COMMENTARY

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After weeks of contention and confoundment, the fan fatigue surrounding WVU’s third-tier rights saga is comparable to a 330-pound noseguard chugging 80 yards with a fumble recovery.

The big guy’s wheezing and wobbling toward pay dirt and you wonder if he’ll ever reach it. Likewise, WVU senses a $100-million payday on its horizon, only to have the last few yards become the longest.

Then again, even the first few yards found WVU athletics director Oliver Luck growing impatient. So suggests his email from June 20, 2012, a mere nine days after the request for proposal was publicly released: “This bureaucracy is killing us.”

Luck sent that frustrated sentence to Drew Payne, whom we must trustingly surmise was functioning that day as chairman of the WVU Board of Governors and not as a board member for West Virginia Media, the company that six months later became a vital part of IMG College’s bid-winning package.

How both gentlemen ignored such a glaring conflict of interest is unfathomable, and thus became one of the problems highlighted by state attorney general Patrick Morrisey on Monday when he recommended WVU begin the bidding anew. By now, Morrisey’s assertions of “significant errors” and “sloppiness” have become lead-paragraph staples of all who reported on WVU’s failings. Not a banner moment for the athletic department, or the university’s leadership, for that matter.

Make no mistake: Black Monday was not the creation of a pestering John Raese, but the result of WVU allowing the process to be painted with the colors of cronyism.

The only thing that saved this from becoming an even larger stain was the inability of Morrisey’s office to find hard evidence that Luck and Payne conspired to”pre-cook the bid” toward IMG. Instead, we’re left with circumstantial correspondences in which Luck shared multiple versions of the RFP with Payne before their public release. And later, during the evaluation process, Luck shared more updates with Payne, who subsequently told news outlets WVU stood to make an additional $5 million per year with IMG’s proposal.

During the attorney general’s subsequent review, Payne claimed he merely estimated that amount because Luck never actually shared financial details of the IMG bid. Morrisey chalked up Payne’s media claims as “hyperbole.”

Luck admitted Monday to improper communications with Payne, though he maintained their dialogue “did not impact the evaluation or selection process.” He cannot say the same about his curious decision to double the size of WVU’s three-member evaluation panel as bids were being analyzed.

Originally, Luck was joined on the committee only by Mike Parsons, deputy director of athletics, and Mike Szul, associate athletic director of business operations. But on Oct. 12, after scoring of the bids had begun, Luck added three new members to the group. He apparently did so without mentioning the additions to Parsons and Szul, whose roles took a diminished turn on Dec. 3. That’s the day an email was sent to the six committee members seeking approvals of the IMG bid, and though Parson and Szul did not respond with their votes, WVU notified IMG of its approval anyway later in the day. Morrisey cited the late-changing committee as a maneuver that clearly could have impacted the final bid-winner.

Looking ahead now to the fast-tracked rebid process, will Luck’s evaluation committee feature some, all or none of the same faces? And will he still be allowed to lead the selection panel after the wrist-slapping handed down by the AG? With Payne advised to recuse himself, should Luck take a sideline seat also?

The contingent of Mountaineers fans focused primarily on touchdowns and tackles are no doubt weary of this tier-3 issue and its discussion of FOIAs, RFPs and bureaucratic protocols. But fans also should expect their athletics director to handle the bidding of such a sizable contact earnestly and appropriately.

On Monday, the attorney general gave Luck credit for only one out of two.

DISCLOSURE: John Raese is the owner of West Virginia Radio Corp., which owns MetroNews.

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Comments

  • cutty77

    WVRC has and will have Rougher Day's Than WVU in the Future. Believe me on This one.

  • Charles

    Agreed sue!

  • Sue

    Of course AD Luck should preside over it. He's the AD. What else would he be doing? Firing Assistant AD Parsons? Probably. WVU shouldn't even rebid it if they aren't required to do so. They should just award the contract to whomever gives them the most money... period. This is all so ridiculous.

