PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – The NJCAA struck a deal with ESPN on Thursday, granting a multi-year media rights agreement to begin in the 2022-2023 academic year.

The deal includes nationally televised championship games for NJCAA Division I Football, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Baseball and Softball that will air on an ESPN linear network, as well as regular season content on ESPN+. 

Gulf Coast State College Athletic Director Mike Kandler said this is a huge step in promoting JUCO athletics and has the potential to finally shine a light on the powerful Panhandle Conference.

“Our level is the biggest secret there is in sports,” Kandler said. “Everybody knows there is really competitive high school athletics, everybody knows Duke and North Carolina are playing, everybody understands that. What they don’t understand sometimes is that we’re a heck of a lot closer to Duke, North Carolina than we are to high school. This level is a really really talented level, and so many you can watch in this gym and out on our courts, or any of the schools in our area for that matter in the Panhandle, those are the same players you’re going to be seeing on ESPN next year.”

Gulf Coast, Chipola and Northwest Florida could all potentially host an ESPN-aired game as soon as this year.