the Phog.
So here's how it works. Time Warner Cable has the rights to 50 of those events, including the football and basketball, and will broadcast them exclusively in Kansas City and the state of Kansas. That saturates the school's local market.
But then ESPN also shares the rights to those 50, plus 20 more, that it will offer on ESPN3. That's the network's web-based platform, which means that those 70 KU events will also be available nationwide (blacked out in Kansas and Kansas City to protect Time Warner).
Now, on the surface perhaps that doesn't seem all that significant. After all, it is the Internet we're talking about here, right? Don't you just hate it when a game that your team plays isn't on ESPN or ESPN2 or Fox - or even Root Sports or one of the local channels - and you have to find it on the web? It just isn't the same. It's as if it isn't important.