Feb. 23, 2005

ESPN, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Big Ten Conference have reached a six-year agreement (through 2010) to continue the annual men’s college basketball inter-conference Challenge. The 2005 event will mark the seventh annual match-up between the two conferences, pitting several of the nation’s top programs against each other.

The new format will feature 11 games, an increase from the nine games in the previous six years of the event. ESPNU — launching on Friday, March 4 — will televise the two additional games. Those two games will also be syndicated in the local markets of the competing teams and offered on ESPN FULL COURT, ESPN’s college basketball pay-per-view package. ESPN and ESPN2 will televise the remaining nine games. The event will continue to be played on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday immediately following Thanksgiving with the 2005 Big Ten/ACC Challenge scheduled for November 28-30.

“This event has become a marquee component of our early-season schedule and the addition of two games for ESPNU is a great enhancement,” said Burke Magnus, vice president and general manager, ESPNU. “The first six years of the Challenge has featured many unforgettable matchups involving some of the most tradition-laden programs in all of college basketball. We look forward to many more exciting contests between these two great power conferences.”

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said, “The Big Ten Conference is pleased to announce a six-year extension of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Big Ten coaches, student-athletes and fans expect this conference to play one of the toughest schedules in the country and this Challenge series represents our commitment to test our teams. Both the Big Ten and ACC have produced a long history of NCAA Tournament success, ranking among the top two in appearances, victories and Final Fours, and we are looking forward to the next six years of competition.”

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said, “The Atlantic Coast Conference is certainly excited to continue its partnership with the Big Ten Conference and ESPN. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is a tremendous event that allows both leagues to showcase its student-athletes, coaches and programs. It is a great early season boost to college basketball and has certainly grown into one of the premiere events of the season.” ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of the 2004 ACC/Big Ten Challenge experienced significant audience growth over the 2003 event. ESPN’s four telecasts in 2004 averaged a 1.6 rating and 1,423,000 households for increases of 33% (vs. 1.2) and 30% (vs. 1,094,000) over the four games in 2003. ESPN2’s five matchups averaged a 0.6 rating and 495,000 households, marking increases of 50% (vs. 0.4) and 35% (vs. 365,000) over 2003’s five telecasts.

In addition, 2004’s coverage included ESPN’s highest-rated and most-viewed Challenge telecast ever: North Carolina at Indiana with a 2.0 average rating and 1,749,000 households.

Since 2000, the two conferences have combined to make 10 Final Four appearances and have captured three of the last five NCAA Championships. In addition, the Big Ten and ACC rank either first or second in all-time NCAA Tournament bids, victories and Final Four appearances. The two leagues have also rated first and second in attendance for each of the last two seasons, as the Big Ten has topped the nation in attendance for each of the last 28 years.