Following Wednesday’s report by the Sports Business Daily that West Virginia University has reached a third-tier multimedia rights deal with IMG College, here’s a glimpse at the potential scope of the agreement and what it likely means to Mountaineers fans.

First, to define what this third-tier rights package entails:

• Television rights to one football game per season and a handful of men’s basketball games that are picked over by the major networks

• Complete radio broadcast rights

• Coaches’ shows produced for television, radio and web streaming

• Television rights to all other WVU sports (the ones lovingly categorized as non-revenue).

• Rights to sell advertising signage and sponsorships

• Online content.

Now, a deeper, speculative look at the agreement, which is pending as IMG and West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck (and, no doubt, a gaggle of attorneys) attend to the final details:

Who were the other bidders?
Already partnering with more than 60 schools and three conferences, IMG College is one of the industry’s behemoths, alongside Learfield Sports (51 schools, two conferences), which also contended for the WVU rights package. Within the Big 12 Conference, IMG partners with Texas, Kansas, Baylor and TCU, while Learfield owns deals with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Iowa State.

Other companies submitting bids for the WVU package included Nelligan Sports (32 schools), CBS Collegiate Sports Properties (seven schools), Fox Sports Net, Front Row Marketing (eight schools, the NHL’s Flyers, the MLS’ Philadelphia Union and six minor-league franchises), Legends Sales and Marketing (a New York Yankees-Dallas Cowboys co-owned venture), XOS Digital and West Virginia Radio Corp. (owner of MetroNews and the company that historically has produced the radio broadcasts for WVU football and men’s and women’s basketball).

What is the deal worth?
The university has yet to disclose the terms — and with final negotiations ongoing, some inventory of rights (signage, ticketing, digital) could be retained by the school. But sources have estimated IMG will pay WVU anywhere from $75 million to a whopping $120 million over 12 years.

In 2009, IMG guaranteed Ohio State $110 million over 10 years, but in 2012 Learfield signed two deals that may prove more relevant: a 10-year contract with N.C. State worth $49 million, and a seven-year deal with Wisconsin that pays $52.5 million.

Note, however, that a superficial comparison of these deals is risky, because contracts vary from school to school based upon the depth of rights included in the package. Some agreements even include infrastructure pieces such as video boards for football, baseball or soccer stadiums.

What becomes of the on-air talent?
The most public aspect of this agreement involves who’ll emerge as the voice of WVU football and basketball. That’s a role Tony Caridi has filled the past 15 years, and he’s currently in his 27th year overall with the school-owned Mountaineer Sports Network. He hosts the weekly in-season call-in shows for Dana Holgorsen and Bob Huggins, and occasionally emcees events tied to the athletic department.

While IMG could stipulate that it brings in its own broadcasters, the company typically favors retaining longtime play-by-play announcers who have forged an identity with a school’s brand.

Why partner with a company such as IMG in the first place?
College athletic programs have been outsourcing various aspects of marketing and multimedia rights for the past two decades. In fact, West Virginia and Michigan State are the last two major-college holdouts when it comes to auctioning off these lucrative assets. Of course, it’s only lucrative if the revenue from selling these rights exceeds what the university would have derived from continuing to manage them in-house.

For years, key members of the WVU athletics department felt they could grow healthy revenue streams while serving as the best stewards of the university’s branding and marketing, and even now, there remains some risk in how an outside firm like IMG will be received within the state. Of course, once the deal is signed, it’s up to IMG to make a return on its financial investment.

“This works from a revenue standpoint at programs all over the country, so it’s not all bad,” an industry source told MetroNews.

How could IMG change the relationship between WVU and advertisers?
The source said “if anyone was going to overpay for WVU, it would be IMG because they already had the Pitt and Marshall properties,” which are believed to be underperforming (especially in Marshall’s case). That portends a touchy scenario whereby IMG could squeeze WVU sponsors to help subsidize Marshall by bundling advertising packages.

“IMG could say, ‘You want the Mountaineers? Then you’re going to have buy Marshall as well,’” the source said. “I promise you, IMG will hold some people hostage to get more money for Marshall.”

It’s hard to imagine that sales pitch playing well with business owners who are gold-and-blue through and through.

