ESPN sues Conference USA over Fox contract

ESPN has sued Conference USA, accusing the league of violating

their contract when it signed a new deal with Fox.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in New York seeks

either damages of at least $21 million or for the conference to

honor the extension the network claims it agreed to.

”We are very disappointed that ESPN has taken this action,”

Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said in a statement.

”We have had the benefit of legal counsel throughout this process

and we disagree with the positions they have taken. We are prepared

to vigorously defend any litigation initiated by them. As we said

earlier, the idea that they were disadvantaged is incorrect. They

had every opportunity to step up and address our concerns, and they

simply did not.”

The two sides signed a five-year deal in 2005 worth $21.9

million. It included a provision giving ESPN exclusive rights to

try to re-negotiate the package in 2010.

”We had agreed to terms in writing before they reneged,” said

Burke Magnus, ESPN’s senior vice president of college sports

programming.

The suit also claims Conference USA did not satisfy the terms

that would have allowed it to negotiate with other networks. The

league announced in January it had reached a five-year contract

with Fox’s networks to broadcast its football championship game and

other sports events.

The suit says the Fox deal is for $43 million, nearly double the

amount ESPN contends Conference USA agreed on to stay with the

network.