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Monday, June 23, 2014
UK sells marketing rights to JMI

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

The University of Kentucky announced on Monday that it had sold its multimedia marketing rights to a company founded by former San Diego Padres owner John Moores.

Moores' JMI Sports has agreed to pay $210 million total, including a $29.4 million signing bonus, to own the radio rights for Kentucky football, men's and women's basketball and baseball games. The deal also allows JMI to sell and profit from the school's stadium and arena signage, future naming rights, in-game promotions and coaches' endorsements, among other things. The school, for example, will pay men's basketball coach John Calipari $4.5 million for his endorsement rights this upcoming season.

The terms represent a 74 percent average annual increase from the Wildcats' current deal with ING, which will expire in April 2015. Unlike the current deal, this deal does not include television rights, mainly because of the founding of the SEC Network, which is owned by ESPN.

The new 15-year deal with JMI, with an average annual value of $14 million, is believed to be the second-largest college multimedia rights deal that does not include TV behind only that of Alabama, which signed a 10-year deal with Learfield Sports this year that will be worth at least $14 million a year. (Notre Dame's and Texas' multimedia rights deals are both higher than Alabama's and include TV.)

A source with knowledge of the deal says the contract does not mention how terms might change should the athletes get a cut in future years.

As the NCAA fights in court in the O'Bannon case to convince a judge that the athletic mission and the education mission of schools are inextricably intertwined, Kentucky, despite the size of this deal, made its case.

"It is critically important that our athletic program remain not only financially self-sustaining, but is also positioned to continue to be an aggressive partner in our academic efforts," said University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto in a statement. "Nowhere else in the country is an athletics program more essential to building a thriving public, residential, research university."

Last year, $65 million in funds coming from the Kentucky athletic department were earmarked for the $100 million Academic Science Building.

The Kentucky deal is the first multimedia rights deal for JMI Sports, which also specializes in selling sponsorships, arranging stadium financing and ticket sales.