MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The committee to evaluate WVU’s third-tier media rights is undergoing a complete makeover. That means athletics director Oliver Luck won’t be involved, fallout from his — let’s politely call it “sloppy” — disregard for rules of confidentiality, candor and common sense.
Let that soak in for a moment: The WVU athletic department is embarking upon an outsourcing contract potentially worth $100 million, and the athletic director has to wait in the lobby.
Banning Luck signals a bold move by WVU president Jim Clements, but given the severity and frequency of Luck’s missteps during the first bidding period, the break was entirely necessary if the school aims to legitimize this contract.
Luck improperly shared confidential bid information with WVU board of governors chairman Drew Payne, who also sits on the board at West Virginia Media, which happened to be partnering with IMG College. An article in Thursday’s Dominion Post revealed more email exchanges, including Luck sending Payne a 14-page prospectus on Legends Sales & Marketing, which West Virginia Media’s competitors.
The WVU athletic department is embarking upon an outsourcing contract potentially worth $100 million, and the athletic director has to wait in the lobby.
Also gone from the original committee are deputy athletic director Mike Parsons and associate AD for business operations Mike Szul. Both of them were reluctant to jump on the IMG College bandwagon during the first bidding’s evaluation period, which apparently led Luck to handpick three additional panelists last October, a midstream maneuver he pulled off with no oversight from the university’s procurement office.
For those scoring at home, the three late committee additions —faculty members Bob Griffith, Steve Kite and Graham Peace — all followed Luck in voting for IMG College on Dec. 3. Parsons and Szul, who comprised two-thirds of the original committee, did not vote, citing unanswered questions about the IMG proposal. Their lingering questions didn’t stop WVU from notifying IMG it had been selected later that same day. Nor did it prevent Griffith from telling The Dominion Post in February that the vote for IMG was unanimous. (The newspaper followed up with Griffith, who explained in Thursday’s edition “I guess I just misspoke.”)
That came three days after state attorney general Patrick Morrisey concluded his in-house review and recommended WVU rebid its third-tier rights, a package for which IMG College reportedly was willing to pay up to $110 million with incentives. IMG’s bid, along with eight competing proposals, has yet to be made public.
This embarrassing episode reveals how Luck’s ambition overstepped protocol, a forbidding flaw for an administrator at public university.
We’ll see how similar the deals appear upon rebidding, or if the second round of bidding transpires at all. There could be room for further legal challenges to the first bidding period, considering how the shortcomings were perpetuated on WVU’s behalf by Luck, and by Payne’s conflict of interest.
Luck’s blatant breaches were stunning for someone with a pedigree of Rhodes scholar finalist, attorney, general manager of NFL Europe. Commend his part in steering WVU toward the Big 12. Laud his vision for upgrading WVU’s facilities through fundraising initiatives. But this embarrassing episode reveals how his ambition overstepped protocol, a forbidding flaw for an administrator at a public university.