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UND athletics to decide future of TV contract in the next five weeks

The Fighting Hawks are looking to expand the scope of broadcast coverage.

02XX20 S GFH MIDCO JeremyKlein01.jpg
Midco Sports Network producer Jeremy Klein coordinates the recording of a segment with his fellow broadcast crew members prior to last Friday's UND men's hockey game against Colorado College at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — UND will decide the future of its sports television contract in the next five weeks.

UND has posted and distributed a request for proposal (RFP) seeking bids for its TV and radio rights. It is expected to award both in the opening two weeks of June.

It is the first time UND has opened its TV contract for bids in a decade.

In 2012, UND awarded its television rights to Midco Sports, signing a five-year deal worth $1 million. When that contract expired, UND extended it for another five years at $1.425 million instead of opening it for bids.

However, the state requires UND to post an RFP every 10 years, so it is once again open for bidding.

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"We're not taking it lightly," UND associate athletic director Kyle Doperalski said. "We spent a lot of time on it throughout the year. We know it's important to the fans, it's important to the coaches, it's important to the student-athletes and it's important to the institution."

In some aspects, UND is looking for the same things Midco Sports has been doing, like carrying every home hockey and football game, while producing behind-the-scenes shows like Through These Doors for hockey and Day by Day for football.

In other aspects, UND is asking for more.

It wants increased coverage of men's and women's basketball, volleyball, women's soccer and softball. Its current contract calls for Midco Sports to carry a minimum of five men's basketball, five women's basketball and three volleyball games per season. Midco Sports has been carrying more than that, though.

UND also is looking for its rights-holder to broadcast football conference road games — something that wasn't possible when it renewed its contract with Midco Sports five years ago. At that time, the Fighting Hawks were members of the Big Sky Conference, which gives full television rights to home teams.

But the Missouri Valley Football Conference uniquely allows road team television broadcasts, opening the door for UND's rights-holder to do all road league games.

It would not be allowed to do nonconference road games unless permitted by the host institution, just as it cannot do road hockey games without permission of the host team.

UND also is looking for its rights-holder to do pregame shows for hockey and football.

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Although it is possible UND could split the contract between sports — for example, KVLY held NDSU's football rights while Midco Sports did NDSU basketball from 2016-21 — UND is planning to hand all sports to one entity.

"We're going to start with it all under one banner," Doperalski said. "We'll see what the responses are back, but we are starting as one contract altogether. It wouldn't be smart of us to rule anything out at this point, though."

UND is looking to sign a four-year contract with three separate options for two-year add-ons. The two-year add-ons would have to be agreed upon by both UND and the rights-holder. That could take the contract to the next required RFP in 2032.

"It's not going to be a 10-year decision all at once," Doperalski said. "But it could potentially be one."

Potential bidders include Midco Sports, Forum Communications (WDAY/WDAZ) and Gray Television (KVLY).

There are two components to the RFP — the financial side and technical side.

Bids will be weighted 75 percent toward the technical side (production value, expansiveness of coverage, content creation, distribution and reach, and promotional materials) and 25 percent toward the rights fee.

An evaluation team — which includes athletic director Bill Chaves and associate athletic director Erik Martinson — will make the final decision. Doperalski, who has been heavily involved in writing the RFP, is leaving UND on May 27 — the day bids are due.

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"I'm super excited about the future," Doperalski said. "I'm jealous and disappointed I won't be able to see it."

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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