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Updated: Fox Sports' BCS Punt Puts ESPN In Position To Score

Fox Sports has elected not to match ESPN’s multiyear offer for the Bowl Championship Series games, a decision that should put college football’s top contests on the total sports network.

In a statement, Fox said it decided not to match the offer the BCS Group received from ESPN for the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls, plus the national championship games from 2011-2014 and that it planned to notify the organization by phone today. The move will pave the way for the top five college bowl games to be on Walt Disney Co.-owned networks, as ABC currently holds the right to the Rose Bowl, which could in turn also wind up on ESPN.

Fox would not detail its last offer. However, ESPN was said to have bid some $500 million for the contests, which are also expected to encompass a host of attendant digital rights, over the four years, while Fox’s offer topped out at some $100 million annually.

ESPN issued a statement of its own early Monday evening: "We are not commenting today about a potential BCS agreement. However, we wish to remind everyone that ESPN is distributed on expanded basic, a product enjoyed by 98 million homes that offers the best entertainment buy in America, including many championship caliber sporting events."

Fox issued the following statement: “Even with today’s vast economic uncertainties, Fox Sports made a very competitive bid to keep broadcasting BCS games free to every home in America, one that included a substantial rights fee increase, and certainly as much as any over-the-air network could responsibly risk.  Unfortunately, the University presidents and BCS commissioners were not satisfied and they’ve decided to take their jewel events to pay television. We wish everyone well.”

Last week, ESPN paid some $200 million for full rights to British Open for eight years, beginning with the 2010 tourney. Turner Sports, which will televise the Open Championship for the last time next summer from Turnberry, Scotland, declined to extend its rights with the R&A for the tournament.