SALT LAKE CITY — Utah athletics director Chris Hill acknowledged there's a pretty positive vibe at the Pac-12 meetings in Phoenix.
And with good reason.
Commissioner Larry Scott's announcement of a 12-year media rights deal with ESPN and Fox provided a billion — make that three billion — reasons for everyone to smile.
"It makes the meetings pretty enjoyable and people are awfully upbeat," Hill said after Wednesday's press conference. "Because everybody's in the same position, just trying to support their programs."
Although Scott declined to provide specifics in terms of finances, the deal is reportedly worth a whopping $3 billion — giving each member institution around $21 million per year starting in 2012-13.
Hill said the money came in much higher than expected.
"There's no school in the country, or very few, that don't need an infusion of money to help in these tough times," Hill said. "I thought Larry Scott and his staff and the president's council have done a wonderful job in putting this all together."
As part of its membership agreement in moving from the Mountain West Conference, Utah won't receive a full share immediately. It'll be gradual — 50 percent in 2012-13, 75 percent in 2013-14 and 100 percent each year thereafter.
Utah, which officially joins the expanding conference on July 1, will collect approximately $2 million next season thanks to the addition of a Pac-12 championship game and other late television additions in an expiring contract year for the league.
Even that is a jump up from the $1.2 million or so that Utah made each year from MWC television revenues.
"It's not woe is us. That's for sure. But it'll take us to the fourth year in our league to be fully receiving those funds," Hill said of the monumental payday that will eventually come Utah's way. "But we've come from such a small amount from the Mountain West that this will help us close the gap a little bit and then we'll work at all our other aspects."
The primary goal, he added, is making sure Utah coaches and student-athletes have "the support to compete at this very, very competitive level."
A process made easier, for a myriad of reasons, with massive revenue streams.
"This is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for all of us," Hill said.
Another revenue source was also unveiled with the announcement that the Pac-12 will form it's own network, broadcast and digital. It'll be patterned after the successful Big Ten Network.
"We have the same model," Hill said. "The passion for Pac-12 sports is, I think, going to drive it and hopefully it'll get the distribution that we all anticipate."
Scott explained that the Pac-12 Network will be subscription-based and distributed on a national basis. Details, however, have yet to be finalized.
"Today is a very exciting day for the Pac-12 Conference. Today's announcement of this landmark agreement with ESPN and Fox Sports, as well as the announcement of the creation of Pac-12 Media Enterprises, represents an important milestone in the transformation of the Pac-10 to the Pac-12," Scott said. "The increased revenue that will come to the Pac-12 comes at a critically important time for our universities, given the unprecedented financial challenges that higher education and athletics within high education is facing."
The revenue, he added, will put less stress on the vital resources of the universities and preserve student-athlete opportunities — perhaps even leading to the reinstatement of dropped sports.
Under the media rights agreement, Scott said that every conference football and men's basketball games will be broadcast, as will almost all women's basketball contests.
ESPN and Fox will have the premier selections for use on its family of networks. The Pac-12 Network will air 350 live events each year, including football and basketball.
Among the benefits of the league-owned carrier, Scott noted, is the ability to showcase Olympic sports — something the conference is prolific in. It'll also meet another critically important priority and that is "to connect the dots between athletics and the educational mission of these universities."
All in all, the newly signed media deal met three pillar goals Scott was hoping to achieve — increased revenue, improved national exposure and the creation of a Pac-12 Network.
Utah joins the mix, obviously, at a very lucrative time.
"As we've all thought, every aspect of moving to the Pac-12 is a tremendous step, a big step, for everything from exposure to competition to resources, the whole thing," Hill said. "The bar goes up and we've all got to perform."
The clocking is ticking. There are facilities to upgrade and build, plus programs to bolster.
"There's no question that we've got our projects that we've got to do. We need, as always, the support from our community," Hill said. "It's not a time to do anything other than get into this league and do as well as we can. We need everybody's support."
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