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 athletics 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, one of 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 a 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.

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  • wvman75

    Even a smart and effective athletic director deserves a mulligan sometimes. Go Mountaineers!!

  • Robin

    I do not and never have liked the Big 12 move.

  • Mr. 8-Ball

    Well, you know what they say - never pick a fight with a man with a microphone.

  • steve

    Johnny ray see has milked wvu for all he could and knows it,Now he cant compete with the big boys [ IMG] and is A sore loser,Just my opinion.

    • JL

      How has "Johnny Ray" milked WVU? You just make that up? WVU is in the Big 12 because of Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez, Bill Stewart, John Beilein and Bob Huggins a lot more than because of Oliver Luck. His arrogance caused a major rift with his partners in the Big East - particularly Steve Peterson at Pitt - which helped block a possible Mountaineer pathway to the ACC where we naturally belong. Would we be selected today....over Louisville? That would be a big NO.

      • cutty77

        Steve Peterson is a Clown. Tell me where he's at now.Your wrong on Oliver he tired of all The Big East BS. The ACC would never let WVU in because they couldn't stand for us to kick there A&& in Football,and Basketball. Plus they are the next Conference to get Busted Up.All Because of Notre Dame. Which helped busting up The Big East.

        • steve

          OH BS ray c controls all the msn affiliates and had these rights for a hell of A lot less than $110 million.

      • steve

        Milked-free rights to wvu sports up untill now

        • JL

          Rights to what? Johnny Ray never had the WVU rights - MSN did. Almost every WVU/MSN affiliate pays no rights fees. You knew that, right? Plus Metronews did pay rights to the coaches and a sizable fee to WVU for advertising and promotion on top of free satellite time and production personnel and advertising.

  • Joe

    I hope this comment will not be panned, but as an alumni of the 80s and a father and member of extended family who have attended WVU football games for years, we lost our soul when Luck banned allowing fans to leave at half time to go back to our tailgates for an hour. For what it's worth, that's what I think. It has been a big disappointment for our family.

  • JL

    Just for the record - The basketball facility was built under Eddie Pastilong.

    • cutty77

      It was started under,and almost stoped Under Eddie. He wanted everything payed for before they built it. Alot of other people who will go nameless got it done.

      • JL

        You mean Eddie was such a bad businessman that he wanted to know that there was actually a mechanism to pay for a $27,000,000 building BEFORE they built it. What idiot would require that! What AD would actually run his department in the "black" throughout his entire tenure while winning BCS bowl games and making deep NCAA runs. That Eddie Pastilong...what a loser.....

  • steve

    to all you luck pinheads

    im not a marshall fan first of all as anyone who has a different view seems to be called one! I watch almost all wv fb and bb games and it is easy to see that we have gotten way in over our head. Yes, in the long run, we will probally make lots more money. But at what expense! If our athletes can not be successful in terms of wins, then is the money worth it? As for luck, it seems that we are just about the almighty dollar. Again at what expence. As for facility improvements, that has been going on for a long time, long before luck got here. All colleges have to do that for recruiting. One importanr fact is that wv athletics has been borrowing money to stay a float from the university. How come no one ever mentions that. Oh yea, thanks mr luck for that also! We do have a lot to thank him for, overpaid coaches, long distance scheduling in a conference that seems a little to much for us! By the way we are not the only one who sells our sole to the devil for the almighty dollar, just look at Maryland. Does anyone think they are in way over there head with the Big 10! But the revenue sharing will be great!!!! Maybe it is just time to clean house and start all over!!

    • steve

      Over our heads? Everyone is entitled to an opinion but im sick of folks saying were not good enough for big 12,why relegate ourselves to the lesser america 12 comition we are wvu and we are good enough.

    • Mark

      Good points Steve. The way I feel, if the athletic dept. isn't sending me a check every month I could care less how much money they are making from this money grab.

  • Darren

    Funny, the moderator allows attacks on Luck. but don't challenge Raese! you will get blocked.

  • Kate

    I hope the rebidding process is quick, fair and over soon. WVU cannot afford to miss a 110 million dollar opportunity for it's athletic department because of some sloppy work and some sour grapes. Change is needed. Fairness is needed. Bold initiatives are needed. Sloppiness is not needed, along with "feet stuck in the mud, status quo-ers" who only want delay in hopes that things won't change are not needed at all. Please god tell me that there won't be more legal challenges. Only crybabies use the legal system to settle all their differences.

  • Guardian

    Allan, when are you going to do a piece that addresses the 800 lb gorrilla in the room? WVU's peers in the Big Ten, the Pac 12, and the SEC are going in the OPPOSITE direction. Instead of selling (bidding out) their Tier 3 rights, they are buying them back if they had previously sold them.

    The Big Ten Network exists. The Pac 12 is in the end game stages of putting their own conference wide Tier 3 network together. The last two SEC schools that had sold their Tier 3 rights, just completed their buy backs (millions of dollars worth of buy back, for the record). One of those two schools bought their rights back from IMG College. Now the SEC can move forward with their own network on a platform provided by ESPN/ABC.

    Texas & Oklahoma have their own networks for Tier 3. However, the other 8 Big XII schools have been informally approached by both Fox and ESPN about bundling their Tier 3 rights together and starting a network.

    Should WVU even be attempting to sell their Tier 3 rights at this time? We aren't Texas, Oklahoma, or Notre Dame to be able to wing it on our own if our peers are bundled together in a conference wide offering.

    Say WVU does sell the rights and then the conference decides to bundle the package. How much does that cost WVU to buy back their rights? Millions. And we're already in the RED financially.

    I think this side of the argument deserves an in depth piece. Do some interviews across the country - get the trend and report back to us.

    • cutty77

      @ Guardian,
      Nobody knows what its worth,because MSN kept it secert. WVU and Oliver has to get a gauge on it.WVU will be fine. I'd rather have money in The Bank,then waiting on Checks.

    • Greg

      Can you document any of this or is this just conjecture on your part about the other schools?

      • Guardian

        Not conjecture, Greg. Check it out like I did, by doing some research.

  • Paul M


    I always enjoy reading your coverage of the WVU athletic teams. However, in this case you should put the word "COMMENTARY" not just at the top of the article but also in front of the title link redirecting readings to this body of work.

    Keep up the great reporting on the WVU teams.

  • Shadow

    Can anyone say it is right to add members after the bidding process has started? It doesn't seem to me to meet the standard protocol and doesn't seem to have been run through the University President, who I would think would be interested in the details of a $110 million dollar contract.


    I am a little disappointed that my email didn't make it through your censors, the one that said that if anyone but John Raese would have lamented that WVU would have done nothing about this whole mess. Praise be to John Raese! Is that what is needed to allow an honest comment about the situation to make it through? So much for free press.