Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Inks New Media Rights Deal With ESPN for Third Season
Athletes Unlimited Volleyball is expanding in 2023, with a new media rights agreement with ESPN for its third championship season in the fall. In October and November, the full 30-match championship season will air exclusively live on ESPN’s television networks and ESPN+. This marks an expansion of Athletes Unlimited’s relationship with ESPN, which exclusively carries its softball and lacrosse competitions. ESPN’s coverage of Athletes Unlimited Volleyball in the fall will complement its coverage of NCAA women’s volleyball at the same time of year.
In addition, a new volleyball exhibition tour will be added in the spring. The Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Exhibition Tour will feature a team of its professional athletes traveling across the U.S. to play a series of exhibition matches against top college programs, while promoting the sport at a grassroots level and previewing the fall championship season.
The Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Exhibition Tour will begin on March 23 and run through April 21, and feature a roster of 15 top professional players visiting eight top college programs (including six of the top 15 schools in the current volleyball rankings) and playing exhibition matches on their campuses. They will also visit two of the largest youth tournaments in the U.S., with the AU pros splitting into two teams for a head-to-head exhibition.
In addition to the matches, Athletes Unlimited athletes will visit local clubs, schools and community events, host clinics and other activities geared towards promoting the sport and building excitement about the Athletes Unlimited Volleyball championship season in the fall.
The Exhibition Tour will include visits to the University of Louisville, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, University of Texas, Baylor University, Howard University and Penn State University, as well as the Windy City Qualifier in Chicago.
The player roster for the Exhibition Tour will include Ali Bastianelli, Amanda Benson, Kaz Brown, Taylor Bruns Tegenrot, Alisha Childress, Leah Edmond, Erin Fairs, Falyn Fonoimoana, Morgan Hentz, Sydney Hilley, Willow Johnson, Molly McCage, Deja McClendon, Taylor Reid and Jenna Rosenthal. This group includes one Olympian (Childress), five national champions and eight All-Americans. During the Exhibition Tour, a number of Athletes Unlimited players will have the opportunity to return to their alma mater and compete against their college program.
“Volleyball is clearly gaining in popularity, both in terms of participation as well as fan interest at all levels. As the only professional league in the United States, we’re excited to expand Athletes Unlimited Volleyball to give more people access to the highest level of the game,” says Cassidy Lichtman, Director of Sport for Athletes Unlimited Volleyball. “It’s amazing to see industry leaders like ESPN recognize the value of the sport and invest in its future. The Exhibition Tour is a great opportunity to reach the many volleyball fans across the country at the collegiate and youth levels and it will be really special for our athletes to go back to the places and programs that set them on the path to their professional careers.”