IMG secures WVU media rights

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) – West Virginia University said Thursday it has awarded an $80 million, 12-year contract for multimedia rights to certain athletic events to North Carolina-based IMG College, the same company it had struck a tentative deal with earlier this year.

WVU was forced to rebid the contract after a review by the state attorney general’s office found “significant errors and sloppiness” in how the first deal was crafted. Two WVU Board of Governors members shouldn’t have participated in reviewing the bids, but Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he found “no evidence of intentional wrongdoing.”

The new partnership is effective this fall, for the 2013-14 school year.

WVU said the deal includes: management of local game broadcasts and coaches’ shows for radio and television; publications such as media guides and schedules; digital platforms including social media and web sites; corporate sponsorships; at-event promotions and game-day hospitality; stadium and venue signage including scoreboards and ribbon boards; and advertising in university-owned and leased athletic facilities.

IMG will partner with West Virginia Media Holdings to develop the TV programming, WVU said.

The deal lets WVU retain some existing corporate sponsorships for athletic apparel, footwear and other areas.

“It was time for WVU Athletics to grow our multimedia and sponsorship sales, especially with our recent move to the Big 12 Conference,” Athletic Director Oliver Luck said in a prepared statement. “… WVU now has the opportunity to expand its revenue base by engaging new national sponsors while building our athletic and university brand.”

IMG President Ben Sutton said WVU is one of the last major schools to handle multimedia and sponsorship sales in-house, adding that he is grateful for its trust.

IMG also handles multimedia for Baylor, Kansas, TCU and Texas – all Big 12 schools – and represents more than 90 universities nationwide.

Last month, West Virginia Radio Corp. filed a lawsuit to try to stop both IMG and West Virginia Media Holdings from participating in the rebid. The radio company owned by Morgantown businessman John Raese has said it doesn’t plan to compete for the contract, but it called the current process a sham.

WVU’s broadcast rights are currently handled by the university-operated Mountaineer Sports Network, which works closely with West Virginia Radio.

Raese attorney Bob Gwynne said Thursday the latest contract award “is an issue we will address in litigation.”

Raese cried foul when WVU announced it had tentatively declared IMG the winning bidder for the first contract.

The attorney general then reviewed allegations of misconduct and concluded that Board of Governors members Drew Payne and David Alvarez shouldn’t have participated in reviewing the original proposals.

Morrisey’s investigation concluded that Luck improperly provided confidential details of the proposed contract with IMG to Payne, whose subsequent comments about the financial terms of the deal were also improper.

WVU suspended talks with IMG after reports that both Payne and Alvarez had ties to West Virginia Media, which was then angling to subcontract with IMG.

To rebid the contract, WVU created a new evaluation committee, and appointed a new procurement liaison and an external legal adviser from the attorney general’s office.