The source said most of the state’s six-figure advertisers are already aligned with WVU, meaning IMG’s sales staff will need to target more smaller companies willing to spend $20,000 and $40,000 annually. “They are going to have to hit a lot of singles and doubles to hit that number, and they’re going to have to do that in a state where there’s not a lot of business.”

Regardless of how much IMG agrees to pay WVU — recalling once more that $75 million or $120 million range mentioned by sources earlier — advertisers who want to renew their sponsorships of the Mountaineers can likely expect to pay more.

“(IMG) will assume right away that the prices WVU has been charging are too low, so they’ll jack up the rates,” the source said. “In that case you might lose some sponsors who are faced with a 15- to 18-percent increase with no new inventory.

“It’s a question of how hard-line IMG will be.”

What else will fans notice?

With IMG aggressively chasing revenue, expect more advertising signage throughout Milan Puskar Stadium and the concourses of the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers in-house marketing team previously sought to minimize advertising clutter, but in the coming months, with every inch of property available for sponsorship, how long before the urinals feature a Target logo?

Sponsorships also could infiltrate the radio broadcast and the public address system, with every third-down conversion leading to a “United Bank FIRST DOWN!” or every trip inside the 20 meaning the Mountaineers have entered “the Coca-Cola RED ZONE!”

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Comments

  • Sparky

    Third-grade math. Marshall, Pitt, Notre Dame, and a score of other IMG properties just subsidized WVU. Those other properties are generating revenue for IMG. WVU is millions in the RED to IMG. They're not making that up by Tuesday.

  • Bigeerfull

    No doubt about it, the landscape of college athletics has changed forever. Just like the gold rush 49ers, colleges across the land are trying their best to position themselves to lay claim to a motherlode. WVU is no exception. Lifelong regional rivalries be damned. Inflating costs to the point that an average fan can no longer experience a college football game...oh well. Don't like it? Tough teets, the self proclaimed gods of college athletics are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars while some poor kid gets suspended for taking a free meal from an "unscrupulous" booster. We only have ourselves to blame. We will keep on paying the $20 parking, contributing special gifts to get a season ticket, paying the astronomical concession fees and spending top dollar for the best merchandise that China can manufacture for pennies. I hope that I live long enough to see the slave labor/pawns (players) unite and finally get their well deserved and rightfull piece of the pie.

    • GregG

      Well said!!!!!!!!

  • SCMOUNTAINEER

    Anyone who thinks Tony Caridi needs to go hasn't spent any time outside their WV comfort zone! The product that MSN has provided WVU over the years is fantastic compared to many other, more successful programs. I can tell you from experience from listening to SEC and ACC local broadcasts and many other schools sports broadcasts over XM that MSN and Tony Caridi are just as good if not much better than any of them. If Tony is let go I know that he will end up in a much better position and will be making a hell of a lot more than he makes in Morgantown. Some of you people just don't know how good you have it. You should hope and pray that he remains the voice of the Mountaineers!

  • JRH

    The change isn't about the on-air talent...This change is about WV being 'short changed' on income for decades from a company whose has been making huge profits from WV sports...

    More income from advertisers will reduce the pressure on WV raising prices on their tickets...

    I believe for decades WV has lost huge amount of income from its present media contracts...And Mr. Luck knows that fact...

  • Joe

    This is long overdue. How are you going to compete financially when you are one of 2 majr colleges still keeping it inhouse. Let IMG worry about unning this and let the Athletic dept worry about athletics (and have extra revenue to do so). If people recall... I believe RRod was pushing for WVU to get a deal like this so football could bring in more revenue with replays non nationally televised games ect... the old AD was not forward thinking enough and RR knew he would not have the resources to continue to compete with the old regime. Ollie Luck has bee the best thing to happen to us, in time even all those that resist every little change that comes along will realiz this as well.

  • Joe C

    I am upset, because MSN is one of the few familiar voices I can tune into on a regular basis, being out of WV for 10 years now. IMG's broadcasts are canned across the board, ND, Marshall, Pitt, Arkansas etc.... It is like driving down the interstate and every exit is the same. Sorry folks, I am sentimental. But Tony Caridi and his color commentators are like family to me, and have been for years, when I was there, and when I left, just as Fleming and O'Hara were when I was a young man. Leave TC & crew in place, and I will come along. Take them away, and I will start listening to U of Ark broadcasts, because they will sound just the same, and be closer to where I live now. Perhaps I will jsut come along, like I did when I was upset that O'Hara was not made WVU Play By Play Announcer when Fleming had to retire. I have come to love Caridi.

