The Mountain West continued to expand its relationship with ESPN on Friday by announcing that its football championship game will air on ESPN2 this year.
The conference and ESPN reached a five-year agreement, Commissioner Craig Thompson said. The game will air on ESPN or ESPN2 each year.
ESPN already held the rights to every Boise State home game and shared a regular-season Mountain West TV package with CBS Sports Network through 2019-20.
The 2015 championship game will begin at 5:30 p.m. MT Dec. 5, a Saturday (ESPN2). The contract specifies that the game be played on Saturdays and the intention is to avoid late-night kickoffs, Thompson said.
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“One of the best features ... is that 5:30 kickoff,” Thompson said. “Three hours is a big difference on Dec. 5.”
The Mountain West championship game aired at 8 p.m. MT on CBS the past two years. The 2014 game in Boise drew 26,101 fans, the smallest crowd for a Boise State home game since Nov. 15, 2003.
CBS declined to exercise its contract option for 2015, allowing the Mountain West to shop the game on the open market. The game wasn’t carried on the main CBS channel in all cities.
The other side of the earlier kickoff is enhanced competition for TV viewers. Thompson expects the Mountain West’s game to collide with the Big Ten championship game. The ACC title game will begin at 5:45 p.m. on ESPN or 6 p.m. on ABC.
The rights fee ESPN will pay for the championship game is larger than the Mountain West received the past two years, Thompson said. He declined to provide the specific amount. The Mountain West also can sell the title sponsorship to the game, as it did last year with Sports Authority. Proceeds from the title game are split 10 percent to the home team and 5 percent to the visiting team with the rest divided 12 ways.
Also Friday, ESPN announced the time and network for Boise State’s game at Virginia. That game begins at 6 p.m. Sept. 25 (Friday) and will air on ESPN.
Here is Boise State’s updated 2015 schedule:
Sept. 4 (Friday): vs. Washington, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Sept. 12: at BYU, ESPN/ESPN2
Sept. 18 (Friday): vs. Idaho State, 7 p.m., CBSSN
Sept. 25 (Friday): at Virginia, 6 p.m., ESPN
Oct. 3: vs. Hawaii, TBA, ESPN networks
Oct. 10: at Colorado State, 5 p.m. CBSSN
Oct. 16 (Friday): at Utah State, 7 p.m., CBSSN
Oct. 24: vs. Wyoming, TBA, ESPN networks
Oct. 31: at UNLV, TBA, ESPN networks
Nov. 14: vs. New Mexico, TBA, ESPN networks
Nov. 20 (Friday): vs. Air Force, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Nov. 27 (Friday): at San Jose State, 1:30 p.m., CBSSN
Dec. 5: Mountain West championship game, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2