SBD/April 16, 2013/Media

WVU Advised By State AG To Re-Open Tier 3 Media Rights Bidding, But IMG Still Favorite

West Virginia and IMG were reportedly near agreement on a 12-year, $110M deal
West Virginia Univ. will "scrap bids for its athletic department's multimedia rights and start over" after state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said that "significant errors were made" in the process, according to a front-page piece by Jared Hunt of the Charleston DAILY MAIL. While Morrisey's office found "significant errors and sloppiness" in the bid process, he said that it found "no evidence of 'intentional wrongdoing.'" Morrisey said that WVU BOG Chair Drew Payne and BOG member David Alvarez "should have recused themselves." Both Payne and Alvarez have "financial ties to West Virginia Media Holdings, a company that was poised to subcontract with potential bid winner IMG Media." Morrisey said that Payne also "improperly received information and commented publicly on the process." But he said that "none of those errors had a significant impact on the outcome." Sources said that IMG and WVU were "set to agree" on a 12-year, $110M contract that would have netted the university about $5M "more per year than its current Tier 3 media arrangement." Morrisey yesterday said that his office is "looking at current contracts" between WVU and both West Virginia Media and West Virginia Radio. He also is "examining previous scoreboard donations and purchases, football spring game contracts and university compliance with the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act." WVU AD Oliver Luck said his communication with Payne during the process was "inappropriate." IMG College VP/Strategic Communications Andrew Giangola said that company officials are "ready to renew discussions with WVU." Should WVU "not have a new Tier 3 partner in place by May 15, its current radio broadcast contract with West Virginia Radio will automatically be renewed for another year" (Charleston DAILY MAIL, 4/16).

FALLOUT FROM DELAY: In West Virginia, Chuck McGill writes under the header, "WVU, IMG Marriage Still A Likely Conclusion." However, IMG will "lose time because of the review process." The first year of a restructured deal "could -- and should -- be prorated to reflect those missed opportunities." WVU's media rights are "so coveted because it's rare for an athletics program to hit the open market" (Charleston DAILY MAIL, 4/16). A Clarksburg EXPONENT-TELEGRAM editorial states the manner in which WVU "handled its multimedia rights bidding process can be viewed as nothing less than substandard." The "lengthy process ... should have been handled in a manner above reproach" (Clarksburg EXPONENT-TELEGRAM, 4/16).
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