MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia Radio Corp. restated its request for a hearing with WVU athletics director Oliver Luck and Board of Governors chairman Drew Payne, two figures whose inappropriate communications led the school to re-bid its third-tier media rights package this week.
In a letter to WVU senior associate vice president of finance Daniel Durbin, WVRC’s counsel also requested Brenda Mowen, the university’s chief procurement officer, be present for the hearing. Mowen is heading up the second round of bidding after WVU removed Luck and his previous evaluation committee from the decision-making.
On Tuesday, the day WVU re-issued its request for tier-3 proposals, Mowen officially denied WVRC’s initial protest without benefit of a hearing. WVRC claims that was a breach of WVU’s own procurement rule 7.2.4, which states the chief procurement officer shall issue a protest decision only after scheduling and conducting the protestor’s hearing.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was copied on WVRC’s appeal. It was Morrisey’s office on April 15 that suggested a re-bid after citing “significant errors and sloppiness” on the part of the athletics department. Morrissey noted that Luck improperly shared confidential bid information with Payne, who also sits on the board at West Virginia Media, which happened to be partnering with IMG College, the initial bid-winner.
WVRC owner John Raese initially asked for Morrisey’s assistance in examining the bidding irregularities. (Disclosure: WVRC is the parent company of MetroNews.)
The attorney general, whose subsequent involvement was working on behalf of WVU, also noted an appearance of impropriety involving Luck’s midstream decision to add three hand-picked members to his evaluation committee. All three of them voted with Luck in favor of IMG College’s bid, while two original members — deputy director of athletics Mike Parsons and associate athletic director of business operations Mike Szul — were not afforded what Morrissey called a “timely opportunity to formally vote” and wound up not voting at all.
WVRC’s protest requested IMG and West Virginia Media be barred “from participating in any manner” with the multimedia rights proposal. It also asserted that WVU should reinstate Parsons and Szul, neither of whom was cited for missteps, and pair them with a third member to evaluate only the remaining “innocent bidders” from the first RFP cycle.
Clarksburg attorney Frank Simmerman, counsel for WVRC, stated in the company’s protest that:
♦ Allowing IMG and WV Media to participate in the rebidding of multimedia rights “constitutes turning a blind eye to confirmed breaches of public trust and confidence.”
♦ “IMG and WV Media have a tarnished record which cannot simply be cast aside or otherwise shielded by a re-bid.”
♦ “Five innocent bidders spent substantial time and money initially participating” in the third-tier proposal process.
Third-tier rights involve any TV broadcasts of football games that are not picked up by a major network, several non-conference basketball games, as well as radio broadcasts, coaches’ shows, stadium sponsorships and online content.
The re-bid launched Tuesday by Mowen and WVU involves a 92-page proposal, far more detailed than the original and apparently reflecting plans the school made with IMG College before irregularities came to light and the negotiations were stalled. The revised RFP calls for bids to be returned by June 18, followed by bidder presentations June 28 and notification of a winner by Aug. 23.
That notification date comes only eight days before the Mountaineers’ football season opener, though the winner could be alerted as early as mid-June if IMG turns out to be the lone bidder this time.