  • Tommy

    It is not exactly the windfall some people think it is. MSN was generating $6.2 million dollars a year before this deal ($74.4 million over 12 years - and that is with no advertising increases). It is what is happening in college sports everywhere.

  • Earthgate21

    Question: Do the small stations in Moorefield and Keyser get cut out of the deal?

    • In da stickes

      Not if they are willing to pay the going rate. Keyser is owned by the Raese family.

  • In da stickes

    For goodness sakes people. This deal will pay us more than the Big East paid us for tier 1 and 2 rights!!!! It is about time WVU got paid for the product we provide to our fans and the voracious sports programming people. Don't let a one year bump in the road cause you to lose faith.

  • Aaron

    he Aren't WV MetroNews and MSN owned by the same people? If so, then the bitterness one reads in this article is obviously MetroNews/MSN waving bye-bye to their cash cow.

    It would be nice, for once, to hear post-game talk that actually criticized the coaches and didn't suck up to them. After attending games in TX and LA, it was amazing to hear actual honest analysis of their teams.
    So whether or not TC remains, I hope the broadcasters have more freedom to be "real" and not kiss-a%&es to the school.

  • Stacy

    I'm a die hard WV'yin. Although I live next door in VA I plan to eventually return to my home state. I was very frustrated with this years football season as I'm sure most were. I had season tickets but only went to 4 games. Despite all that I still believe in Luck and Holgorson. I believe they're professionals at what they do. We will return to the top in both football and basketball over the next few years. Hang in there WV fans! Try to lighten up on the negativity....it's like poison. Win or lose let's represent Mountaineer nation with loyalty and pride!

  • John

    I'm struck by the number of people whom seem disgusted by the financial side of sports but also want to see our Mountaineers winning big games...and on TV nonetheless. Where do those people think the money comes from to pay the coaches and build facilities? For goodness sake, all this deal means is that there's greater broadcast access to WVU and more money to fund the programs. If you're looking for cheap entertainment, read a book or go fishing with a cane pole. You can't expect to compete with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma on the field of play if you want to pay the same price of admission as a high school game. A winning product costs a lot of money and this isn't a new phenomenon relevant only to "these days".

    On a separate note, I emphatically agree with all whom desire to hear Tony Caridi remain the voice of the Mountaineers. He is a national talent and we should be grateful to have him.

  • EersNBeers

    What will Northside Automotive do?!?

    • cutty77

      Northside will pay more Money,its that simple.

    • In da stickes

      Pay even more through the nose.

  • Brent Mead

    Some are u fans are ridiculous... This is great for wvu, more money means better facilities, maybe new practice facility, new freshman dorms, better fan experience. Omg u older mountaineer fans are gonna have a heart attack when the new jerseys come out, and the new black and gold ones come out, but omg that's not our school colors. It's what recruits want. I hate all you old mountaineer fans, u try and hold this university back so much it makes me sick

    • Rick

      The older Mountaineer fans built the university and paved the way to make it what it is today. It is the older Mountaineer fans (and the taxpayers), not today's students, who have paid for everything we have today. The older Mountaineer fans understand something about loyalty and tradition and integrity. I would guess that the older Mountaineer fans also understand something about respect, which is something you, Brent, seem to lack.

      I hope to one day become one of those older Mountaineer fans, and I respect and appreciate everything the older Mountaineer fans have done.

      Instead of holding this university back, I think the older Mountaineer fans actually comprehend what the university means to the state of West Virginia and how it has contributed to the betterment of the residents of the state. Finally, I think the older Mountaineer fans have the wisdom to see that the direction in which some people want to take the university may be politically correct and in tune with current culture, but is not necessarily in the best interests of West Virginia University and the state of West Virginia.

  • TC

    TC says KEEP TC. He is great and so is Coach Hunter. Also, keep everybody's little buddy JAY!