Mountain West is positioning itself as top non-major league

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West is making a case to become the top league out of the Group of Five

Earlier on Thursday, it was announced that ESPN and the Mountain West are closing in on a seven-year agreement to broadcast 22 football and 25 basketball games. With the deal going through the 2019-20 season with ESPN, it more than likely means that CBS Sports will go ahead and exercise their option with the league through the same time.

This pending agreement is a big deal as it puts the Mountain West on par with the Big East America 12 Conference, which earns $20 million per year while the Mountain West is set to earn $18 million annually. This deal that is expected to pay the Mountain West an additional $6 million per year does not include a title game. Then there are the extra games that have yet to be assigned any sort of television or online presence. Meaning that the end result could eclipse the $20 million mark.

With ESPN expected to have 22 games and CBS Sports airing 15 games, about one per week. That still leaves 35 games left to sell to other networks such as NBC Sports -- which is very likely -- the new Fox Sports 1 channel, possibly Turner or the Mountain West digital network for FCS games.

This deal is why the Mountain West schedule is not expected to be released until April, and it still allows time to work out deals with other networks.

There is a concern with this deal that the ESPN games will be on any day of the week. The irony is that Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson rejected ESPN years ago when games were to be played on any day but Saturday, but now that is a likely possibility.

The games on the ESPN family of networks will probably have start times of 10 p.m. ET while being played on Thursday or Friday night, and the possibility of a Wednesday game to go along with some MACtion. Even with games on various days of the week it should not matter because being on ESPN is good for the long run for the league with more exposure.

This new deal with ESPN, and whatever the league does with the other games, will not be able to put them on par with the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC or Pac-12. However, it will push them to the top of the Group of five schools with the Big East America 12 Conference, possibly even higher.

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