LMU has entered a partnership with ESPN+.
This is big.
Before this season, LMU had a media rights relationship as part of the West Coast Conference (WCC). With that deal, the entire WCC had about 25 games that appeared on ESPN’s networks – none of them featuring LMU. The new deal with ESPN+ will broadcast over 900 WCC sporting events during the 2023-2024 season. The LMU sports teams included in the new deal are men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, baseball, and men’s water polo. The games broadcasted will be available to the 25 million ESPN+ subscribers — a massive audience for even elite sports programs.
Current players like Savannah Hooks, a junior on the LMU softball team are looking forward to the upgrade in quality and exposure for their games. As Hooks has been on the team for three seasons now, she has quite a lot of experience with the transitions that the athletics department has gone through.
“My freshman year, the streaming services through the WCC network for softball were very poor, but we were able to upgrade last year for much better quality and now we have ESPN+, which is awesome,” Hooks said.
Hooks experiencing this change in the middle of her collegiate athletic career has had an impact.
“Having ESPN+ and being on a streaming service like that is usually only something LMU softball receives when we play bigger schools, especially when we go to postseason, but it’s awesome that we have it on our own for our home games,”Hooks said.
“I think it will put LMU on the map especially as we keep winning and since a lot of sports fans have ESPN+, we will be able to get recognized through there as well. It’s exciting to see what’s next for LMU athletics,” says Hooks. LMU athletes view this deal as an acknowledgement of all the hard work they have been putting in throughout the years. Especially when they have bigger schools to compare their treatment to.
During the 2022-2023 season, men’s basketball scored an unsuspecting win against Gonzaga, who was ranked no. 6 at the time, currently no. 8, while LMU was ranked 107, they’re currently No. 111. Not long after the Gonzaga win, LMU also pulled off an upset against the no. 11 St. Mary’s team.
These exciting moments lead to a season that left students talking, and later fans who are counting down to their season opener on Nov. 7.
Team captain for the LMU men’s basketball team and All-WCC honorable mention Keli Leaupepe shared similar ideas about the ESPN+ partnership as Hooks. “So many more eyes will see our team play and this can create so many opportunities for us individually and as a program,” Leaupepe said.
“A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be featured on Sportscenter because of my hair and how I performed, and this is because we played a BIG10 school who had their games on TV.” Leaupepe said. “I feel that having our games now on TV regularly will allow us and many more to have similar opportunities which could lead to NIL deals and other things like that. Having a larger outreach can definitely influence people’s careers and I think it’s great that we have partnered with ESPN+.”
Men’s LMU baseball player Khadim Diaw feels the potential benefits for the partnership. “ESPN+ will allow us as student-athletes to showcase those talents in front of a larger group of people than previously before. In the long term, hopefully, the partnership will increase our school’s athletic recognition leading to more success within our sports programs. In terms of an individual’s career, more people watching you and creating more “buzz” will result in a higher chance of competing at the next level.” Said Diaw
With that said, there are also student athletes that feel like the partnership is not going to do much for them.
Senior Aiden Spagnoli, player for the men’s soccer team who has played for LMU for all four years of his athletic collegiate career, feels that the ESPN+ partnership is not what it’s cracked up to be.
“Personally, I do not feel it has had any effects on my athletic career. I feel that ESPN+ is a way better streaming platform than what we were using before. However, it is a bummer that if you did not already have an ESPN+ account, it costs money to create one and therefore pay to watch the games.” Spagnoli said.
This is important to consider, the cost of a subscription for ESPN+ is $10.99 a month. For some college students that price is a commitment that is unsustainable and unrealistic.
Student athletes on both sides see the benefits, but there are others that have understandable drawbacks about the partnership.