    • Big John

      I agree//

    • Guardian

      And if WVU has to buy these rights back later to enter a conference agreement with, for example, Fox or ESPN? We're already in the RED financially. This is short sighted thinking by folks (Luck included) that are only seeing immediate dollar signs.

      • Jim

        Guardian,

        Sounds like you work for Raese. Hope you and Allan Taylor have a good time looking for a new job when WVU completes this process. Like AG Morrisey said...WVU was not required to follow the rules on this....we were not buying anything...only making money!!!

        • Allan Taylor

          Jim, thanks for your repeated kind sentiments — though for the life of me I can't comprehend how the awarding of third-tier rights has anything to do with my employment.

          • Jim

            You work for WV Radio and Metronews don't you? I cannot remember how many times I heard that since IMG was going to take over radio broadcasting rights. That would mean your companies would be on the outside looking in. Honestly, I think WVU should remove all advertising with your companies for the journalistic sour grapes started by your boss Raese.

        • Guardian

          Sorry to disappoint you, Jim. No, don't work for Raese, but I would consider it a pleasure to work along side Allan. You are whistling past the graveyard, Jim. Look around you at the other power conferences. They are NOT selling individual rights they are buying them back so they can bundle them with their other conference members and forn conference wide Tier 3 networks. Big Ten Network already done. The SEC schools have been buying back their rights from IMG, Learfield, etc. and the last two SEC schools just recently completed their buy backs. Now the SEC will move forward with something like the Big Ten Network. The Pac 12 is doing the same thing. Luck and Clements and IMG and Bray Cary are on the WRONG side of the trend in the major conferences. And I work for an industrial manufacturer - not the media, just to set the record straight.

    • Wilson

      Why in the world would you suggest firing Assistant AD Parsons? That is ridiculous. If Luck wants to fire someone....he should look in the mirror first. Remember it was HE who presided over this debacle. HE is the AD and HE is 100% responsible for allowing this to happen

  • Charleston,WV

    Allen: I know this has been a difficult story for you to handle given the fact that you work for WV Metronews. I must say that I you have done an exceptional job presenting the facts of both sides of this story. Way to go!

    • Jim

      Gotta love sarcasm!

      • Charleston,WV

        I was not being sarcastic nor cynical regarding his posting. Way to go Allan!
        ps. sorry for misspelling your name.

  • hoot

    John Raese accusing anyone of cronyism is just plain laughable.

  • Big Larry

    How are we now going to be able to pay Huggins his millions?

    • Charleston,WV

      ........If only you could add "snarf, snarf" to the end or you comments.

  • chad

    Way to pucker up and place a big smooch on Raese's fanny Allen. Say what you want he stoked this fire out of pure spite, not injustice and in the process has cost WVU millions. Good luck ever getting elected in WV Johnny Boy.

    • Allan Taylor

      The AG, brought in by WVU and treating the school as "his client" while reviewing the procedure, finds a litany of flaws. But don't let logic deter your argument, Chad.

      • Jim

        Allan,

        "a litany of flaws"? Really? I don't remember him using a word that would mean the same as "litany".

        • Wilson

          Quote from AG "Significant errors and sloppiness" sounds a lot like litany to me...

  • jfk

    AT I doubt you know a darn thing about football so why use it as an example?!

  • Jasper Wilcox

    The AD was willing to have the Attorney General review this. He accepted the opinion. What more could you ask for? Mr. Taylor, you wrote this with a bias of self preservation. I can't blame you, based on who your boss is. It's time to let this one go.

    • bruopiner

      I had the understanding that Mr. Luck is an attorney. It is absolutely inexcusable for him to completely blow off the ethical considerations and conflicts of interest involved here. It is also a slap in the face of West Virginia and West Virginia University.

      The point is that the Attorney General should never have had to be involved.

  • Mike B

    I think it is a shame that this has to be redone. My opininion IMG won fair and square and would have been profitable for WVU. Sometimes we need to learn how to lose and take it in stride.

