Conference USA, ESPN settle lawsuit

NEW YORK -- Conference USA's football championship games will now air on ESPN, not Fox, after the league and network settled litigation.

ESPN sued the conference in March, accusing it of violating their contract when it signed a new deal with Fox. Conference USA had announced in January that it had reached a five-year contract with Fox's networks to broadcast its football championship game and other sports events.

The two sides announced Tuesday that ESPN would televise the title game from 2011-15.

The rest of the deal with Fox remains intact. Fox Sports Networks will air at least 20 regular-season football games and 10 regular-season men's basketball games each year.

After Conference USA was sued, Fox worked with the league to find a solution that was beneficial for all sides.

"We applaud Conference USA and ESPN for resolving their differences," Fox spokesman Dan Bell said.

Fox has recently been aggressive in adding college sports programming and could be back in the mix for the Conference USA football title games starting in 2016.

ESPN and Conference USA had signed a five-year deal in 2005, which included a provision giving ESPN exclusive rights to try to re-negotiate the package in 2010. The suit filed in federal court in New York said Conference USA did not satisfy the terms that would have allowed it to negotiate with other networks. The conference denied those claims in court filings.

"The parties look forward to continuing their relationship going forward," the joint statement said.

ESPN and Conference USA said they would have no further comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit contended the league had agreed to terms in writing on a new contract with ESPN worth about $22 million. Conference USA's original deal with Fox was for $43 million.

This year's conference title game is Dec. 3 on ESPN2.