Oct. 27, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

NEW YORK -- The Bowl Championship Series could have a new television home for the 2006 season.

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ABC has had the broadcast rights to the BCS since 1998, when the system for crowning a college football champion was formed by the Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-10.

The current contract runs out after the 2005 season.

ABC and the BCS have been negotiating a new contract since September, but have been unable to get a deal done. When the exclusive negotiation period ends next week, BCS officials will open up the bidding to other networks.

"We're looking at quite a number of alternatives next week, and there's a good level of interest," Kevin O'Malley, television and marketing consultant to the BCS, said Wednesday.

Talks between the BCS and ABC are still alive, though.

"They still want to be very much in the mix," O'Malley said. "We want to have them in the mix."

BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said, "All of our options remain open to us, including reaching an agreement with ABC."

O'Malley and Weiberg declined to identify the other networks interested in acquiring the rights.

CBS, which already has a deal with the Southeastern Conference, and FOX, which carries Big 12 and Pac-10 games on its FoxSports Net subsidiaries, would be logical choices.

CBS spokeswoman Leslie Anne Wade declined comment on the network's possible interest in the BCS.

Fox Sports chairman David Hill said the network planned to meet with the BCS.

"We're always interested in discussing big-event, high-profile sports programming that makes economic sense to us," he said.

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ABC has been paying about $25 million a year for the rights to the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls.

O'Malley said money was not the sole issue keeping the two sides apart.

"On quite a number of fronts, the BCS has had some disagreements with ABC on the way they market the series and with the management and promotion of the series," O'Malley said.

Neither O'Malley nor ABC officials would give specifics of ABC's latest proposal.

"We're talking with the BCS," ABC spokesman Mark Mandel said. "We think we have made a very good proposal."

The BCS is looking for a four-year deal that would include the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange bowls, and a national championship game. BCS officials expanded the series to five games earlier this year, starting in the 2006 season. The Rose Bowl also is part of the BCS, but negotiates its own TV deal.

The Rose Bowl has already signed a new deal with ABC that will keep it on the network until 2014.

O'Malley said the Rose Bowl's deal will not keep the BCS from changing networks.

"It isn't really truly that big a hurdle," he said. "The package the BCS is selling is quite large."

While there is no deadline for getting a TV deal done, Weiberg said it would be preferable to have a new contract in place before this season's bowls are played.