    • Wilson

      Did you not read the report? Fair and Square? The evaluation committee comprised of 3 people....when 2 of those did not vote in the affirmative for IMG, Ollie decided to put 3 more people on the committee. That is only one of the many reasons the AG says re-bid. Fair and Square....are you kidding?

  • Guardian

    Allan - there is another issue here that no one is addressing. Note recent events in the SEC where they just had the last 2 schools complete a buy-back of their Tier 3 rights. Now, with all schools owning their Tier 3 rights the SEC can move forward with the bundled Tier 3 media package offered to them by ESPN/ABC. The Big XII has been approached by both Fox and ESPN to bundle the Tier 3 rights of the 8 schools left after Texas and their Longhorn Network and the still to be launched Oklahoma network. If the bundled package of the 8 remaining Big XII schools becomes "front burner", then will WVU have to go even further in the financial "red" to buy back the rights they are now bidding? Wouldn't it be more advantageous to try to lead the other Big XII schools down the path of this new SEC network rather than bidding away something we might have to buy back? After all, the Big Ten Network paved the way - more money on the table collectively rather than individually.

    • Big John

      Probally neeed to know how much it will cost to buy back the rights> more than they will receive.

  • Big John

    West Virginia will lose several million dollars because of the rebid and it is a shame because they did not even have it bid. It is very interesting in seeing that at least one company tried to lowball the deal, and no media rights should be given out that does not be a financial incentive to WVU. Free was not Good//////

  • WestBGV

    Most interesting finding from WV AG is that WVU didn't have to following purchasing/acquisition rules in the first place but chose to do so.
    AG said WVU wasn't purchasing anything (no assets) but rather was selling something (granting of tier 3 rights) and therefore wasn't spending money but rather getting money.
    Perhaps volunteering to treat a non-purchase action as a purchase action was WVU's first and most significant mistake in this process.

  • Chef Camille

    WVU focus is what is best for Morgantown and what is best for the good old boy network. Unfortunately we had two good old boy networks competing for the same prize.

  • Woodchuck

    What a black eye. Makes Heath Bresch look like a saint. How many people lost there jobs on that one?

    Is anybody focused on education?

    • WILLIAM

      I'M LOVIN' IT --- TIF FAILED, LET WVU SPEND THEIR OWN MONEY TO BUILT THIS BALLPARK. THEY HAVE ALOT OF CASH, LOOK AT WHAT THEY PAY HUGGINS AND HOLGERSON. OVER $10,000.00 DOLLARS A DAY AND THESE COACHES ARE A MESS. THIS IS A WIN FOR THE COMMON FOLKS OF THE GREAT STATE OF WV

      • tony

        evidently happy hour had two sessions this day, huh?

      • Stan

        Ummm, the tif passed. Sorry, go spread negative somewhere else.

    • WILLIAM

      OLIVER 'MONEY MAN' LUCK - WITH HIM IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY! MONEY AND GREED HAS TAKEN WVU TO ALL TIME LOWS. WVU HAS BEEN GOING DOWNHILL EVER SINCE OLLIE HAS BEEN IN CHARGE. WVU NEED TO CLEAR HOUSE AT THE ATHLETIC DEPT.BECAUSE THESE IN CHARGE HAVE BEEN A BIG FAILURE!

      • WILLIAM

        IS SPORTS ONLY ABOUT MONEY! LOOK AT ALL THE STORYS ON THIS WEB SITE, 90% ALWAYS TALK ABOUT MONEY. IT SO SAD THAT EVERYONE WANTS A PIECE OF THE PIE! MONEY AND GREED IS THE REASON FOR THE BIG DOWNFALL IN WVU SPORTS. EVERY SINCE OLLIE HAS COME TO WVU AND IT'S ONLY ABOUT MONEY. WHAT A FAILURE!

        • hailey

          Willie cap-lock, back off the caffine, relax it will all be fine... your blind evny of all thing WVU is not very becoming