MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University announced a third-tier media rights contract with IMG College on Thursday, the same firm the athletics department selected last December before ethical irregularities forced the school to rebid.
The 12-year agreement is worth more than $80 million, the university stated, and becomes effective for the 2013-14 academic year that begins in August.
The contract covers television rights for one nonconference football game and several men’s and women’s basketball games not selected by national networks, radio broadcast rights and coaches’ shows. It also includes online rights and various advertising opportunities including signage and sponsorships at all WVU athletics facilities.
“It was time for WVU athletics to grow our multimedia and sponsorship sales, especially with our recent move to the Big 12 Conference,” said athletics director Oliver Luck, who was not allowed to participate in the rebidding evaluation.
President Jim Clements removed Luck—and revamped the entire evaluation committee—after Luck improperly shared confidential bid information with WVU board of governors chairman Drew Payne, who sits on the board at West Virginia Media Holdings, which partnered with IMG College on its first bid.
Under the new agreement, West Virginia Media Holdings will continue to partner with IMG College for television productions.
West Virginia Radio Corp., the parent company of MetroNews, filed a lawsuit June 19 alleging Luck, Payne and West Virginia Media Holdings president Bray Cary colluded to rig the bidding. WVRC’s pending lawsuit names 10 defendants in all, including Clements, and requests that IMG College and West Virginia Media Holdings be barred from the third-tier rights bidding.
State attorney general Patrick Morrisey—citing “significant errors and sloppiness” by Luck—recommended WVU rebid its third-tier rights, a package for which IMG College reportedly offered up to $110 million with incentives. That figure was never verified, nor were any of the eight competing proposals, as the school declined to make those bids public.
“With the resources, services and proven track record that IMG College brings, WVU now has the opportunity to expand its revenue base by engaging new national sponsors while building our athletic and university brand,” Luck said.
There remains no announcement on IMG’s plan regarding on-air talent. Play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi, part of Mountaineers sports broadcasts since 1987 and host of WVRC’s Statewide “SportsLine” each weeknight, has not been renewed. It appears certain IMG will modify the pregame and postgame football radio lineup that included Hoppy Kercheval, Fred Persinger, Kyle Wiggs and Jeff Jenkins.
IMG currently claims contracts with more than 90 schools nationwide, including Big 12 members Texas, Kansas, Baylor and TCU.
“West Virginia is one of last major schools to handle multimedia and sponsorship sales in-house,” said IMG College president Ben Sutton. “The university’s decision to entrust IMG to grow its sponsor and revenue base while building the school brand continues to validate IMG’s collegiate services and burgeoning national marketing platform.”
THURSDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Tony Caridi, a 25-year veteran of WVU sportscasting and the play-by-play voice of the Mountaineers since 1997, offered an update Thursday night regarding his future status under the school’s new media partnership with IMG College. While hosting MetroNews “Statewide Sportsline” hours after the media contract was announced, Caridi said:
“Oliver (Luck) and I have spoken on a couple of occasions. He has expressed his interest in me continuing my role with the Mountaineers Sports Network, and I’ve told him that I’d like to continue my role. And right now the details aren’t finalized, and that’s where it is. He said I’d love to have you, and I said I’d love to do it, but right now the details have not been finalized.”