Valued at roughly $115 million annually, the NCAA and ESPN have come to an eight-year media rights deal effective September 1st of this year and running through 2032. The introduction of this “multi-platform home” will include media rights to 40 NCAA championships along with international media rights to those same 40 championships and the Division I men’s basketball championship.[1]

More specifically, the agreement will include rights to 21 women’s and 19 men’s championships. Throughout a given year, over 800 hours of NCAA championships will be made available to viewers through ESPN linear networks, providing over “2,300 combined on linear and digital platforms.”[2] Although 24 of the sports were covered in ESPN and the NCAA’s previous agreement, NCAA Division I tennis championships and men’s gymnastics, among others, will now be included.   

This deal may also impact the everchanging NIL landscape. Among other opportunities, this deal, and the corresponding national media exposure, could significantly expand the platform for many student athletes to profit from their talents and performance on the court, field, or in the rink.  This is especially true for student athletes who compete in sports that heretofore did not have as much exposure on a national stage.

NCAA president Charlie Baker noted the “additional growth potential along with a greater experience for the viewer and our student athletes”[3] that could result from this deal. 25% of the deal alone will be dedicated to production and marketing.[4] Considering these attributes, NIL deals could now emerge for those athletes without the viewership that this deal can provide. In 2021 after the prospect of NIL deals was first introduced, Division I athletes “reportedly earned an average of $3,711.”[5] In 2023, well-known athletes such as Bo Nix and Olivia Dunne totaled NIL valuations of roughly $1.4 million and $3.4 million, respectively. Looking toward September and the coming years, the increased screen time of emerging athletes could play a role in individual earnings, enhanced equipment, and more.

Additionally, many view this deal as a “major victory for women’s sports.”[6] Not only are 21 women’s championships included, but “57% of the value of the deal is tied to women’s college basketball [March Madness Tournament] specifically.”[7] This amounts to roughly $65 million annually.[8] The increased viewership and growth potential embedded in this deal has the ability to provide opportunities for women in college athletics to gain additional support, NIL opportunities, and a national platform.  As a few examples, the NCAA has specifically noted that this deal can bring scholarship protection, provide post-grad insurance, and allot for greater sponsorship negotiations.[9] Furthermore, the increased coverage can provide more clips for both the NCAA and schools to use on social media, thus promoting both the sport and the individual athletes.[10] Some women’s college basketball coaches view this deal as the “first step” and something that “lends some respect to [the] sport.”[11] Down the road, performance units could even be paid out to conferences similar to that of the men’s tournament.[12]

On the opposite end, there is concern that this deal could be a sign of things to come in terms of college athletics becoming even more lucrative with NIL opportunities growing, therefore increasing the transfer portal activity and potential “play for pay” mentality.[13] As an example of college basketball coverage in 2023, elite point guard Nijel Pack’s performance was documented, but much of the media also centered their focus on his two-year, $800,000 NIL deal.[14] With increased viewership on the horizon, it is possible that the valuation of students and the dollars they are making may become as talked about and reported on as their actual performance.

As with other recent NIL developments, this deal holds significant implications for the trajectory of college sports. The increased viewership and larger platform for student athletes is ripe for the taking and has the potential to expand valuations, sponsorship, and the perception of college athletics exponentially.

[1] Jessica Golden, NCAA and ESPN ink 8-year, $920 million media rights deal, CNBC, (last updated Jan. 4, 2024, 1:02 PM).

[2] NCAA, ESPN extend broadcast deal 8 more years, ESPN (Jan 4, 2024, 10:49 AM),

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Josh Moody, The Current State of NIL, Inside Higher Ed (June 7, 2023),

[6] Ben Portnoy, NCAA inks landmark media deal with ESPN for coverage of 40 championships domestically, Sports Bus. J. (Jan. 1, 2024),

[7] Golden, supra note 1.

[8] Portnoy, supra note 6.

[9] Women’s hoops community sees new NCAA-ESPN deal as first step, ESPN (Jan. 5, 2024, 7:37 AM),

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Ralph D. Russo, NCAA agrees to $920 million, 8-year deal with ESPN for women’s March Madness, 39 other championships, AP, (last updated Jan. 4, 2024, 10:58 AM).

[13] Raju et al., NCAA leaders warn college sports at risk of ‘permanent damage’ without actions from Congress, CNN (Dec. 3, 2023, 11:30 AM),; Leonard Armato, NIL Court Loss: NCAA Must Embrace Pay For Play To Survive. See How., Forbes (Feb. 26, 2024, 7:30 AM),–to-survive/?sh=1d126eb66284.

[14] Dennis Dodd, March Madness 2023: Nijel Pack’s lucrative NIL deal pays dividends, sets up for teams to copy Miami’s strategy, CBS (Mar. 25, 2023, 10:12 PM),